Dragging Me Down

I just finished reading "Gravity's Rainbow". I wouldn't suppose that that's a particularly notable feat, but it brought to my attention something I share with the man who recommended it to me, which I'll address in short order. I'll give you a hint right now, though. It's not a love of Thomas Pynchon novels.

My father introduced me to the book a few years ago. I think that it was ostensibly a gift to celebrate the completion of my first year of university, which is still incidentally my only completed year, but I'm pretty sure that it was just an excuse to give me a book and share with me a cherished memory in doing so. It wouldn't have been the first time. That was basically the custom in my family. When nothing could be found to celebrate, books could be given without pretense, but even the most insignificant event could serve as a reminder to get a novel or something for someone in the house. 

However, this particular gift was given shortly after I'd finally solved a problem that had been growing for years. The years were the ones in which the majority of my travel stopped taking place in the back of a parent's car, and the problem was the physical burden of books. To me, travel has generally been the connective tissue of the reading process. It's the gluten. On an average childhood day, book transportation was easy. Take it in the car on the way to school. Read it when you can. Leave it in your desk when you must. Take it back in the car. Then you're back at home with a book. You always have something to read, and it always has a secure surface on which it can rest. A minimal amount of carrying. You can even leave it in the car when you're being driven to a place at which books would be an inconvenience. 

Obviously, that eventually stopped being the case. I did make attempts to deal with the situation. I remember a long English vacation during which this problem really hit me. This was in the holiday season of 2007, and I received two books for Christmas. One was "The Picture of Dorian Gray", which I squeezed into the pocket of the last pair of jeans I would ever willingly wear. I finished that in the middle of the trip and moved on to the other present, "Don Juan". That was the primary motivator for the acquisition of my first purse, but this form of carriage was still too inconvenient to allow me to bring books to destinations that didn't allow for much reading,  and I was thus unprepared for situations of unexpected inactivity. 

This was finally solved when I received an iPhone for my birthday in the months before I was given "Gravity's Rainbow". This was a bit of a hefty tome, and its transportation would have caused some strain even in the years before I started doing the majority of my reading on my phone. I planned to buy the digital version immediately, but I was dismayed to discover that there wasn't one. Since that point, I've searched the Kindle store for it after every completion of a book.

I recently searched again, and I was pleased to learn that it had finally been added. I immediately started reading it, but I quickly discovered that Pynchon was a master of a style that I generally loathe. I can't really say that it's bad. I'm pretty sure that it's exactly what he wanted to make. That's a bit of a feat in any form of art. I just really don't like reading this kind of thing. That's purely personal. But there were little discrete pockets of enjoyment. That was clear from the beginning. The occasional line that really spoke out from an intriguing way of thinking. They were brief, and they were rare, but I think that they might have been the most salient reason for which I refused to stop reading. That would have meant missing the rest of them.

This obstinacy brought to my mind an experience with my father that recurred over a period of months. I can't remember the exact year, but I'm pretty sure that it fell within the last few. My father ran a book club with some of his friends, and the book of the time was "Late Nights on Air". If memory serves, it was a Canadian novel about a radio host in one of those northern territories. You know the ones. This could basically be the book that would be written for me in one of the more personal hells. It didn't seem to delight my father either, and he'd frequently complain about it whenever he perfunctorily went off to do what should have been recreational reading. The fact that his book was exactly the kind of thing that would have brought out the same reaction in me really allowed me to sympathise with him, and I did recommend quitting on several occasions. He was resolute, though. I think that both of us were pretty sure that his club would understand. Indeed, I don't think that it was popular among many of the other members either. But his dedication went beyond that, and he did eventually finish the thing.

My experience with "Gravity's Rainbow" allowed me to fully understand that at last. The motivations might have been slightly different, and the novel he read might have been legitimately bad, but reading "Gravity's Rainbow" made me feel what I saw him experience with "Late Nights on Air". I noticed that the book was almost over today, and I was determined to enjoy the night's smoothie over a new book. The ride to the shop didn't give me enough time to finish the last section, but I stood outside it with determination as I finished the damned thing, eagerly anticipating the opening notes of the copy of "The Anubis Gates" I'd already purchased. 

Smoothies and Tim Powers, man. I'd say that the night was a success.

Copyright © 2011, Jaymes Buckman and David Aaron Cohen. All rights reserved. In a good way.