Gravity’s Rainbow Illustrated – Idea Stimulator


From Zak Smith’s Illustrated Pynchon
© Zak Smith

So I illustrated Gravity’s Rainbow– nobody asked me to, but I did it anyway. Most of the pictures are drawings– ink on whatever paper was lying around, but there are also paintings (acrylic), photos I took, and experimental photographic processes. I tried to illustrate the passages as literally as possible– if the book says there was a green Spitfire, I drew a green Spitfire. Mostly, I tried to make a series of pictures as dense, intricate, and rich as the prose in the book. The entire project was shown in the Whitney Museum’s 2004 Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art and is now in the permanent collection of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Zak Smith


While it took Pynchon about ten years to create this career defining work, Zak Smith created 760 illustrations in a year. Each page was drawn, photographed, or painted by being true to Pynchon’s words. It would be an interesting experiment to read only the pictures. Would you create the same book report as those who read only the words? What is the difference between illustration and fine art? Is Cy Twombly’s series of paintings – Fifty Days at Iliam – based on the Illiad, illustration or fine art? Does it matter? Both are based upon books and neither would have been created without that source.

25 Best Novels of the Past 25 Years

Take any of the ‘best’ novels published in the past twenty-five years. Read it. Then chose ten pages and interpret them either literally or metaphorically using any medium other than the written word. Thomas Pynchon’s recent 1,025 page novel Against the Day is on sale at Amazon.

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