Books: Shadowy Presence

The weather for the third annual Gravity's Rainbow Marathon, which began last Nov. 9 on the flagstone terrace in front of Princeton University's Firestone Library, kicked off rainy and windy. Somewhere into the 38 straight hours of public reading, performed in sequence by 76 volunteers, of every word of Thomas Pynchon's 760-page (in the original edition) novel, conditions turned clear and colder. Still, through the long day and night and next day, listeners assembled and dispersed, some of them harboring a small hope that this academic homage might attract the attendance of the author himself. (Rumors about a stranger who could...