The 50 Best One-Star Amazon Reviews of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow
And the Lone Crusader Defending the Book's Honor in the Comments
Incoherent, hateful, rambling. Bloated nonsense. Incomprehensible word sausagery. Pompous drivel. Crapola. These are some of the ways readers describe Thomas Pynchon’s National Book Award-winning, post-modern magnum opus Gravity’s Rainbow. But as with the reviews of Ulysses, it turns out that the commenters are rather split on the matter. In the bowels of the Amazon one-star reviews of Gravity’s Rainbow, there is a crusader defending Pynchon’s honor—but instead of the legendary Leatherbags Reynolds, the gallant knight is a user called (cleverly, if you ask me) eurydike, whose tack is to, well, generally question the intelligence of anyone who dislikes the book. (On the other hand, you can see a beautiful relationship bloom in real time between pancake_repairman and Martin Dawson, which shows that not all comments sections are for naught.) But actually, there’s a subtler argument going on in these one-star reviews. Two subtler arguments, in fact: the first is whether it’s more pretentious to like Gravity’s Rainbow or to dislike Gravity’s Rainbow; the second is whether it’s defensible, intellectually or even morally, to review a book you haven’t actually finished.
Opinions abound. But just as I was getting sick of all the name-calling and elitist-shaming, who did I find, lurking in the comments? Why, our old friend Leatherbags Reynolds! Lest anyone assume that Joyce fans would also be Pynchon fans, Leatherbags pops up to join the haters (“Who put it into Pynchon’s head that he could write?” he asks) and helpfully suggest Ulysses instead (“Maybe give it another shot,” he advises another commenter, “to see what real writing is all about”). The world makes sense again.
[Click on the reviews to enlarge.]