Tom McCarthy on the re-release
of the Gravity's Rainbow
“Gravity’s Rainbow,” Thomas Pynchon’s gargantuan parable of rocketry, sex and a whole bunch of other stuff, turned 41 this year — six years older than its author when it was first published. What happens when a novel whose scenes of coprophagia and pedophilia moved Pulitzer trustees to cancel the prize in 1974 (when Pynchon seemed poised to win) eases into middle-aged, canonical respectability? Well, for one thing, it gets an audiobook release. Since the mid-1980s, a George Guidall recording has been floating around, like some mythical lost rocket part — no one had heard it, but all Pynchon fans knew someone who knew someone who had — but in October a new version, authorized and rerecorded and burned onto 30 compact discs — hit the stands.
It'll be nice to have a digital remastering, sans
the intrusions of ripped-from-K7 aggravations. Unlike the comforts of vinyl crackle -- nostalgie du analogue
-- tape hiss is just annoying. But good as it is, I think the Against the Day
audio book is even better.
I kept thinking, as I listened to Guidall, of a line in Heidegger’s “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” where he describes homelessness as the “summons that calls mortals into their dwelling.” Virtually every one of Pynchon’s characters is homeless or displaced, wandering the earth’s great bombed-out Zone in search of some abode: a homeland, house or simply bed to spend the night in (if you like, a coefficient).