Sorry to be a bit (hah, an understatement!) redundant, but, as is the recurring sentiment, I felt this reading to be slower than I had expected. I was confused at first because stylistically, Pynchon's narration seems discombobulated. The plot is set up in a subtle way that is not especially customary. The paragraphs containing multiple clauses of description and observation provide information contributing to the setting and the characters without ever really stating anything explicitly. (Or, if they did, I didn't pay as much attention to it because I was swamped with all these other things to keep in mind.)
I echo what appears to be general sentiment: the first 150 pages were slow going, at times exasperating, but also rewarding in a gestalt sort of way. I, too, was reminded of Catch 22 --Pynchon's versatility really comes through during moments of wry comic relief, which provided welcome opportunities to catch my breath from the stylistically- and content-heavy prose (my favorite little pocket of humor was definitely the scene where Slothrop is being force-fed "unspeakably awful" candy).
I was intrigued by the prevalence of the second-person voice; it seemed to implicate the reader somehow in the events of the story's universe, prohibiting the kind of safe retrospective complacency with which one could easily read Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon periodically asks questions like "Is the baby smiling, or is it just gas? Which do you want it to be?" which give the distinct impression of the author directly interrogating the reader (133). Moments like this force cathexis, problematizing the possibility of remaining detached from, say, Roger Mexico's bemusement about the limitations of statistics/rationalism for understanding the world. Did anyone else get this sense from the second-person structure? The theme of voyeurism also seemed to contribute to the overall sense of reader's complicity. After the description of Slothrop and Darlene's sexual encounter (right after the candy scene), Pynchon off-handedly asks, "And who's that, through the crack in the orange shade, breathing carefully? Watching?" (122). This question -- regardless of whether it was intended to refer to a peeping tom inside the story or not -- wakes us from our voyeuristic lull, offering a jarring reminder that by reading we are, in fact, watching without being watched; and, furthermore, that this occupation applies not only to sex scenes but across the board. In other words, reading is always voyeurism. But Pynchon clearly wants us to read; I understand him as simply hoping to inspire a little critical self-consciousness about the seer-seen imbalance between reader and novel, and for us to not let the (necessarily) voyeuristic mode of engagement with the text cloud our compulsion to engage actively with the difficult questions it evokes. It reminded me, in this sense, of the David Lynch film Blue Velvet, which plays with the notion of voyeurism in similar, self-consciousness-inducing sort of way.
I had a hard time with these first 150 pages in many respects. First, they just took so long to read! I also struggled with comprehension at points, especially with Pynchon's "stream-of-conscious"-style writing. It's also hard for me to believe that there are still 600 or so pages left in the book. I feel like I should be near the middle, as opposed to really just starting out.
One element that I noticed fairly early on was Pynchon's concentration on forms of light. It seems as though once a page or so Pynchon mentions the color, or the intensity, or the effect of, or the lack of light. Some of the imagery that comes from his descriptions of light is really cool; my favorite was "Globular lights, painted a dark green, hang out from under the fancy iron eaves, unlit for centuries"(4).("Unlit for centuries" was the part that got me hooked; it's interesting to think that the last people to light the lamps were long dead at that point in the narration.)
Wow...that reading took forever! Or, so it seemed. I'm used to flying through books, so this was a surprise for me. I like the book. I think. Sort of. It also is really painful. It is very confusing. I truly struggled through these 150 pages.
Nonetheless, there were moments that did really get my interest and attention. I really like Pirate as a character. The small comic parts in the beginning made me think of Catch 22. Bloat falls from the sky (in a way) and Pirate kicks the cot underneath him. "One of the legs collapses. 'Good Morning,' notes Pirate. Bloat smiles briefly and goes back to sleep, snuggling well into Pirate's blanket" (5). Awwwwww (in a bizarre way, that is). Not much of the book is cute. Often the characters are much more dirty (physically and sexually) and not childlike. Here, the atmosphere is innocent and silly. The same silliness occurs when someone actually slips on a banana. I guess the author had to get that out of the way.
This post is a test. It's really, honestly, only a test. If this were a real post, it might, for instance, contain a link to something useful and/or bizarre. In the event of a real post, you'll be given more information, as well, of the analytical sort, attempting to create context for or otherwise explicate that link.
This has been a test of the class blogging system. Thank you for your attention.