“unreadable, turgid, overwritten and obscene.” — Pulitzer Prize board.
Scenario: Imagine you’re a peasant, wallowing about the mud, occasionally getting hassled by men in armor alleging they are kings because some lass threw a scimitar at him, and you’re late for the biweekly meeting of your anarcho-sydiclist commune. Perhaps you’re name is Dennis. Life is a constant struggle involving mud, plague, and rampaging Crusaders lopping the heads off random farmers.
Your daily routine of mud farming is disrupted. Out of nowhere, an day-glo painted SR-71 Blackbird, piloted by a figure reminiscent of Donald Sutherland’s character from Kelley’s Heroes and co-piloted by Donald Sutherland’s character from JFK, lands in your mud-field. Your reaction would be very similar to that of the reading public in 1973.
This isn’t so much a novel in the conventional character-plot-setting deal common since the days of Homer. No, this is something wildly, beautifully, obscenely different. Not so much a narrative as much as a Rosetta Stone of literary modernism and postmodernism.
What Pynchon did for the novel with Gravity’s Rainbow is what Matthew Barney did for film in Cremaster 3. Epic gorgeous labyrinthine genius encased in paranoia and bio-psychic nightmares.
Parallels: Ulysses by James Joyce, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and 2666 by Roberto Bolano.