Tag Archives: Gravity’s Rainbow

Flavorwire: 50 Books Everyone Should Read


Following on to Questlove’s year-by-year breakdown of the albums that defined his youth, Flavorwire this week published a list(icle?), year-by-year, of 50 Books Everyone Should Read.

Starting in 1963, the list picks the most necessary, though not necessarily the best, reads from each year. As with any endeavor of this size, there’s plenty to love and plenty to What? about, and even some to WTF? about. For example, WTF is The Master and Margarita from 1967? And also, WTF happened in 1969, when the competition for Flavorwire’s pick I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings included Slaughterhouse-FivePortnoy’s ComplaintThe Left Hand of Darkness; and Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle?

Pretty good year.

We were glad to see some Fiction Advocate favorites make the list, like Gravity’s Rainbow (1973); Speedboat (1976); Infinite Jest (1996); A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010); and presumptive favorite The Flame Throwers (2013). I’ve also heard that Brian Hurley has a bad habit of getting buzzed and weeping about how much he loved Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970).

Read the full list here.

 Michael Moats


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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Byzantine Pornography

This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” 


April 14, 2012, pgs 934-958/1078-1079. A brief moment in which Joelle van Dyne is picked up by Hugh/Helen Steeply pulls us out of Gately’s fever memories. But we’re quickly back in, as Gately and Fackleman descend further into their binge, watching JOI’s Kinds of Light, pissing themselves and being just all around pretty disgusting. Even still, rolling M&Ms through urine, then actually shooting up with urine instead of water is arguably less disgusting than Pamela Hoffman-Jeep’s “standard anti-hangover breakfast” the Phillips Screwdriver made of vodka and Milk of Magnesia. It’s accurately described by Gately as a “lowball.” Within the space of a few pages we catch a few missile references: “he [Gately] might as well have been strapped to the snout of a missile” and “it became the ICBM of binges,” indicating that there may be some “Gravity’s Rainbow” overtones here. A later reference, during Hal’s section, to a “sad and beautiful Aryan-looking boy” adds to the presence of GR in these pages. As things get worse and worse for Gately and Fackleman (who has now shit his pants), Gately reverts more and more to his childhood of the breathing ceiling and the bars of his playpen.

We now appear to be alternating between Gately and Hal and Joelle, who is now describing The Entertainment — and the location of the master cartridge — under USOUS questioning. Just as it is for USOUS, this interview is evidence for us readers to help piece together exactly what the hell is happening.

Hal returns to his room to find Coyle and Mario and some developments in the events around ETA. Apparently Lateral Alice Moore arranged the switch for Axford and Troeltsch, and I suspect there’s not much more to this seemingly significant and perhaps light-shedding turn of events than to embed and heighten in us as readers Hal’s feeling “that something as major as a midterm room-switch could have taken place without my knowing anything about it filled me with dread.” Which is pretty goddam brilliant of old DFW. Coyle tells Hal about Stice’s theory that a ghost is haunting him to raise his game, and Hal futher theorizes “Or hurt somebody else’s.”

Coyle is watching JOI’s Accomplice! which again sparks Hal’s interest in his father’s intentions.  Accomplice! appears to be another odd JOI joint, focused on a meta-watching experience. Hal mentions “a self-conscious footnote” and explains that the film’s “essential project remains abstract and self-reflexive; we end up feeling and thinking not about the characters but about the cartridge itself.” Its star, Cosgrove Watt, is first spotted by JOI in a commercial wearing a white toupee, just like JOI Sr. wore and just like Lenz wears. Graduate students start your engines on that one. Speaking of which, Hal watching the reports of snow falling on various people and places across the area, and his calling up of the phrase “smiling mirthlessly,” brings to mind James Joyce and his story “The Dead.” I’ll go ahead and make too much of it by pointing out Hal’s observation that “I had never once ridden a snowmobile, skied, or skated: E.T.A. discouraged them. DeLint described winter sports as practically getting down on one knee and begging for an injury” (emphasis mine, since this basically what happens at the end of “The Dead,” except with love and not with winter sports).

Hal begins to reminisce. The poster he remembers of Lang directing Metropolis is, presumably, the one Wallace wanted to use as the cover of the book. He remembers seeing a knife stuck in a mirror, though not the word KNIFE written on a non-public mirror. Hal’s impression of the Byzantine erotica he was once interested in feels like the organizing idea for all of IJ: “Something about the stiff and dismantled quality of maniera greca porn: people broken into pieces and trying to join, etc.” He realizes he doesn’t want to play anymore, and thinks about injuring himself to avoid ever playing again and “becoming the object of compassionate sorrow rather than disappointed sorrow.” It’s another moment in this book that is harder to read knowing the author’s fate. Hal recalls a sad moment involving Himself, Orin and pornography’s impoverished idea of sex, and he thinks about his mom. He knows about John Wayne, as well as a long list of others including Marlon Bain. He pictures Wayne and his mom in what is presumably a posture of the Byzantine porn.

Joelle comes back to “the House” to find a Middlesex County Sheriff’s car sitting outside.

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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: Fire at Your Will

This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” 


November 16, 2011, pgs 450-469/1032-1033.  After some tonal dissonance, we are back in harmony with two sections — one from Ennet and one from ETA — that mirror each other with training motifs.  But first, a Hamlet Sighting: Tavis surveying his (usurped) kingdom while working himself into a state of “Total Worry.” There is also a mention that Tavis may in fact be Mario’s father.

Then on to the morning conditioning at ETA, a scene that is physically punishing to read and probably raises unpleasant memories for anyone who’s ever practiced with a team and/or been compelled to do exercises appropriately named “suicides.”  (These pages are owed a great debt by many of the pages in The Art of Fielding.)  They also bring the ETA part of the story back down to earth after the I-day puppet show. It probably has the same effect on the kids, who are up early the day after their sugar binge to do this conditioning. Some great moments include Wallace’s point about Schtitt: “Like most Germans outside popular entertainment, he gets quieter when he wants to impress or menace.” Along with Edgar Marsalla in chapel at Pency in the early pages of “The Catcher in the Rye” and Gately being “the one who’d farted” earlier in the book (281), the part when “Left-hander Brian van Vleck picks a bad moment to break wind” is among the better uses of a fart in literature.

Over at Ennet House, Gately is engaged in a similar kind of training regiment.  But first, a quick “Gravity’s Rainbow” sighting with Gately who feels like he’s “strapped into a missile and launched at the site of a domestic errand” while driving Pat M’s car.

Regarding his struggles with the Higher Power and over whether the program actually works, Gately is told that “it didn’t matter at this point what he thought or believed or said. All that mattered was what he did.” So he does his own daily conditioning, including the calisthenics of getting down on his knees every AM and PM, regardless of whether he believes: “he treated prayer like setting an oven-temp according to a box’s instructions.” He gets active and goes to Commitments and finds that suddenly, he’s gone days without craving substances.

The ETAers and Gately are both following Schtitt’s instructions to “Fire at your will,” a clever mistranslation on Wallace’s part.  And Schtitt’s internal world for the players echo’s the in here/out there of AA. To top it off, toward the end Wallace notes “the extremely low resting pulse-rate of a guy with geologic amounts of sober AA time,” a quality that is most often connected to elite athletes, including, presumably, the ETA kids.

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