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Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) Paperback – Jun 1 1995

4.1 out of 5 stars 223 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (June 1 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140188592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140188592
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 3.3 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 223 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #231,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Tyrone Slothrop, a GI in London in 1944, has a big problem. Whenever he gets an erection, a Blitz bomb hits. Slothrop gets excited, and then (as Thomas Pynchon puts it in his sinister, insinuatingly sibilant opening sentence), "a screaming comes across the sky," heralding an angel of death, a V-2 rocket. The novel's title, Gravity's Rainbow, refers to the rocket's vapor arc, a cruel dark parody of what God sent Noah to symbolize his promise never to destroy humanity again. History has been a big trick: the plan is to switch from floods to obliterating fire from the sky.

Slothrop's father was an unwitting part of the cosmic doublecross. To provide for the boy's future Harvard education, he took cash from the mad German scientist Laszlo Jamf, who performed Pavlovian experiments on the infant Tyrone. Laszlo invented Imipolex G, a new plastic useful in rocket insulation, and conditioned Tyrone's privates to respond to its presence. Now the grown-up Tyrone helplessly senses the Imipolex G in incoming V-2s, and his military superiors are investigating him. Soon he is on the run from legions of bizarre enemies through the phantasmagoric horrors of Germany.

That's just the Imipolex G tip of the shrieking vehicle that is Pynchon's book. It's pretty much impossible to follow a standard plot; one must have faith that each manic episode is connected with the great plot to blow up the world with the ultimate rocket. There is not one story, but a proliferation of characters (Pirate Prentice, Teddy Bloat, Tantivy Mucker-Maffick, Saure Bummer, and more) and events that tantalize the reader with suggestions of vast patterns only just past our comprehension. You will enjoy Pynchon's cartoon inferno far more if you consult Steven Weisenburger's brief companion to the novel, which sorts out Pynchon's blizzard of references to science, history, high culture, and the lowest of jokes. Rest easy: there really is a simple reason why Kekulé von Stradonitz's dream about a serpent biting its tail (which solved the structure of the benzene molecule) belongs in the same novel as the comic-book-hero Plastic Man.

Pynchon doesn't want you to rest easy with solved mysteries, though. Gravity's Rainbow uses beautiful prose to induce an altered state of consciousness, a buzz. It's a trip, and it will last. --Tim Appelo


"The best seller described as the kind of Ulysses which Joyce might have written if he had been a Boeing engineer with a fetish for quadrille paper" Irish Examiner "I read this at 19 or so and just thought, like, f*ck, wow: this is the marker, the pace-setter for the contemporary novel" -- Tom McCarthy, author of 'C' "Thomas Pynchon, the greatest, wildest and most infuriating author of his generation." -- Ian Rankin Guardian "Pynchon is both the US's most serious and most funny writer." -- Thomas Leveritt Independent "Gravity's Rainbow is bonecrushingly dense, compulsively elaborate, silly, obscene, funny, tragic, pastoral, historical, philosophical, poetic, grindingly dull, inspired, horrific, cold, bloated, beached and blasted...[Pynchon's] novel is in this sense a work of paranoid genius, a magnificent necropolis that will take its place amidst the grand detritus of our culture. Its teetering structure is greater by far than the many surrounding literary shacks and hovels." New York Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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By A Customer on Sept. 11 2003
Format: Paperback
Pynchon's _Gravity's Rainbow_ is one of my favorite novels. There, that's out of the way. I will try to describe the novel for you.
It's big. The story is sprawling, all over Europe during the end of WWII, and following that war. The characters are numerous. The plot is ridiculous and absurd; the writing is beautiful.
Most importantly, the novel is funny. I laughed aloud repeatedly. It took me a month to read this book; at times it is grotesque and awful, and difficult to digest. It is Pynchon's longest and most difficult-to-read novel. Most similar to V., it is profane and never delicate. The chaos and absurdity of war is revealed without precision, but with explosive mastery.
I recommend this novel, especially to fans of Neal Stephenson, John Barth, William Gass, and William S. Burroughs. I also believe that Catch 22 fans will enjoy.
If you have read other novels by Thomas Pynchon, please also begin _Gravity's Rainbow_. If you have not read others by Pynchon, start with his first novel _V._. The title is just the letter V.
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Format: Paperback
Maybe it's the wide variety of styles and motifs used in this psychedelic hippy dippy slide show as we jump from vignette to vignette that added - intentionally, I'm sure - to the disorientation and vertigo I felt trying to slog my way through Gravity's Rainbow. But I'm not convinced my rising gorge was caused so much by brilliant exposition as by the sensation of Pynchon casting about like a man going down for the third time, grabbing at any piece of flotsam floating through his consciousness at the moment. This can lead to some creative anecdotes, I grant, but there are just too many ancillary passages that peter out into ". . . . . ." when the steam's run out that I'm quite convinced Pynchon himself lost the thread. It isn't his, ". . . Tree of Life, which must be apprehended all at once, together, in parallel" style, or the way the story bounced around in space and time that caused my eyes to glaze over but these rants of Pynchon's, which add nothing to our understanding of Tyrone Slothrop or the overall mood of the book unless that mood is one of random meaninglessness - completely antithetical to the Grand Conspiracy in which Pynchon is so insistent his characters believe they are immersed. Pynchon spews forth these digressions in an unending torrent (digressions heading off on tangents, defined by ever finer changes in the "Ecks!" and "Why?") as if he expects the reader to share the same paranoid/drug-addled state of mind as his characters ("in the zone," so to speak har-har, where, since anything can happen, it necessarily does!) so that the proper irrational conclusions will be drawn, "Oh, the complete history of Slothrop's zoot suit and Planetoid Katspiel where pinballs come from . . . a-and oh yeah!Read more ›
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Format: Paperback is hard to find a coherent plot in Pynchon's post-modern masterpiece.
"Gravity's Rainbow" is am immense novel written in Ullysean style, i.e. stream of consciousness, making it hard to fit plot in any chronological order. In fact rumour has it that doctoral theses have been written on a kind of linear summation of the tome.
Not being an English Lit major, or recieved any education that would help me understand this story I debated doing independent research to try to further enlighten any gracious readers' of this review. However in the end I decided to forego any gratuitous analysis of the text.
Because bottom line, sure one could study this epic in courses, and on one site a reader asked in fact why it wasn't studied in high school, (not going to digress further along this vein), but that is just an example of the density of Pynchon's work. As I started to say thoughm that is only half the story behind Gravity's Rainbow. It deserves to be a classic, or at least neo-classic of literature, for the style of writing, and thematic importance. It also deserves to be read simply for the enoyment of reading, which is why I didn't qoute many papers writen on it, I read it not to study but to luxuriate in the love of language Pynchon obviously shares with many readers. It admittedly took e over 100 pages to get into, as I hadn't read anything stylistically comparable since Joyce, but once I really started reading it, I loved it for its uniqueness, boldness, and for the characters (although the achilles heel as characterization isn't the strongest trait.) Sara Nelson in her memoir stated she meant to read this title because lots of people of intelligence have tackled it, I say tackle it for the sheer joy of Pynchon's manic literary energy.
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Format: Paperback
What can you take away from this book with any certainty? Pynchon seems to talk around and around his great "themes" (paranoia, homosexuality, drugs, decadence, etc.) a great deal, but does he ever actually say anything? It seems to me it's very easy to be "a literary master" in this way. It's much more difficult to write something very clear and simple that people can easily understand (and yet still be profound and say something new).

Pynchon likes to impress. He seems to enjoy fact dropping like a groupie dropping names at a cocktail party. (This earned him the crooning admiration on the back of my paperback edition: '...the learning of a John Barth...') But like the groupie, there is always that suspicious lack of depth, of detail... Try to pin him down and whoah! there he goes off on something entirely different again. And here he is reeling off more shallow "facts" and references, preferably in German, preferably things he doesn't expect you know much about...

GR has often been likened to Ulysses or Moby Dick. But all it really has in common with these true greats is a large number of pages and a "difficult" style. This is why it's held in such esteem. It's just so damned long and difficult. Those who don't finish it (the majority) don't feel qualified to comment. Then there's the holier-than-thou, "emperor's new clothes" attitude of those who grit it out. Would it have got the same acclaim at 250 pages? When the buzz dies down, I rather doubt GR will stand the test of time.

And then there's this issue of humor. "Desperately funny" (whatever that means) trills the back of my paperback edition. I didn't find anything in the novel even the slightest, remotest bit funny.
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