Since I have been in China, I have felt like I should be studying Chinese. Despite having some English books to read, I haven’t read them because of this feeling. The net result is that I read much less than I used to.
This weekend I decided to begin reading Gravity’s Rainbow (万有引力之虹). While it has a Chinese name, I am not aware of any Chinese versions of the book. Furthermore, even if it were translated, it relies on so much American and English cultural background that it still wouldn’t make sense. Not that it would be readable to most native speakers as it is. From Answers.com:
The three-member Pulitzer Prize jury on fiction supported Gravity’s Rainbow for the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. However, the other eleven members of the fourteen-member Pulitzer board overturned this decision, calling the book "unreadable," "turgid," "overwritten," and "obscene," with one member confessing to having gotten only a third of the way through it.
It isn’t unreadable for me, but it is taking me a lot longer than expected. I spent the better part of today reading the book, and I am only 20% done (it has 776 pages in the version I am reading).
It has some interesting cultural connections with today. Apparently the "worst toilet in the world" scene in the movie Trainspotting pays homage to a Gravity’s Rainbow passage where Tyrone Slothrop (one of the main characters) dives into a toilet. Though the book is a lot more graphic than the movie when describing what is there…