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Thomas Pynchon: The Crying Of Lot 49

Ell

Well-Known Member
Where to begin? I came to reading Crying of Lot 49 via this Thomas Pynchon thread. I didn't know what to expect so looked up reviews, analyses and articles on Pynchon and CoL49. Well, it seems this little book has been analyzed ad nauseam by every student and teacher of post-modern literature. It even has its own Sparks notes, Cliff notes and 'companion' book. Every name, word and literary allusion has been dissected. Comparisons to thermodynamics and entropy have been made. Being a newbie to Pynchon, how could I have known? Anyways, I waded through a few of these articles and got the distinct feeling that maybe I was in over my head. But being the stubborn soul that I am, dove in anyway. I needn't have worried because, as those same articles kept saying, Crying of Lot 49 is one of Pynchon's more accessible works. I think it's accessible because it can be read, like much good writing, on different levels.

On the surface, it's a simple story of Oedipa Maas, a suburban housewife who learns that a former lover, Pierce Inverarity, died and named her co-executor in his will. She sets out to meet the other executor and fulfill her obligations as executrix. Along the way she seems to uncover a global conspiracy involving the postal system, Pierce's companies and some unexpected deaths. Oedipa is convinced that these things are related and the reader sees her doggedly chasing down obscure references , clues and characters in an attempt to make sense of it all. Does a conspiracy really exist or is it only in her mind? A simple mystery filled with bizarre characters and situations.

But - and this is a big but - Crying of Lot 49 is so much more. After I finished reading it, I needed to sit back and let it all sink in. It's a biting, at times hilarious, social satire. The play on words is mind-bending and every time I think I've got it figured out, I know I haven't (just like Oedipa).

The following is a quote from one of the characters, Randolph Driblette, an actor and director of the play Oedipa becomes so obsessed with. I think it says a lot about Oedipa's and the reader's quest:

"You can put together clues, develop a thesis, or several, about why characters reacted to the Trystero possibility the way they did, why the assassins came on, why the black costumes. You could waste your life that way and never touch the truth."

[FONT=&quot]I imagine Pynchon sitting back somewhere having a good chuckle at all the different interpretations of his little book.

ell
[/FONT]
 

StillILearn

New Member
Sounds good, Ell. I'll do a little poking about first (thanks for the link), but if you say it's worth reading, it'll probably end up on my TBR pile.
 

KristoCat

New Member
I also enthusiastically recommend this to anyone who wants a good, accessible introduction to American postmodern literature. It embodies most of the principle aspects of postmodernism, and I just can't stop appreciating how completely Pynchon puts the reader in the exact same position as the character, but chasing a different rabbit. It's like a clever mirror trick done by Houdini.

If you want another short-ish book that is also quite postmodern, try Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. It's a novel told in reverse, that is, the narrator is watching the world through a man's eyes and basically seeing his life in reverse, starting on the day he died. Everything is backwards: for example, food comes from the garbage and up from the stomach, and then gets put back in the oven to become raw and goes to the fridge, then back to the store. The true identity of the man becomes more and more clear as the novel progresses, and eventually we see why Amis has chosen this backwards method of telling his story.
 

Ell

Well-Known Member
AngusBenton said:
Tons of fun, you must agree.
Yes. Though at times, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at Oedipa spinning her wheels during her 'quest'.

KristoCat said:
If you want another short-ish book that is also quite postmodern, try Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. It's a novel told in reverse, that is, the narrator is watching the world through a man's eyes and basically seeing his life in reverse, starting on the day he died. Everything is backwards: . . .
Sounds fascinating KC. I've been meaning to try Amis, but haven't gotten around to it. "Time's Arrow" is now officially added to my TBR list.
 

StillILearn

New Member
Ell said:
I've been meaning to try Amis, but haven't gotten around to it. "Time's Arrow" is now officially added to my TBR list.

I do adore Martin Amis, although I haven't read Time's Arrow yet.

food comes from the garbage and up from the stomach, and then gets put back in the oven to become raw and goes to the fridge, then back to the store.

This sound a bit off-putting.

:rolleyes:
 

Shade

New Member
I would be remiss in my duties as an Amis-head if I did not refer you to this post with extracts from Time's Arrow. (Though, looking at it, I think you've probably already seen them, Still...)
 

KristoCat

New Member
StillILearn said:
I do adore Martin Amis, although I haven't read Time's Arrow yet.



This sound a bit off-putting.

:rolleyes:
lol
Sorry, StillILearn. I didn't mean to gross anyone out; I just picked the simplest example I could think of. Amis does go into some detail though as I recall.
 

ions

New Member
Just bumping this for an excellent book. If were packed any denser it would have reached critical Maas.

:rolleyes:
 
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