Saturday, December 3rd, 2005
Zak Smith’s Illustrations, then, is not Zak Smith’s Gravity’s Rainbow. It is a major work, but it is not a career-defining work. Pynchon (we assume) put the better part of a decade into his novel; Smith put in a year. Pynchon’s depth of research alone is staggering. When he describes an everyday item in the novel, we can feel sure of the historical accuracy (or deliberate inaccuracy) of his description; Smith, on the other hand, takes his inspiration from the novel itself, without much recourse to the historical world it describes. Smith seems to realise that his illustrations are subordinate to the novel in this respect. He is not attempting to create the visual equivalent of Gravity’s Rainbow; rather, wisely, he is attempting to supplement the novel with a visual interpretation that respects the novel’s form, manner and tone.