Whatever one may think of GR as a novel, there is no doubt about the richness, range, and depth of Pychon's intellect and his themes and ideas. GR is clearly a book that challenges the reader on many levels, and the novel's themes and meanings also work on many levels.
People have complained about the difficulty of the book. To me there are relative degrees of difficulty, and there's a big difference between something that's merely esoteric or recondite, because one doesn't understand the vocabulary, and something that's really intellectually difficult to understand--like quantum physics. For example, take Pynchon's large vocabulary and his allusions to various mythic but obscure Qabbalistic, Celtic, and Christian facts and ideas. A good dictionary will fix the first problem, and a good encyclopedia of world myths and religion will fix the second problem, of which I've seen at least a couple on sale at local bookstores recently.
But getting back to GR, Pynchon's writing style is either the benefactor or perhaps victim of this richness, and I did find his style somewhat ponderous occasionally, and his long sentences and long-winded descriptions of things to be a bit labored and hyperborean at times. Someone once said the reason why no-one reads John Milton except English majors and professors is because no-one has the patience for Miltonian periods anymore. Since both authors often write sentences that go on for a more like a paragraph or even a bigger portion of a page, the same could be said of Pynchon. You can find sentences with exclamation points in the middle, sentences with multiple dashes and ellipses, and multiple sentence fragments that refer to other sentence fragments. One could almost say that his style is more about punctuation and syntax than semantics. But in Pynchon's defense I'll say that from a linguistic standpoint, his ratio of modifiers to non-modifiers, of adverbs and adjectives to nouns and verbs, is probably higher than most writers, and there is a certain technical and perhaps linguistic validity and aesthetic charm in that.
In addition to the obvious oddities of his punctuation and syntax, there is Pynchon's obsession with English and with what I call his "language games," although perhaps not in the sense in which the modern philosopher Wittgenstein meant, but I'll have more to say on that shortly. Pynchon delights in the use of the English language, with all its expressive capabilities-its rhythms, harmonies, dissonances--and many opportunities for word-play, esoteric vocabulary, arcane references and allusions, and imaginative and even bizarre figures of speech. He even brings in foreign phrases and even calculus equations occasionally.
Pynchon is particularly adept at the creative use of metaphor, which many analytical rhetoricians regard as a sign of an especially accomplished writer. As Lois Shawver, a philosopher at the University of Calgary, Canada, points out about Wittgenstein's theory of word games, "Words seem to be passed from primary or primitive uses of language into this more metaphorical or parasitic use of language with little awareness on our part. These hidden metaphors lead us into language games that we have learned in other contexts without our awareness by a process that the post moderns call "metaphorical structuring." " She goes on to say, "The enormity of this observation is only striking when one's attention is awakened to the wealth of implicit metaphors that fill our ordinary speech." All this is just by way of saying that metaphor is perhaps the ultimate trope or figure of speech of the linguistic universe, and that Pynchon himself seems to be intuitively or explicitly aware of that fact, since he is a master of it.
I do think he goes a little too far with all the cutesy and weird names, and I don't think this really adds much to the novel. Also, apropos of Pynchon's long-winded descriptions and obsession with observing the most minute details, one thing that separates a great author from a lesser one is the ability to pick and choose the most salient and most telling details without having to inundate the reader with extraneous trivia. This is an important part of writing craftsmanship. Theodore Dreiser comes to mind in this regard, and as a result, it can be said of Dreiser that he is a great author but a lesser writer. The same may apply to Pynchon. If I may paraphrase something the great art historian, G.C. Argan, observed about van Eyck's oil paintings but that I think applies equally well to Pynchon, even nature is not so capillary, meticulous, and absurd as Pynchon's prodigious eye sees it.
Since the novel is a storytelling art and medium, I think the language should promote the telling of the story and therefore be mostly perspicuous and transparent rather than opaque in terms of facilitating such telling. Pynchon's language tends more toward the opaque and overtly self-conscious end of the spectrum, but I didn't even mind that, since I can get into word games and philological esoterica as much as anyone. But Pynchon seems more concerned with providing an intellectual smorgasbord for the reader rather than a real story in the traditional sense.
That, too, is fine, except one needs to exercise some measure of control and discipline over the process. And I'm not referring to the problem of the intellectual odyssey becoming nothing more than a vain and self-serving display of erudition, a complaint which a number of reviewers here have levied against Pynchon. I'm referring, rather, to the need to maintain some kind of structure and minimal architectonic basis lest the novel partly or completely disintegrate because of the chaotic intellectual and literary adventurism of its author.
That having been said, overall, I found Pynchon's imaginative and eclectic mix, or perhaps alchemical witches brew, of historical, paranoid, erotic, scientific, philological, philosophical, and fantastic themes entertaining and imaginative, and at the very least, educational. So I'll go on record by saying that despite the several issues I discuss above, I thought this was a unique if not brilliant book. If I can indulge in a somewhat Pynchonesque and risque metaphor myself, I would describe Pynchon's at times cerebral, at times low-brow, and at other times, pornographic magnum opus, as basically the intellectual foresk_n on the flaccid p_nis of the present literary universe.