So here's that much-read Slate piece about famous books that are overrated. Or at least that these particular authors never liked. Gravity's Rainbow comes up a couple of times, and that's a book I actually love. I think I love it, that is.
I agree with Elif Batuman on this issue: a particular book has to reach you at a particular time. I read GR when my father and I were driving cross country from Ohio to Berkeley, where I was about to start grad school. I read the book in strange motels in Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming, while during the day we covered vast stretches of stark landscape and listened to Paul Simon's Graceland. I was on my way to immersing myself in an acid bath of literary theory, which at the the time I was looking forward to, in the same way I looked forward to living in a place with palm trees. Nothing seemed quite real, except being with my dad, and somehow the book brought all that real unreality together. This goes back to a thought I had awhile ago, that the context of reading really is important in making literature part of your life. Reading in a class, or a library cubicle, does not always allow for that kind of rich reading experience.
But I don't know if I'd enjoy reading GR now. And I am bogging down a bit in Against the Day, after my initial enthusiasm. It's just...very...long.