Books: V. Squared

Gravity's Rainbow

by THOMAS PYNCHON 760 pages. Viking. $15. Paperback $4.95.

The novels of Thomas Pynchon seem to take place in a vast, unfathomable cyclotron. Characters, ideas, metaphors, styles, pains, ecstasies, assorted objects from the Pyramids to paper clips all whirl about at enormous velocity. They collide, split into new forms, or suddenly decay, leaving behind only enigmatic smiles.

This is not a surprise to anyone who read Pynchon's celebrated 1963 novel V. That book presented Herbert Stencil, Benny Profane and the Whole Sick Crew. It encompassed alligator hunts in the sewers of New...