Reading Gravity's Rainbow After September Eleventh: An Anecdotal Approach

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Since the September Eleventh airplane attacks on the World Trade Center, it is difficult to imagine American readers responding to the opening sentences of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow in quite the same ways as they had previously. "A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now" (3). Suddenly these famous words are thrust into new contexts, and yet, I would like to argue that the idea of "comparison" still pervades our ways of understanding. Who can forget the horrifying doubling and déjà vu of the images of the second airplane crashing into the second tower? That scene of doubled impact and destruction at once creates the desire for and, with its sense of radical singularity, denies bases of comparison. Pynchon recognizes that in the face of traumatic or devastating events we seek refuge in the comfort of comparison, in our sense that what bears similarity offers solace.

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Postmodern Culture