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A streaker comes across the stage. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now
November 19, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Gravity's Rainbow won the National Book Award in 1974. Its author, the famously reclusive Thomas Pynchon, did not appear at the awards ceremony, but instead sent comedian Irwin Corey in his place who accepted the award on behalf of one "Richard Python." At the end of the speech, a streaker ran nude across the stage.
However... accept this financial stipulation - ah - stipend in behalf of, uh, Richard Python for the great contribution and to quote from some of the missiles which he has contributed... Today we must all be aware that protocol takes precedence over procedure. Howewer you say - WHAT THE - what does this mean... in relation to the tabulation whereby we must once again realize that the great fiction story is now being rehearsed before our very eyes, in the Nixon administration... indicating that only an American writer can receive...the award for fction, unlike Solzinitski whose fiction doesn't hold water. Comrades - friends, we are gathered here not only to accept in behalf of one recluse - one who has found that the world in itself which seems to be a time not of the toad - to quote even Studs TurKAL. And many people ask "Who are Studs TurKAL?" It's not "Who are Studs TurKAL?" it's "Who am Studs TurKAL?" This in itself as an edifice of the great glory that has gone beyond, and the intuitive feeling of the American people, based on the assumption that the intelligence not only as Mencken once said, "He who underestimates the American pubic - public, will not go broke." This is merely a small indication of this vast throng gathered here to once again behold and to perceive that which has gone behind and to that which might go forward into the future...we've got to hurdle these obstacles. This is the main deterrent upon which we have gathered our strength and all the others who say, "What the hell did that get?" - We don't know. We've got to peforce withold the loving boy... And as Miller once said in one of his great novels- what did he ... that language is only necessary when communication is endangered. And you sit there bewildered, and Pinter who went further said "It is not the lack of communication but fear of communication." That's what the Goddamn thing is it's we fear - communication. Oh - fortunately the prize has only been given to authors - unlike the Academy Award which is given to a female and a male, indicating the derision of the human specie - God damn it! But we have no paranoia, and Mr. Pynchon has attained, and has created for himself serenity, and it is only the insanity that has kept him alive in his paranoia. We speak of the organ...of the orgasm...Who the hell wrote this? And the jury has determined to divide the prize between two writers - to Thomas Pynchon for his GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. Now GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is a token of this man's genius...he told me so himself...that he could...in other words, have been more specific, but rather than to allude the mundane, he has come to the conclusion that brevity is the importance of our shallow existence. God damn. Ladies and Gentlemen. To the distinguished panel on the, on the dais and to the other winners, for poetry and religion and science. The time will come when religion will outlive its usefulness. Marx, Groucho Marx, once said that religion is the opiate of the people. I say that when religion outlives its usefulness, then opium...will be the opiate...Ahh that's not a bad idea... All right...However, I want to thank Mr. Guinzburg, Tom Guinzburg of the Viking Press, who has made it possible for you people to be here this evening to enjoy the Friction Citation - the Fiction Citation. GRAVITY'S RAINBOW - a small contribution to a certain degree, since there are over three and a half billion people in the world today. 218 of them ... million live in the United States which is a very, very small amount compared to those that are dying elsewhere...Well, I say that you will be on the road to new horizons, for we who live in a society where sex is a commodity and a politician can become a TV personality, it's not easy to conform if you have any morality...I, I, I said that myself many years ago...But I do want to thank the bureau...I mean the committee, the organization for the $10,000 they've given out...tonight they made over $400,000 and I think that I have another appointment. I would like to stay here, but for the sake of brevity I, I must leave. I do want to thank you, I want to thank Mr. TurKAL. I want to thank Mr. Knopf who just ran through the auditorium* and I want to thank Breshnev, Kissinger - acting President of the Unites States - and also want to thank Truman Capote and thank you.


* referring to the streaker who ran nude across the stage.
To this day, the closest Pynchon has come to a public appearance has been his recorded voiceovers.
posted by deathpanels (42 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I need to figure out how to stop getting Thomas Pynchon and Bronson Pinchot mixed up.
posted by crapmatic at 4:56 PM on November 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Hey, he was on the Simpsons with a paper bag on his head. That counts for something!

(BTW the newest novel Inherent Vice is great, and pretty accessible, too. More than Against The Day, anyway.)

PS to Crapmatic: One was Balki, the other is balky.
posted by Aquaman at 4:58 PM on November 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Perfect Strangers starring Thomas Pynchon would be the best thing ever. David Lynch could direct.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:07 PM on November 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


BTW the newest novel Inherent Vice is great, and pretty accessible, too

Soon to be a major motion picture!
posted by mannequito at 5:17 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't be the only one to hear this story and immediately assume that the streaker was actually Thomas Pynchon, can I?
posted by ckape at 5:19 PM on November 19, 2012 [22 favorites]


PS to Crapmatic: One was Balki, the other is balky.
posted by Aquaman at 7:58 PM on 11/19


You can't see me but I just did a little George Jefferson victory strut in pure empathic glee for that joke. I feel wittier just for having read it, bravo.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:23 PM on November 19, 2012


I prefer DeLillo. He's sort of like a more-relatable Thomas Pynchon.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:23 PM on November 19, 2012


BTW the newest novel Inherent Vice is great, and pretty accessible, too

Soon to be a major motion picture!


Already was.

or at least I had a strong feeling when I read Inherent Vice that Pynchon was just writing very good Dude fan fiction
posted by COBRA! at 5:30 PM on November 19, 2012


I prefer DeLillo. He's sort of like a more-relatable Thomas Pynchon.
Ratner's Star?
posted by deathpanels at 5:39 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A Dance of Joy comes across the room. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.

It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it's all theatre. There are no lights inside the cars. No light anywhere. Well, of course not, don't be ridiculous! There are no cars on Mypos! No electricity, either! Get out of the city!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:45 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gravity's Rainbow is a pretty fucking heavy book. Not just in the physical sense of the word, but in a way that I remember opening the book in 2003, and I'm pretty sure I'm still lost somewhere in it, and a proxy has been acting in my behalf IRL. I only suspect this is the case because I opened Mason Dixon a couple years ago, got to chapter 11 (or so) and got this crazy idea that the words on the page weren't printed until the EXacT MOMENT I turned the page...

Then I started holding the pages up to the light before I read them, and threw the book back on the shelf. Haven't touched Pynchon since.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:47 PM on November 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I prefer DeLillo. He's sort of like a more-relatable Thomas Pynchon.

"I prefer coffee. It's a more-predictable PCP."
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:48 PM on November 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


That's funny, Jim never has a second cup of PCP at home.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:51 PM on November 19, 2012 [22 favorites]


The thing I like about Pynchon is when you find used copies of his books, the spines are rarely broken. I probably would have read him sooner if people played up how funny he is as opposed to how difficult. For every part of Gravity's Rainbow that sent me online for explanations, there was another that was just genuinely hilarious. I like Delillo too, but nobody appeals more to my paranoid and reclusive nature than Pynchon.

There are so few avenues to Pynchon the man, that for his fans each one becomes fraught with significance. There's that documentary that spends 15 minutes interviewing someone who may or may not have seen him in a Santa Monica bookstore. One of my favourite bits of pynchonalia of is this collection of book endorsements, the questionable taste of which is a semi-regular topic on the pynchon-l mailing list. ("Tom Robbins, really?" Coincidentally, his blurb on the back of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was how I learned of his existence back in high school.) Aside from incidents like the subject of this post, and the handful of essays and his brief introduction to Slow Learner there really isn't much to go on. Some of his letters were made briefly public at one point, but access to them was very quickly curtailed.

Also, I just now noticed the title. Hah!
posted by Lorin at 5:59 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know how much it matters, but Irwin Corey was apparently sent by his publisher, not by Pynchon.
posted by Red Loop at 6:02 PM on November 19, 2012


The greatest trick Thomas Pynchon ever pulled was convincing the world that he exists.
posted by dr_dank at 6:30 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the way, I just don't know how in god's name Robert Downey Jr. could really pull off Doc Sportello, but I trust PTA's judgement. I kind of wanted Sam Rockwell.
posted by Red Loop at 6:33 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who can't read the words "Inherent Vice" without thinking of Robert Benchley? ...or those purporting to be kings and princes...inherent MICE...
posted by DU at 6:44 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ratner's Star?

Hehe, actually I was thinking Underworld -- a book whose narrative follows the arc of the Bobby Thompson baseball in the same way that Gravity's Rainbow follows the arc of a V2 rocket (or Schwarzgerät, depending on your interpretation).

And I say more-relatable because most of DeLillo's references and cultural signposts are recognizable to a 21st-century reader, whereas Pynchon loads his books with meticulously-researched, yet abstruse, references to times long past.

I actually enjoyed Gravity's Rainbow quite a bit, but I kinda wish I'd read the Weisburger footnotes along with the book, instead of after.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:46 PM on November 19, 2012


Note to self: it's probably time to make your sixth attempt at reading Gravity's Rainbow.
posted by Decani at 6:57 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm optimistic about the movie because, well, PTA. But also because I tend to take a more relaxed view of adaptations than some. I even liked Scott Pilgrim.

And I say more-relatable because most of DeLillo's references and cultural signposts are recognizable to a 21st-century reader, whereas Pynchon loads his books with meticulously-researched, yet abstruse, references to times long past.

Indeed. I mean, as someone with an extremely uneven education I didn't have trouble diving into Underworld, but I've read half a dozen books as background for Against the Day and still don't feel up for it. To some people I'm sure that seems absurd, but everybody needs a hobby.
posted by Lorin at 6:57 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the Department of Redundancy Department:
>a streaker ran nude across the stage
posted by spock at 7:01 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like to believe that Pynchon is actually some villainous Big-Business Tychoon a la Pierce Inverarity and that he will some day pull off the mask to reveal that all the treachery was a way to illustrate the emptiness of material success.

Then a rocket ship will emerge from the ground behind him and he will blast off into space while an Iranian punk-rock band covering the Beatles plays softly in the background.
posted by Tevin at 7:05 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, I read Gravity's Rainbow before the internet was available. It was funny and beautiful, but I was keenly aware of the 40% that went over my head. I may have to give it another go.
posted by jetsetsc at 7:16 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine puts on the annual Christmas show at The Player's Club in NYC. Irwin Corey has been a performer there a number of times (he has a funny shtick) and I've spent a few winter evenings with Irwin Corey after the show at the restaurant around the corner, asked him about his relationship or connection with Pynchon, one of my literary heroes. I was so disappointed to learn he never met Pynchon but it's wonderful to hear Corey's acceptance speech.
posted by nickyskye at 8:14 PM on November 19, 2012


I found 'Gravity's Rainbow' to be a harsh goofy slog. But 'The Crying of Lot 49' is pretty cool.
posted by ovvl at 8:29 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found Inherent Vice to be much more influenced by Dreaming Of Babylon than Big Lebowski.
posted by mannequito at 8:35 PM on November 19, 2012


Back when I was still head's down in my literary interests, I read Gravity's Rainbow, V and The Crying of Lot 49, and all I can remember about any of them looking back is that Pynchon seemed to nail exactly the way people seem to go around talking past each other all the time.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:09 PM on November 19, 2012


Each of the four times over the last 15-20 years that I've tried to read Gravity's Rainbow, I end up eventually giving up and reading The Crying of Lot 49 again. Since I've had a completely different reaction each time I've read it, I'd love to be able to do the same for the longer book, but I don't see that happening anytime soon because, sadly maybe, I'm not getting any more patient.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:07 AM on November 20, 2012


Reading Gravity's Rainbow is like being on a weight-training regimen. You have to repeatedly work muscles to failure to get them to grow, right?

Each time I attempt it I get further. I've hit a plateau, though, so maybe I need a book of footnotes (protein supplement) to get through it this time.
posted by Thistledown at 4:43 AM on November 20, 2012


It took me several attempts. I bled out on the table, but when they revived me I was sure that I had been somewhere wonderful.
posted by fFish at 5:14 AM on November 20, 2012


The best way to tackle Gravity's Rainbow is simply to dive in and swim in it, without worrying if you're going to drown. Maybe bring along Zak Smith's Illustrations For Each Page of Gravity's Rainbow. Then as soon as you're done, go back to the beginning and read the entire thing again.
posted by Timmoy Daen at 5:42 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, the only reason people compare Inherent Vice to The Big Lebowski is because they're two entries in the very, very tiny sub-sub-genre of stoner noir. And yeah, I'm just going to take a long nap from now until Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation comes out.
posted by Timmoy Daen at 5:54 AM on November 20, 2012


GR is definitely worth the effort. Pynchon's career mocks the suggestion that books shouldn't be effort. If you're capable of appreciating Crying of Lot 49, you should not avoid this book for longer than necessary. I read it first five-ish years ago after reading Entropy in a short story collection for an American lit class and decided the guy who wrote it was a genius. Took me a while to understand how to read it. Pynchon totally skips that half century of writers influenced by the newspapermen, and picks up right where Joyce or Durrell left off. It has a weirdly oneiric quality. I still occasionally get shivers thinking about the Kirghiz Light.

Also, GR is meant to be a sort of sequel to V., Pynchon's first novel. In other words, it's V2. Get it?
posted by deathpanels at 6:09 AM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Already was.

or at least I had a strong feeling when I read Inherent Vice that Pynchon was just writing very good Dude fan fiction
Uh, if The Big Lebowski has lesbian ninjas or a ghost ship that possibly originates from the lost continent of Lemuria, I must have missed that part.
posted by deathpanels at 6:11 AM on November 20, 2012


Gravity's Rainbow is the longest, if not the most intense, footnote to Infinite Jest.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:52 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


They didn't know Pynchon. I didn't know Pynchon. Pynchon? I wonder if he knows himself.
As yet unmentioned (unsurprising even as critics sort of ignore it), Vineland is pretty great, my third favorite of his novels. (First Lot 49 then Gravity's Rainbow. V. comes after.)

I disagree with the idea (even advanced in jest) that Wallace's Infinite Jest contains Gravity's Rainbow. Wallace's magnum opus is an important piece of American Literature, without question, but it's of minor interest compared to Gravity's Rainbow.
posted by mistersquid at 8:20 AM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Uh, if The Big Lebowski has lesbian ninjas or a ghost ship that possibly originates from the lost continent of Lemuria, I must have missed that part.

They wouldn't be very good ninjas if they were easy to spot, would they? Same goes for ghost ships.
posted by yoink at 8:30 AM on November 20, 2012


For any readers of Gravity's Rainbow who may be interested: I recently stumbled upon this archive of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal against IG Farben, which includes (among others) the full text of Richard Sasuly's book - undoubtedly one of Pynchon's sources for that particular aspect of the story. Although there's already a thorough analysis on the wiki, it's still worth a read.
posted by Lorin at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gravity's Rainbow is the longest, if not the most intense, footnote to Infinite Jest.

Or perhaps it's the other way around?
posted by chavenet at 10:14 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


First time I read GR I got in an accident, injured my head, and lost memory.
So I picked up my battered paperback and found marginal notes throughout, which I could barely make out and scarcely understand. They were mine, but I couldn't remember having written them.
posted by doctornemo at 7:55 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're Thomas Pynchon?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:11 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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