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A Gravity's Rainbow Companion

Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel

Title Details

Pages: 440

Illustrations: 5 b&w photos, 1 figure

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 11/01/2006

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2807-2

List Price: $36.95

A Gravity's Rainbow Companion

Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel

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  • Description
  • Reviews

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 Weisenburger takes the reader page by page, often line by line, through the welter of historical references, scientific data, cultural fragments, anthropological research, jokes, and puns around which Pynchon wove his story.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."

Astute detective work . . . The Companion offers a wealth of information that makes it indispensable reading for Pynchon scholars. It is a remarkable achievement, representing untold hours of research into the flotsam and jetsam that constitutes the surface of Pynchon's preterite text.

Pynchon Notes

Pavlov, Grimm, Poisson's equation, I.G. Farben, the Kabbalah, the Tarot, the Hereros; science, history, myth, and popular culture: almost everything is here. For those not content to take Pynchon's references simply on faith, this is an absolutely invaluable work. It points up dramatically the paradox of creating so encyclopedic a work for an a-historical, a-literate work.

Journal of Modern Literature

Weisenburger has exorcised the spectre of the loose baggy monster, the thesis that Gravity's Rainbow is a rambling and haphazard work. . . . A stunningly comprehensive and revelatory study that should be required reading for hard core fans, for the mushier core of people who have started the book but couldn't find anything to hold on to, and perhaps even for the anti-Pynchonites among us: for Them. It may be the means by which the most important novel of the second half of the century gains academic respectability.

Modern Fiction Studies

No serious reader of Pynchon's novel will want to read it without this volume's rare combination of criticism, annotation, and reference at hand.


An excellent guide to a terrifically complex work. If, like a palimpsest, Pynchon's work eludes us, Weisenburger's work provides us with a sub-text which fills in the crucial missing blanks.

Canadian Review of American Studies

Weisenburger not only cares enough to follow Pynchon's narrative almost line by line through its massings of detail but convinces the reader of Pynchon's own care in assuring that everything from weather and moon phases to movies playing in London holds together, all so that Gravity's Rainbow can function as a chronometics when necessary.

American Literary Scholarship

A veritable guidebook to the novel, glossing countless references to popular culture, philosophy, science, etc. It also explains the novel's chronology section by section and for all these reasons will be essential reading on Pynchon.

Year's Work in English Studies

About the Author/Editor

STEVEN WEISENBURGER is Mossiker Chair in Humanities and chair of the English Department at Southern Methodist University. His books include Fables of Subversion (Georgia) and Modern Medea.