Some people argue that "Gravity's Rainbow" is the most important literary work of the 20th century. It is a dense postmodern epic set in Europe during World War II and focusing on the phallic war technology of the V2 missile and the apocalyptic implications of cybernetics, institutionalized militarism, and the enforced decadence emanating from Nazi Germany.
When the book first appeared, a colleague of mine called it "another shaggy apocalypse story," because it is not so much a speculation about the end of the world as we know it as an exposure of 20th century thanatropic illusion. You could also paraphrase the cliche "fiercely imagined" to call this work "fiercely hallucinated"; rumor has it that Pynchon relied on psychedelic enhancement for the surreal quality of certain scenes (e.g. protagonist Tyrone Slothrop flushed down a toilet in a Harlem jazz club). Whatever the case, this novel is a rich literary vein that academic pedants will mine for decades to come. But, don't let the trivialists put you off: "Gravity's Rainbow" is extraordinary in its richness and its ability to sustain an 887-page read (if you get past the banana breakfast, you'll tumble through the rest of the book).
1973, Viking Press
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Gravity's Rainbow:
Strangely, these are not the symmetries we were programmed to expect, not the fins, the streamlined corners, pylons, or simple solid geometries of the official vision at all -- THAT'S for the ribbon clerks back on the Tour, in the numbered Stollen. No, this Rocket-City, so whitely lit against the calm dimness of space, is set up deliberately To Avoid Symmetry, Allow Complexity, Introduce Terror (from the Preamble to the Articles of Immachination) -- but tourists have to connect the look of it back to things they remember from their times and planet -- back to the wine bottle smashed in the basin, the bristlecone pines outracing Death for millennia, concrete roads abandoned years ago, hairdos of the late 1930s, indole molecules, especially "polymerized" indoles, as in Imipolex G --
"I could have told you that. But why -- "
"WHY. My dear captain. WHY?"