Ninety-Nine Novels: Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
In 1984, Anthony Burgess published Ninety-Nine Novels, a selection of his favourite novels in English since 1939. The list is typically idiosyncratic, and shows the breadth of Burgess’s interest in fiction. This podcast, by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, explores the novels on Burgess’s list with the help of writers, critics and other special guests.
In this episode, Graham Foster of the Burgess Foundation talks to writer and academic Simon Malpas about Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.
Published in 1973, Gravity’s Rainbow has become one of the most revered American novels of the post-war period. It’s a hard novel to summarise, the plot being a complicated tangle of characters and situations, self-referential twists and historical detail, riotous humour and pointed satire. In his review of Gravity’s Rainbow in Ninety-Nine Novels, Anthony Burgess describes it as ‘the war book to end them all’, saying that it describes the obscenity of war in a way that was not available to the poets and novelists writing about the First World War.
Simon is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Edinburgh University, and has written an introduction to the work of Thomas Pynchon with Andrew Taylor which helps demystifying many of the themes and philosophies running through Pynchon’s novels: Thomas Pynchon by Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor is published by Manchester University Press and out now.
Books mentioned in this episode:
By Thomas Pynchon:
- V (1963)
- The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
- Mason and Dixon (1997)
- Inherent Vice (2009)
- Bleeding Edge (2013)
- Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)
- The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (1948)
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
- MF by Anthony Burgess (1971)
- Napoleon Symphony by Anthony Burgess (1974)
- The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell (1975)
- Dhalgren by Samuel Delaney (1975)
- Beard’s Roman Women by Anthony Burgess (1976)
- 1985 by Anthony Burgess (1978)
You can join the conversation and tell us which 100th book you would add to Burgess’s list by using the hashtag #99Novels on Twitter.
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The theme music for the Ninety-Nine Novels podcast is Anthony Burgess’s Concerto for Flute, Strings and Piano in D Minor, performed by No Dice Collective.