The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers around the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest undertaken by several of the characters to uncover the secret of a mysterious device named the "Schwarzgerät," or "00000."
The novel was nominated for the 1973 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and won the National Book Award in 1974. Since its publication, Gravity's Rainbow has spawned an enormous amount of literary criticism and commentary, including two reader's guides and several online concordances.
From Gravity's Rainbow
- In the static space of the architect, he might've used a double integral now and then, early in his career, to find volumes under surfaces whose equations are known — masses, moments, centers of gravity. But it has been years since he's had to do with anything that basic...in the dynamic space of the living Rocket, the double integral has a different meaning. To integrate here is to operate on a rate of change so that time falls away: change is stilled....'Meters per second' will integrate to 'meters'. The moving vehicle is frozen, in space, to become architecture, and timeless. It was never launched. It will never fall.
- It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...secretly, it was being dictated instead by the needs of technology...by a conspiracy between human beings and techniques, by something that needed the energy-burst of war.
- Homosexuality in high places is just a carnal afterthought now, and the real and only fucking is done on paper....
- A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.
- They are in Love. Fuck the War.
- But why are we taught to feel reflexive shame whenever the subject comes up? Why will the Structure allow every other kind of sexual behavior but that one? Because submission and dominance are resources it needs for its very survival. They cannot be wasted in private sex. In any kind of sex. It needs our submission so that it may remain in power. It needs our lusts after dominance so that it can co-opt us into its own power game. There is no joy in it, only power. I tell you, if S and M could be established universally, at the family level, the State would wither away.
- Death has come in the pantry door: stands watching them, iron and patient, with a look that says try to tickle me.
- Tap my head and mic my brain / stick that needle in my vein
- pronouncing asshole with a certain sphinctering of the lips so it comes out ehisshehwle.
- read old agonies inside poor Dumpster, who'd tried suicide last semester: the differential equations that would not weave for him into any elegance.
- If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.
- But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice — guessed and refused to believe — that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chance, no return. Yet they do move forever under it, reserved for its own black-and-white bad news certainly as if it were the rainbow, and they its children.
- Non-Masons stay pretty much in the dark about What Goes On, though now and then something jumps out, exposes itself, jumps giggling back again, leaving you with few details but a lot of Awful Suspicions.
- No, as none of these, but instead a point in space, a point hung precise as the point where burning must end, never launched, never to fall. And what is the specific shape whose center of gravity is the Brennschluss Point? Don't jump at an infinite number of possible shapes. There's only one. It is most likely an interface between one order of things and another. There's a Brennschluss point for every firing site. They still hang up there, all of them, a constellation waiting to have a 13th sign of the Zodiac named for it...
- It's been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such Home, only the millions of last moments ... no more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.