Background on Thomas Pynchon

I am eagerly anticipating our discussion of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow today. I am truly excited to have the wonderful and immensely pleasurable opportunity to read this incredible novel with all of you over the next eight weeks or so. As you are already probably aware, however, it is quite difficult in a variety of ways. So one of the main things I’m going to be emphasizing during our reading is the need to do a kind of “collective reading,” that this is not a novel that you can just sit down and easily “get” without some work, and without the insight of others. My hope will be that the blog will be a great supplement to our discussions in class, and will provide us a space to do the kinds of collective reading I’m talking about. So I will try to post things of interest and/or use as frequently and appropriately as I can. I will also be handing out your first blog assignment for Gravity’s Rainbow today.

You will note that I have posted links to the PynchonWiki on the right, and a specific link to the Gravity’s RainbowWiki–under “Thomas Pynchon Resources”–that you may find useful. I will be providing a bit of background on Pynchon today, some background on the novel, and discussing some of the major threads that one should attend to when reading this difficult work. But Pynchon is a notoriously reclusive writer, and very little is known about him. Consequently, my biographical background on him is sketchy at best. A recent article in Vulture by Boris Kachka, “On the Thomas Pynchon Trail: From the Long Island of His Boyhood to the ‘Yupper West Side’ of His New Novel,” provides many new and interesting details about Pynchon’s life that you might find interesting and/or enlightening. With the publication of Pynchon’s most recent novel, Bleeding Edge (2013), interest in him is still in full swing, and as such, many new aspects of his life and writing are coming to light. It’s an exciting time to be revisiting Gravity’s Rainbow, and, who knows, maybe we can add a bit to the larger conversation going on right now with our work on this blog.


About Bradley J. Fest

Bradley J. Fest is assistant professor of English at Hartwick College. He is the author of two books of poetry, The Rocking Chair (Blue Sketch, 2015) and The Shape of Things (Salò, 2017), and has published a number of essays on contemporary literature and culture. He blogs at The Hyperarchival Parallax.
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