I've always wondered how he got a copy of GR in prison. He claims a guard just tossed it into his cell when he asked for something to read, but I dunno.
The way I read Gravity’s Rainbow is pretty interesting. At one point, the American government was trying to get me to talk. They were putting incredible pressure on me. This FBI guy said if I didn’t talk . . . “we’ll put your name out at the federal prison with the jacket of a snitch.” So I ended up in a prison called Sandstone. As soon as I got in there, there was a change of clothes and they said, “The warden wants to see you.” So the warden said, “To protect you, we’re going to put you here under a false name.” And I said, “Are you crazy? Are you gonna put me on the main line?” And he said “Yeah.” I said, “What name are you going to give me?” He said, “Thrush.” And you know what a thrush is? A songbird. So I said, “Uh-uh. In a prison filled with dopers, everybody’s going to know that my name isn’t Thrush. I refuse to do it.” He says, “OK. We’ll have to put you in the hole.” And I said “Do what you gotta do — but I want to be out there in my own name. I can handle any situation. I can deal with it. I’ve been in the worst fucking prisons and handled it so far. So I can handle it and you know it. So fucking put me out there!” And he said, “Sorry.” He was very embarrassed because he knew. He was a prison warden. His job wasn’t to get people to talk or anything like that. He knew it was a federal government thing. The reason they were trying to get me to talk was to protect the top FBI guys that had committed black bag burglaries against the Weather Underground. So they wanted me to testify in their defense. They actually went to trial, if you remember, and got convicted. And were pardoned by Carter.
Well, they put me in the worst lock-up that I’ve ever been in, and I’d been in solitary confinement for over a year and a half. This was just a clean box with nothing but a mattress. The only contact I had with human beings was, five times a day, I could hear somebody coming down the hall to open the “swine trough” and pass me my food. And I’d say, “Hey, can I have something to read?” And they’d say, “No.” One of them was this black guy and, this one night, he came back. I could hear him walking — jingle, jingle, jingle — walking down the metal hall. He opens up the trough and says, “Here man,” and throws in a book. A new pocketbook. And it’s dark, so I waited ’til dawn and picked it up. And it was Gravity’s Rainbow.