Read A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel by Steven Weisenburger Online


Adding some 20 percent to the original content, this is a completely updated edition of Steven Weisenburger's indispensable guide to Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Weisenburger takes the reader page by page, often line by line, through the welter of historical references, scientific data, cultural fragments, anthropological research, jokes, and puns around which PynchAdding some 20 percent to the original content, this is a completely updated edition of Steven Weisenburger's indispensable guide to Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Weisenburger takes the reader page by page, often line by line, through the welter of historical references, scientific data, cultural fragments, anthropological research, jokes, and puns around which Pynchon wove his story. Weisenburger fully annotates Pynchon's use of languages ranging from Russian and Hebrew to such subdialects of English as 1940s street talk, drug lingo, and military slang as well as the more obscure terminology of black magic, Rosicrucianism, and Pavlovian psychology. The Companion also reveals the underlying organization of Gravity's Rainbow--how the book's myriad references form patterns of meaning and structure that have eluded both admirers and critics of the novel.The Companion is keyed to the pages of the principal American editions of Gravity's Rainbow: Viking/Penguin (1973), Bantam (1974), and the special, repaginated Penguin paperback (2000) honoring the novel as one of twenty "Great Books of the Twentieth Century."...

Title : A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780820328072
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 424 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel Reviews

  • s.p
    2019-05-18 12:32

    This Companion was extremely beneficial in reading Pynchon's novel, especially giving reference to the social context and pop culture allusions that appear on nearly every page. However, I had to often set it aside, only referring back to it every so often since there was so much information that it impeded my forward progress in the actual book. I would recommend it to all readers, but it will come in handy the most on a second read. It should be noted that a first time reader may want to skip any commentary of the chapters as quite a bit of plot that won't occur until much later appears before each chapter. Well worth the money, a lot that I learned from reading this would have been equally interesting without Pynchon's novel as a reason to seek it out.

  • Nick Black
    2019-04-26 10:47

    a really wonderful sourcebook, on par with Ulysses Annotated and a good bit better than Elegant Complexity. loses a star due to muddled mathematical exposition (to be expected, sigh). i was irritated by the absence of cites in a great many annotations; it is explained at the end that uncited notes reference the Times of 1944--1945, but this remains unsatisfying. whence, for instance, explanation of "crystal ship" as iv drug use? i never gathered that from the first Doors album. anyway, a joy to read, a great jumping-off point for budding postmodernists, and a fine guide to GR.bonus funny story: i was reading penrose's epic The Road to Reality, put it down admidst some footnotes regarding QFT renormalization, did some bullshit and picked up the *Companion*. "this is an odd and frankly unfocused digression regarding *Bladerunner* by ol' Sir Roger; i wonder where he's going with this...oh, argh augh, nicholas you are stupid indeed." and just went ahead and finished the Companion.

  • Geoff Sebesta
    2019-05-24 10:27

    So goddamn useful. Your first trip through GR is supposed to be a hellacious slog so maybe it's cheating to give readers a road map, but I tell you, I never would have figured out the beginning of the book or the Kirghiz light or the hellacious "For DeMille, Fur Henchmen can't be rowing!" joke if not for this guide.True story: I called Professor Weisenburger once on the phone because I said I wanted to interview him about a book he wrote. When he found out that I wanted to interview him about Gravity's Rainbow -- a book he did NOT write, and a guide that he had written twenty years before at the time I called him -- he became notably cold.I can't say I blame him. I hadn't meant to get his hopes up.

  • Leo Robertson
    2019-05-23 13:47

    Okay I get the point with this one, I wannit off my shelf!A handy reference guide but nothing more. Doesn't offer much literary analysis or decent chapter summaries in the same way that Elegant Complexity did.All it really does is serve to show the extensive research that Pynchon did, and it is meticulous at that, but it does not make terribly interesting reading by itself.All such books begin by saying "Why don't you read a chapter and come back, or read this page then the chapter then this page again" like eugh do people do that??That I hear, there are interactive versions of Ulysses with pop-up references and the like; books like this are limited in their current form, but if it were available as a collection of hyperlinks that appeared in an interactive GR it would be very useful and illuminating indeed.I dunno, am I being too lazy, not flicking back between two enormous books clogging up perfectly decent catspace on my lap? (I don't have a cat, but when I do, this kinda thing will be triply impractical!) Yeah, maybe I am, but if it's to my credit, I still use yellow pages, filofaxes and seal all my letters with wax from a melting red obelisk, in which I impress the Robertson family seal and bless with a dab of my finest whale oil.

  • GloriaGloom
    2019-05-03 18:55

    Per combattere la naturale tendenza al parossistico onanismo di ritorno che assale inevitabilmente anche il più adulto e sessualmente equilibrato dei lettori nella fase post-coito con L'arcobaleno della gravità - non solo i lettori ma anche paludati critici e brillanti menti accademiche a sfogliare la sterminata bibliografia critica, si va ad esempio da "Male Pro-Feminism and the Masculinist Gigantism of Gravity's Rainbow", a The Vietnamization of World War II in Gravity’s Rainbow" passando per "Orphic Contra Gnostic Religious Conflict in Gravity's Rainbow" senza dimenticarci di "Queer Sexual And Textual Pratice: The Postmodernist Poetics Of Pynchon's Gravity's Raimbow" solo per citare qualche goccia dell'oceano - la classica guida di Weisenburger si presenta come un ottimo antidoto con il suo lasciar da parte ogni tentativo di interpretazione del testo, ma fornendo una dettagliata ricognizione, capitolo per capitolo - il riferimento è la prima edizione Viking Press - dei riferimenti e le fonti utilizzate da Pynchon. Migliorabile l'indice finale che sembra un retaggio dei tempi in cui "tutto si faceva a mano". Ma in fondo bisogna esser un po' luddisti per apprezzare il Nostro, al diavolo il word processor!

  • Daniel Chaikin
    2019-04-28 15:36

    27. A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel, 2nd Edition by Steven Weisenburger published: originally 1988, 2nd edition is from 2006format: 400 page paperbackacquired: March 20 to help with GRread: Apr 1 - May 22rating: **** stars There are other sources for help with GR, but I liked this one because it was crazy detailed, translated almost every foreign language bit and tried to decipher the meaning under every name and it just made me feel more comfortable. It also has little mini-summaries of each episode. I would read these before reading the episode (!)—even as I know they didn't really always capture what really happens in those episodes. This just helped reduce my stress of trying to figure out what was going on as I read. The book suffers a bit on the big picture. I had to go to wikipedia to understand some critical plot elements. GR is abstruse, but Weisenburger doesn't capture everything and occasionally doesn't make any comment on major things. But, still, this is an impressive compilation. I was very happy to have it.

  • Judson
    2019-05-06 12:37

    What I do is read each Episode synopsis before reading each episode in GR, then refer to Weisenberger's notes as I go. Helps a ton to just get questions of who/what/where out of the way so I can enjoy what Pynchon's actually writing in a more immediate, less lost way. Even now, on my 3rd read of GR, this is not a book I'd want to be without, despite its own litany of mistakes and overstrainings....Heck, there's a Pynchon wiki for getting at those.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-05-23 15:31

    This is really only a useful companion to Gravity's Rainbow on one level - if you are going to want every mythological, pop culture, and Kabbalistic reference explained as you read the novel. I was hoping for a broader, more connected commentary on the characters, plot, and themes; deeper understanding, not minutia. Ah well. I learned a lot more about German mythology.

  • Chris
    2019-05-25 15:37

    Let's not mince words: Weisenburger's Companion is utterly essential for any trip through Pynchon's megaton novel. Large swathes of the book which I would have woozily drifted past with 0% comprehension were opened up brilliantly -- it really does help the scope of the entire book to know about business collusions during WWII, as well as the basics of the Kabbalah, Teutonic mythology, the Tarot, Herero folklore, and elementary ballistic physics. These aren't just look-how-clever-I-am cul de sacs, but wide ranging attempts to order a very complex world, to harness the knowledge of the centuries to a violent urge that has plagued humankind since we first climbed out of the sea. Previous Pynchon books could be read and enjoyed with less fleecy outerwear -- V. can be easily traversed with the help of Pynchonwiki (as well as a Wiki-level knowledge of the Fashoda Conflict, the Herero uprising, and what a Baedekker travel guide looks like). In fact, J. Kerry Grant's guides to V. and The Crying of Lot 49 are almost detrimental in that they attempt to pad their pages with endless recounting of current theories about Pynchon's work (fine to read after you've finished, but annoying when you're in the middle of your first read and attempting to draw your own conclusions). By comparison, Weisenburger does draw some of his own lines, but they're really only attempt to calculate why Pynchon made references to Hansel & Gretel here, not what that means to the modern reader, if you get that hair-thin distinction.I still think it helps to read V. before this, but at the very least, have this book nearby. I don't think you need to have both open at the same time, but if you read a section of the book, then glance through Weisenburger's info right after, you should be able to transpose the knowledge back into what you just read. Occasionally, the reference opened up the passage enough that I found it beneficial to re-read the book section, but that was rare.By comparison with the first two, Weisenburger's guide is so thorough, the Pynchonwiki entries have been reduced to little more than hair-splitting with Weisenburger's Companion. I found it amusing to read their entries in the voice of The Simpson's Comic Book Guy.I'm not going to give it five stars because, as Christgau said about Flavor Flav's role in Public Enemy, "why should I like the Great Man's Fan better than I like the Great Man?" Still, as Robert Stack used to say, "don't leave home without it." (don't leave The Zone without it?)

  • Jodi Lu
    2019-05-15 15:53

    This book was probably the only reason I finished Gravity's Rainbow (with my general feeble resolve) when so many others have failed. Reading the corresponding section in this after each chapter in GR helped formulate everything and reveal the deeper, more cryptic (and certainly historical) merits of the text that one might miss while they romp through interesting characters and complex (this is a kind, vague word choice as it's very easy to lose yourself throughout, which is sometimes fine but other times quite frustrating) plot weaving. I'd say the average person is doing herself a great disfavor not reading the book with a good "companion". That said, the historical footnotes offered here (most of what's offered at all) are really interesting, but more in-depth paragraphs explaining the general movement of the story would've been appreciated as well.(I guess I accidentally wrote my update status in the review space below last time but I don't really want to delete my initial remarks so ignore the following.)Okay, this also came as a "gift" (it's the 2nd edition, not the one shown) and let me tell you, Mister (Johnson, Sr.), I'm known to be lazy, needy and distracted in most ways, but my milk-fatty soul verily curdles to envision reading in private or public a paperback novel alongside not one companion - which in its own right, given that I've experienced no impediment to momentum or interest in Gravity's Rainbow to my current dog ear at the modest leaf of 50, smacks of unsightly pathos - but alongside TWO companions - for one book! - a novel! - written horizontally and in natural English! - crafted in the yet-cradling memory foam of the 20th century! ...w(hhhh)ell, that's like...I feel as though...someone is putting the training wheels before even my tricycle! And I'm just the biggest baby who can sound out P-Y-N-C-H M-E.I tell you what I do need: a companion to tell me how to read three books at once. (This companion does already recommend ritualized stacking). And also I'd like a stylish and gaudily branded ostrich messenger bag with a lightweight, fold-out desk of woven straw to lug all this crap on the train and bus every day in any sort of useful, civilized way.Does Pynchon deserve this much of my time or credit - I need a native text, a page-by-page picture book and now a 400-plus pager for context and curiosities to get me through? Clearly no one's breaking down my door to do much of anything. And I need a hobby besides bathing.

  • Erik
    2019-05-20 12:27

    GR companion is a valuable resource for those who have already read GR once or twice. I wouldn't use it the first time through. There are good points about the timescheme of GR and details like April Fool's Day falling on Easter Sunday in 1945, which implies the whole book may be a joke, like Melville's Confidence Man--the work that GR most resembles. The detail work on Pynchon;s sources is of course excellent, but I am not learning as much as I expected about the characters. What would have helped is a kind of Dramatis Personae and a threading of the different plotlines they follow. Perhaps an internet resource has this covered, but it is the central challenge of the novel, which introduces and then drops certain people, sometimes for hundreds of pages. Why are we hearing the story of X or Y or Z, when will we be asked to draw on this knowledge again? Anybody who can make that clear has really cracked this recalcitrant puzzle for good. It's nice to have GR remain mysterious in some ways of course, but if you're thinking of using it with students and discussing it like Ulysses and Moby Dick, then you will need resources like this and possibly a few others.

  • Kate
    2019-05-01 12:37

    Very interesting, but difficult to use as a "companion." You can't read it alongside GR, not only because they're about eight pounds each but because the companion is so comprehensive that you'd almost literally be confined to reading one sentence (in GR) at a time and then consulting the companion for meanings/references/etc. But it's also difficult to read one entire section of GR followed by the corresponding section of the companion, because with Pynchon's dense, wordy, long and circular style, it's hard to recall what any passage was about if you didn't just read it.So, the companion was difficult logistically, but otherwise good. I'll definitely use it when I re-read the novel; I think it would lend itself much better to that sort of use.

  • Dan
    2019-05-12 18:55

    For readers who do not get Pynchon’s references to the The I Ching, to Tarot, to mythology, films, comic books, operas, novels, scientific concepts and historic events at the end of World War Two, Weisenburger has put together this book that supplies information about IG Farben, King Kong, Hop Harrigan, Malcolm X and the V-2 rocket. In addition, Weisenburger discusses the structure of the novel in his introduction, and supplies a short plot summary of each of the sections in the book.

  • Chris Packham
    2019-05-04 16:53

    So, I spent the summer of 1992 in bars in Boston, with Gravity's Rainbow and this book. It put little training wheels on Gravity's Rainbow so that I could ride it into a social life in Iowa City, where knowing about Thomas Pynchon actually has some social utility.

  • Darwin8u
    2019-05-25 12:26

    Probably wouldn't have finished it (and definitely wouldn't have appreciated it as much) without Weisenburger's help. You were a fanastic Sherpa for Mt. Pynchon Weisenburger.

  • Brigham Barnes
    2019-05-25 10:28

    It's nice to have a companion. Very useful for the historical references in particular.

  • Ben
    2019-05-15 17:43

    So, I have mixed thoughts about using guides. I've read books filled with end notes and/or footnotes, which tend to both enhance the reader's understanding and appreciation of a given work, but at the same time slow down the pace of the reading and distract the reader from the flow of the narrative. This was the first time that I've purchased a separate reader's guide for a work. I read the first 200 pages or so of Pynchon's novel without Weisenburger's 300+ page guide, but when one participant in my book group described the guide as "essential" to developing an understanding of Pynchon's multi-layered magnum opus -- packed full of puns, allusions, jokes, abstruse knowledge, and what not -- I decided to pick it up. Prior to buying the guide I did not feel like I was picking up every reference, nor did I feel that everything in this book was making sense, but I felt like I had a sufficient enough understanding so that I didn't feel "lost." Yet, after beginning the guide I realized that there was a great deal that I was missing -- the significance of certain dates, the astrological references and their significance to the narrative, the ridiculously detailed and superfluous plot detours made simply in order to make one little pun. But as with many guides, much of what the author focuses on -- and especially so with a book such as this -- is mere conjecture and is presented in a way to support his specific reading of the text. I didn't spend much time comparing and contrasting different guides, but apparently Weisenburger's reading does differ in some significant ways from other GR guides out there. There were also certain references that I would have expected to have found notes on, but to my surprise I found no elucidation from Weisenburger. And then there were other points that I felt needed no clarification that Weisenburger felt a need to explain further -- for example explanations of who Bugs Bunny is or who Laurel and Hardy were (though perhaps this "rascally rabbit" and famous comedy duo are more familiar in American culture than is the case abroad). The guide definitely slowed me down and certainly distracted my reading of Pynchon, but it also was very helpful, especially insomuch as mythology, scientific matters and Kabbalism/occultism were concerned and regarding the significance of certain dates and the overall structure of the novel. If I ever read Gravity's Rainbow again -- not anytime soon -- I think that I would read it without a guide, just to appreciate the novel for the great big messy patchwork that it is. Although Weisenberger gives readers at the onset instructions on how the guide can be used, and though I only read the guide notes after reading a given episode, it still is a bit of a disruption. And as much as I felt the guide helped me better understand Pynchon's work, it felt sometimes like a chore to read it. Like medicine, I realize that reading the guide was "good for me" and very helpful overall (it was extremely informative and gave me a greater appreciation of Pynchon's style), but there was more pleasure in reading the actual novel than in reading about all of the different sources and contexts contained therein.

  • Ethan Miller
    2019-05-02 13:31

    There are multiple companions out there and I think even a companion's companion which is fitting in dealing with Pynchon that in referencing GR's rabbit holes this companion sometimes references the companion's companion inside of those references. I haven't compared companions, I just picked this one out because of solid customer reviews. Weisenburger's companion is easy to use and works with the Viking, Bantam or Penguin editions of GR.One of the most helpful starting points is that each episode has a brief paragraph loosely describing time, place and characters and sometimes a very loose description of the key action or event of the episode. I found these episode intros were invaluable and did almost nothing to detract from my own interpretation or decoding of the scenarios and movement of the episodes, they simply helped bring an ever so slight but totally invaluable framework out of the mist for an instant long enough to take a bigger bite and feel a fleeting and deceptive sense of solid ground as I stepped into each mini-world episode.I felt the same about the references/research and help with the rabbit holes. Without these you just can't break the surface of GR. You could read every reference and footnote in this companion and it would still only be the refracted light off a handful of needles in a haystack, a barn full, no, a world full of needles piled to the sun. In other words, this companion does no harm to one's creative interpretation of the text but I would argue that it greatly hones in the readers engagement with GR.Once in a while Weisenburger takes a stretch too far or a liberty that seems to stem from his enthusiasm and obsession with the text but he never "explains" points or deeper meanings, at least not that I came across and that is of course a good thing, the great fun of Gravity's Rainbow is falling down the rabbit holes which the companion helps you slide down into and unravel via facts, histories and all manor of sources and then making the connections from abstracts and disparity once you're way deep down in there. Perhaps some lit nerds, photographic memories and tenured literature profs that have been living solely in their antique book office for the last 40 years have a head full of these worldly obscure infinite-subject-matter facts and histories but most of us don't. In which case the companion is ideal. You can get in and out quickly or take trip down in there just like the rabbit holes invite you to do. Weisenburger gets a little crazy on a few of the "part" intros and they turn into WTF critical theory lectures about god knows what but that's the nice thing about the companion, you use it as you please and thats just a few pages out of the nearly 400 page companion. Most of the companion reads like a reference text book or technical manual gone mutant and come to life (in a good way). Also there are a couple cool maps in the center of the book charting Slothrops journey and a few well chosen pictures of the bomb development sights in Germany.The companion in itself is an impressive feat as an invaluable scout to one of the most complex and epic accomplishments in American literature.

  • Razvan Zamfirescu
    2019-04-29 12:51

    If you really want to feel and understand Thomas Pynchon Gravity Rainbow novel, you'll need this companion as you need air.It was very though for me while I was reading it but, fortunately, I've found the Companion and everything was getting clearer. You may read the novel without any help and you would not need help if you are an encyclopedic person, but if you are not and you have gaps in your knowledge, like me, for example (sic!) and you find very hard to understand the links occurring in Pynchon head, then this Companion is a true friend and savior.I found lots of people who brag about reading the Gravity Rainbow but they don't say a word about the issues they've met when the text it's getting entangled and I am very sure that this readers don't have not even a small idea about the richness the novel hide.Don't try/look smart and follow my advice: keep close to you this companion when you read Gravity Rainbow and you will have the time of your life! I guarantee you this.

  • Paul
    2019-05-18 18:33

    Circling back for a second lap of GR...we'll see if this illuminates things a bit!I would definitely recommend this as an aid to comprehension of GR. It provides vast detail on the sources and background for references a casual reader would probably gloss right over. In fact, it made me appreciate just how rich and dense Gravity's Rainbow really is. (Everybody knows it's a monster, but I wonder how many are aware of its real depth.) Companion is especially helpful with the chronology of events, and in understanding the basic narrative. There are other online sources that can help keep characters, etc. straight, but I found it really nice to have a physical book at hand to refer to. None of which is to say that Companion will provide the key to true understanding of GR, but it is a big help in understanding what the heck is going on.

  • Matěj Bregant
    2019-04-27 11:35

    Weisenburger's effort has to be saluted, especially due to the year of publication - nowadays the many little deatils and facts can be verified in seconds, whereas then it was probably much more difficult. So we can pardon the omissions or errors (the Phoebus cartel was indeed real) and let this companion be what it really is - the basis for a lot of Gravity's Rainbow research, such as the GR page on Pynchonwiki, which is based on this book with significant work by Don Larsson and other fan or scholarly oriented writing. The second edition probably takes care of the many errors and inaccuracies, I can't recommend the companion to any first time reader, the second reading is actually quite illuminating with this book.

  • Dan
    2019-05-17 16:35

    Five pages or so into Gravity's Rainbow, I had no idea what was going on. This companion was essential to making any kind of sense of Pynchon's... what's the word... masterpiece? At times, this book provided crucial insight or context to illuminate an otherwise incomprehensible passage in GR. At other times, though, the book seemed bloated. Do I really need an annotation for every reference in GR to weather, telling me whether or not it really rained on such-and-such a day in England in 1945? I do not. Gravity's Rainbow is in the neighborhood of 800 pages; the least a companion could do is be concise.

  • Dean C. Moore
    2019-05-13 15:54

    A not half bad guide to Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Though, be forewarned that this guide just makes the book slightly less impenetrable. Without a history degree (with the associated specialties), and perhaps a minimum 160 IQ, and even a fairly high mathematical acumen, all I can say is, Go with God. Just to be clear, I have none of the above qualifications, which probably explains my frustrations. While it’s always a good idea to try and stretch oneself from time to time, probably a more gradual mental conditioning regimen for me was in order.

  • Laginestra
    2019-05-17 13:33

    Indispensabile come supporto alla lettura del mostro... un piccolo neo: GR companion si limita a fornire dettagli sulle fonti e sugli eterogenei riferimenti extratestuali di Pynchon, mancando completamente ogni spunto esegetico per penetrare -anche solo superficialmente- alcuni dei misteriosi strati semantici del testo... Dommage (ovvero /que sorte!/), la soma dell'interpretazione rimane interamente sulle spalle del lettore.

  • míol mór
    2019-05-11 17:28

    Edited here: ���"A Companion's Companion:Illustrated Additions and Corrections to Steven Weisenburger���s A Gravity���s Rainbow Companion"by Donald F. LarssonDept. of English, Minnesota State University, Mankato See also:

  • Steve
    2019-04-25 18:27

    For anyone wanting to enjoy Thomas Pynchon's masterpiece, GRavity's Rainbow, you may need a map to understand the great number of obscure references to many topics: the Brothers Grimm, rocket technology, occultism, war profiteering, plastics, etc. I have read GR three times and can attest to the usefulness of this book. It will be a key to one of the most wondrous reading experiences available.

  • Jason McKinney
    2019-05-16 11:33

    Essential to take along on your trip through "The Zone". To paraphrase American Express, "If reading Gravity's Rainbow, don't leave home without it." It's a pain in the ass to lug both books around, but you'll be glad you did.

  • Jeff
    2019-04-27 16:41

    I've read Gravity's Rainbow twice now - once without this guide, and once with. The first time was a mind rape, the second was actually fun. If you ever plan on taking the journey, consider this your seat belt, and for the love of a nonexistent God, please use it.

  • Ingo
    2019-04-25 14:48

    Clearly written before the times of the internet ...I lost all faith here:V71.11, B81.35: ,,,,, "tyrosine" (an unknown and doubtless fictional substance...) ...How much can one trust the rest of the book ... :-)

  • John
    2019-04-27 12:50

    I got a lot out of this book, while reading GR for the second time. I found the synopses to be the weak link. For all the detailed minutiae in the line analysis, there could have been a more elaborate section summary, as well as a character map.