Fugitive Thoughts: Timothy Leary’s Reading of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow
Getting back to this period in Leary’s life: he gets caught in Kabul and
ends up back in the California Archipelago. He once counted how many
different prisons he’d been in: 36. It was in solitary confinement in
Sandstone, Minnesota that Leary asked a trustee for something to read.
“No books fro special cases,” was the answer. Soon after, he “heard the
clank of the padlock and the rasp of the metal slot being opened. He
passively accepted a book which was pushed through the slot.” It was the
recently released novel Gravity’s Rainbow.
Leary, in solitary confinement, read it for 12 hours straight until the
lights went off, then woke at sunrise and read it for 15 hours. When he
finished the first reading, he began again at page one and annotated,
“decoded, outlined and charted the narrative.” (I wonder whatever
happened to that copy?)