All the Pynchonian World’s a Stage

Gabriele Schwab’s article, Creative Paranoia and Frost Patterns of White Words, centrally focuses on the idea that trying to make sense of historical occurrences in a conventional and streamlined manner retrospectively leaves out something that Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow successfully accomplishes: through the use of decentralizing characters, nonlinear plotlines, lack of chronology, shifting the focus of the reader, connecting the scientific to the mythological, and his avoidance of typically segmented domains, Pynchon creates this “ecological fiction” that functions as a means of, not fully but quite successfully, alleviating the gravity of the reality of the book’s historical content.

Schwab’s focus is on how Thomas Pynchon creates this novel through the blurring of boundaries of domains (such as history, literature, pop culture, high art, technology, science, and the like) we typically view as segmented. He explains that this wouldn’t normally be outlandish for a postmodernist novel, but because the setting of the novel is so weighty (A World War II novel coming out in 1973 directly after the Cold War is sort of a hefty topic) it would appear that this was a pretty wild way of approaching the subject. That is, until one dives deeper.

The article analyzes Pynchon’s characters; by allowing mystical occurrences and sexual fantasies of all shapes and sizes to coexist within the novel with hard technological and scientific evidence, Pynchon’s characters are given the room to deny their own reality, thus making the warfare itself sort of take the backburner to the paranoia and focus of control throughout the novel that’s truly at the forefront.

Schwab also touches upon Pirate’s quote at the beginning of the novel, “It’s all theatre,” regarding his psychic dreams. He finds this to be a truly vital theme throughout Pynchon’s work, especially when approaching the minds of Pynchon’s many characters. The ones who take solace in these mythologies that Pynchon surrounds them with are truly experiencing this theatrical element of war.

As Schwab concludes, Pynchon “reveals the full obscenity of making sense of the war in a totalizing way.” This is obvious through his style of writing Gravity’s Rainbow, with its many layers and dimensions. This allows it to be “up to the reader to make sense of the novel.”

I feel that Schwab makes some highly interesting points regarding the war one should approach Gravity’s Rainbow. When I’ve attempted to discuss this book with friends who have not read it, it’s frustrating to call it a historical text. It’s also difficult to label is as encyclopedic. This label, “ecological fiction,” that Schwab’s has created does a very successful job of describing the text. I also do feel that the blurring of these boundaries between certain domains which we hold in our minds as purely separate makes a great deal of sense when approaching WHY Pynchon chooses to do what he does as an author. I’m sure that many of these critical essays on the work were focused on this, as much of our class discussion is spent trying to debunk Pynchon’s overall motives.

The idea of theatre to me that Schwab discusses has left me asking some questions though. Perhaps the idea of theatre isn’t just to be seen through the eyes of the characters. Perhaps if we look at it in this blurring of domains sort of sense that Schwab brought up in the article, we could understand this reoccurring theme of theatre that Pynchon uses as just another one of his many tools of desegmentation. Perhaps what is truly theatrical about the novel is not the way that the characters, by submerging themselves into the mystical and fantastical, truly experience this element of theatre in war, but how the readers, through their constant attempts at debunking and making sense of Gravity’s Rainbow, are all participants in the theatre that Thomas Pynchon has created.

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