Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) has been called a modernFinnegans Wake for its challenging language, wild anachronisms, hallucinatory happenings, and fever-dream imagery. With Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow, artist Zak Smith at once eases and expands readers’ experience of the twentieth-century classic. Smith has created more than 750 pages of drawings, paintings, and photos—each derived from a page of Pynchon’s novel. Extraordinary tableaux of the detritus of war—a burned-out Konigstiger tank, a melted machine gun—coexist alongside such fantasmagoric Pynchon inventions as the “stumbling bird” and “Grigori the octopus.” Smith has said he aimed to be “as literal as possible” in interpreting Gravity’s Rainbow, but his images are as imaginative and powerful as the prose they honor.
"The end result of his endeavor is less an illustrated novel than a series of eerie, high art interpretations."
—Marcela Valdes, Washington Post
"Zak Smith, with uninhibited bravado and exactly the right kind of insanity, has done something remarkable in [Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow] : created a series of images that approach the richness of their source. He draws a lurid and intoxicating netherworld, complete in its own right and, at the same time, an illuminating companion to the novel."
—Emily Barton, Los Angeles Times
"The drawings are surprisingly detailed, colorful and contemplative, adding new layers to the text and potentially earning Pynchon some new fans."
—Whitney Matheson, USA Today
"[Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow] can be enjoyed on its own or read simultaneously with the 1973 novel, putting Smith's art next to those discursive, intricate, elusive, overwritten sentences."
—Jeff Baker, The Oregonian
So . . . what the fuck?
So why does a guy best known for portraits of half-naked punk-porn chicks decide one day to sit down and illustrate every single page of a relentlessly difficult classic of twentieth-century literature?
Last year a newspaper wanted an article out of me on roughly that topic. If there was a punk-porn/Pynchon connection I didn’t know what it was but I told the guy I’d give it a shot and hung up the phone. I did know there was a go-go dancing, fire-eating, tattooed anarchist lying on my bed, and I knew she was busy reading Vineland out loud—and that was about it.
A few days later, I went to Los Angeles and met lots of pornographers. The first pornographer had the muted post horn from Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 tattooed on his arm. He told me to read Steve Erickson.
The second pornographer told me about a third pornographer who I had to talk to because he was like the original punk pornographer and he was doing it before anybody so I asked what’s this guy’s name and he said, “Benny Profane.” I called Benny:
“Benny Profane, you’re named after a character in V. and you make dirty movies. Can you please explain to me the secret connection between Thomas Pynchon and punk porn?”
Benny said nobody’d ever recognized his stage name and said some stuff about hmmm... maybe, the concept of preterition and girls with chipped teeth and stuff. I mailed him a disk of all theGravity’s Rainbow pictures I’d done; he mailed me some porno movies.
Benny then says he’s a big fan and it’d mean a lot to him if he could maybe use the Gravity’s Rainbow pictures in a movie he’s doing for Hustler. I say no problem and I say it’d mean a lot to me if I could fuck some girls in the movie he’s doing for Hustler.
Six months later I have a vigorous second career as a porn actor and Steve Erickson is writing the introduction to my book.