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Pynchon in Poland
August 23, 2010 7:09 PM   Subscribe

"What I loved, as I sped through the rest of Pynchon’s oeuvre, was that unravelling prose. Lines like the following got me through those long books, their difficult sections, the vertiginous moments when I was no longer sure what was happening (let alone to whom) ... Perhaps it made us feel that we were more than pale and pitiful creatures who worshipped the books of a man we would never see, let alone meet, about whom we knew almost nothing," Nick Holdstock on attending International Pynchon Week in Poland.

"Of the fifty or so people, most were middle-aged white males. It occurred to me that a) I had never met a woman who said she loved Thomas Pynchon and that b) while not a virgin, I was, at the age of 36, very far from married. I hoped these two facts were unrelated."
posted by geoff. (63 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
V. remains the most difficult book I have ever completed. I was quite unsure what was happening - let alone to whom.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:17 PM on August 23, 2010


huh. I've been sparring* with Against the Day for about 8 months now, almost the exact same amount of time that I've been single. Maybe he's on to something.

*considering how much of a fight it has been at times to get through this tome, I think it's appropriate that I started reading it on Boxing Day
posted by mannequito at 7:19 PM on August 23, 2010


I thought Against the Day was a real page-turner.
posted by vibrotronica at 7:25 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


V. remains the most difficult book I have ever completed. I was quite unsure what was happening - let alone to whom.

I'm reading V right now. So far, I agree.

It was his first novel, so that probably explains some of it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:30 PM on August 23, 2010


I don't think I've met a woman or a man who said they loved Thomas Pynchon. Just saying. But I do kind of like Pynchon, his sense of humor is ridiculous and Oedipa Maas is a rad character.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:31 PM on August 23, 2010


I adore Crying of Lot 49, but that is the only Pynchon novel I have managed to finish. I must say that I like Eco's Foucault's Pendulum more as an example of the paranoid novel, but this post makes me want to go back and take another swack at V or, god forbid, Gravity's Rainbow.
posted by pdxjmorris at 7:37 PM on August 23, 2010


I still think Mason & Dixon is his best book, but I'm starting to think I may be alone in that. V I just couldn't get into at all. Is it worth plowing past the first half? Like worth it even if you've read and enjoyed several of his other books? Cause I suspected there wasn't going to be a distinctive payoff.
posted by rusty at 7:45 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always expected to like Pynchon, but viciously disliked The Crying of Lot 49... I found the characters impossible to sympathize with, and the ridiculously convoluted plot turned me off. Are his other novels like that, too?
posted by oulipian at 7:45 PM on August 23, 2010


Ya gotta wonder if Pynchon shows up at these things. The way this fella described the guy sitting next to him at the first lecture made it seem like he thought R. Crumb's Biblical Prophet might've been a candidate.
posted by carsonb at 7:45 PM on August 23, 2010


I finished GRAVITY'S RAINBOW but have never finished anything else by Pynchon. I'm divided as to whether this is my fault or his. Both I think.
posted by unSane at 7:49 PM on August 23, 2010


Against The Day is the only Pynchon book I haven't finished, but I'm determined to give it another try here one of these days. It just has this strange feature which made me feel rather odd... I kept coming across passages which I KNEW I'd read earlier in the book, only they were slightly changed from their earlier form. Not just a phrase... Like, a whole paragraph. Of course, when I tried to look earlier in the book to find the original for the echo, I couldn't find it. It created just the strangest sensation in me, like literary deja vu.

I don't think that's was stopped me from reading it. I think it was more that my whirlwind trip to Hawaii for a concert had ended, and by the time I picked up the book again a week later, I was utterly lost.

Inherent Vice, BTW, is nicely readable.
posted by hippybear at 7:52 PM on August 23, 2010


I am a woman who loves (the work of) Thomas Pynchon!
posted by supermedusa at 7:55 PM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I kept coming across passages which I KNEW I'd read earlier in the book, only they were slightly changed from their earlier form. Not just a phrase... Like, a whole paragraph. Of course, when I tried to look earlier in the book to find the original for the echo, I couldn't find it.

You know, it's one of the major themes of that book, the way that crystal shit refracts light into a weird shadow. (Like the title font, natch.)
posted by carsonb at 7:57 PM on August 23, 2010


I don't think I've met a woman or a man who said they loved Thomas Pynchon.

Pleased to meet you!

I remember being mesmerized by V. but I haven't read it in 25 years.

The Crying of Lot 49 is short and sweet and pretty much anyone's best introduction to Pynchon.

Gravity's Rainbow is one of my top three books of all time - I think I've read it five times now. What a glorious perfectly-controlled mess. Pynchon is an immortal for this book alone.

I honestly don't remember much about Slow Learner.

Vineland was a disappointment after waiting so long and expecting another Gravity's Rainbow. I should give it another shot now that I know what to expect; I think I would like it a lot more.

Speaking of which, I stalled out on Mason & Dixon 2/3 of the way through because, again, it wasn't what I expected. When I came back to it a couple of years later I thought it was just great, quite likely his second greatest book.

Against the Day started out awesome but for once I think he needed an editor. I finished it but I felt like things started bogging down halfway through.

Inherent Vice was a lot of fun but pretty slight.

I always expected to like Pynchon, but viciously disliked The Crying of Lot 49... I found the characters impossible to sympathize with, and the ridiculously convoluted plot turned me off. Are his other novels like that, too?

Pretty much.
posted by dfan at 7:58 PM on August 23, 2010


Against the Day and Mason and Dixon are very similar in that both are odd historical novels with very little context provided and are almost total blurs for me in consequence*. I have fond memories of everything else he's written though, and a strong desire to reread those two.

*As I've said elsewhere, all of Pynchon's novels are historical novels, both in the sense of not being set in the time period they were written in, and in the sense of being about examining historical events and points in American culture. It's just that those two fall (mostly) outside of the 20th century and I don't have anything like a solid enough grounding to get the significance of all the events, scientific movements and slang he references.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:01 PM on August 23, 2010


Vineland was a disappointment after waiting so long and expecting another Gravity's Rainbow. I should give it another shot now that I know what to expect; I think I would like it a lot more.

While I have not seen Inception yet, the bits I have heard about it remind me somewhat of the nested narratives in Vineland, and how the story will switch levels of nesting suddenly so you feel a bit lost as to exactly which level you are on. That's one of my favorite things about that book, like a novel made of babushka dolls.
posted by hippybear at 8:02 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and for those who feel the need... the ever-growing (and sometimes still far-too-slight) Pynchon Wiki is a great source for understanding his obscure references.
posted by hippybear at 8:03 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love Vineland more than any other Pynchon I've read. I fully realize I'm in the minority here, but Vineland described a world I wouldn't mind living in.
posted by the dief at 8:17 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I made it through Lot 49, V and Gravity's Rainbow. Through all three I continually felt that there must be some point that I was missing.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 8:31 PM on August 23, 2010


I adore Pynchon. I think Against the Day is my favorite. Gravity's Rainbow was my first of his, then Lot 49, ATG, and then Inherent Vice. I'm on V. right now. I love much of it (Chapter 5, the sewer scenes being my favorite so far), am horrified by some of it, and am generally enjoying it. It's easy to see that it's his first novel, but even though parts of it are rough around the edges, that spectacular prose is well on its way.

But as I said, ATG is my favorite. Parts of it just make me straight-up cry.
posted by statolith at 8:41 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love Vineland more than any other Pynchon I've read. I fully realize I'm in the minority here, but Vineland described a world I wouldn't mind living in.

Vineland is great. I know exactly what you mean.
posted by jayder at 8:52 PM on August 23, 2010


Oh wow, thank you for this. I recently joined Metafilter to procrastinate from working on a masters thesis focusing mainly on Pynchon & this seriously just made my day.

...i-it's almost like somebody here put this article up for me to see...

Bad jokes aside, Against the Day might be my favorite of his but I will absolutely confess to throwing my hands up in frustration when seemingly peripheral characters who appeared early on in the book started turning up again in vital scenes around page 800 when reading through it the first time. I agree fully with Rusty, though, that Mason & Dixon is probably his best & I can't for the life of me get in to V. either no matter how many times I re-read it.
posted by ritual system at 9:06 PM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed Vineland. Was years ago that I read it, but I remember it being kind of like Richard Linklater's film Slacker, the way you follow one character through an episode or series of episodes, at some point a new character is introduced, and eventually you follow that new person as they head off on their own mission. Wasn't really til the final act that it all came together and I felt like I knew what I was reading.

I suppose all of his novels are like that to some degree, but that one in particular was very very enjoyable to read.
posted by mannequito at 9:22 PM on August 23, 2010


I will absolutely confess to throwing my hands up in frustration when seemingly peripheral characters who appeared early on in the book started turning up again in vital scenes around page 800

Ahh! That explains the brick wall I hit last week (I'm around 850 now). It was frustrating, because I had been doing so well since about page 300. So ... what should I expect? Does it continue this way?
posted by mannequito at 9:24 PM on August 23, 2010


I've done V, Lot 49, and Gravity's Rainbow.

I have a, theory is the wrong word, perspective(?) on the meaning of Gravity's Rainbow as a title. There is the most obvious surface level meaning; the path described by a rocket in flight. I like to consider his writing, and that book, by a second, deeper (possibly only valid in my head) meaning.

A rainbow is an apparently coherent arc created as light is bent by moisture's index of refraction. Gravity's rainbow would be an apparently coherent arc of reality created as gravity bends the space-time continuum.

i.e. Reality is a pretty accumulation of objects and events bent into an arrangement that we have no choice but to perceive as a narrative we call life. Any meaning or beauty we attribute to reality is based solely in our brain's attempt to make sense of gravity's rainbow.
posted by Babblesort at 9:45 PM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


i.e. Reality is a pretty accumulation of objects and events bent into an arrangement that we have no choice but to perceive as a narrative we call life. Any meaning or beauty we attribute to reality is based solely in our brain's attempt to make sense of gravity's rainbow.

I enjoyed this comment far more than I enjoyed the first twenty odd pages of Gravity's Rainbow (the only ones I read).

Lot 49, I recall enjoying. Writer felt a little too impressed with his own deep wit at times, but it was worth the effort to make it through.

Vineland left me cold, cold, cold. Made it maybe a quarter of the way through before realizing he was doing a sort of sub-standard Tom Robbins, and I don't really like Tom Robbins much.
posted by philip-random at 10:30 PM on August 23, 2010


I like how a lot of Pynchon discussion often turn into people cataloging his books and their opinions of them. I bailed on Vineland 1/3 in, but I intend to return. I found V. very readable and easy to get into, Gravity's Rainbow a slog in places but rewarding, and Lot 49 I got absolutely nothing out of and don't like it all and am not interested in giving it another go. The 49 over V. recommendations for new readers have never made sense to me. Yes, it's short and relatively accessible, but it stinks. STINKS!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:57 PM on August 23, 2010


Nice timing. This just popped up on boingboing. The horror!
posted by drpynchon at 11:01 PM on August 23, 2010


Nice timing. This just popped up on boingboing. The horror!

Christ drpynchon. Ever hear of a spoiler alert?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:18 PM on August 23, 2010


hey and for anyone who liked/plans to read Against the Day - I recommend checking out the concept album of the same name put out by Montreal's Land of Kush. I discovered it about half way through the book and like to put it on each time I pick it up again.
posted by mannequito at 11:29 PM on August 23, 2010


Can any Pynchon fans give me some pointers as to what to look out in The Crying of Lot 49? The first time I read it, I was sure I was missing something; I was never able to find myself engrossed in it. A couple of years passed and I read it again. I still got the same result.

I'd really like to get a better understanding of this book, and to see what's cool about it. Any hints? What is it that you like about it?
posted by surenoproblem at 11:50 PM on August 23, 2010


I like how a lot of Pynchon discussion often turn into people cataloging his books and their opinions of them

How true.

When I started reading Gravity's Rainbow I was 100 pages in before I gave up: "I have no idea what is going on!" Then 400, then 600...And with each attempt the interval between attempts shortened. My last attempt, at roughly page 600, I stopped and immediately started from the beginning, rolling the boulder up the hill again. This time I'm using the Pynchon wiki annotations, which is definitely helping. Hopefully I'll make it before the end of 2010!
posted by Lorin at 12:21 AM on August 24, 2010


I still think Mason & Dixon is his best book, but I'm starting to think I may be alone in that.

I think Harold Bloom also loved that one (along with 49).
posted by ersatz at 2:03 AM on August 24, 2010


When I started reading Gravity's Rainbow I was 100 pages in before I gave up: "I have no idea what is going on!" Then 400, then 600...And with each attempt the interval between attempts shortened. My last attempt, at roughly page 600, I stopped and immediately started from the beginning, rolling the boulder up the hill again. This time I'm using the Pynchon wiki annotations, which is definitely helping. Hopefully I'll make it before the end of 2010!

Not a snarky question, but genuinely curious: What do you get out of finishing a book like that? It doesn't sound like any fun at all. What makes it a worthwhile experience for you?
posted by Omnomnom at 3:47 AM on August 24, 2010


Pynchon is my very favorite author, and I'm female. That said, I'm also single. Maybe I need a new favorite author. Any suggestions? Will Dan Brown improve my social life?

And thanks for the Wiki, HippyBear! I'd been hoping that someone would publish the equivalent of a biblical concordance for his books, and this is just what I was looking for.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:18 AM on August 24, 2010


the dief, get theee hence and find a copy of Pynchon's latest, "Inherent Vice." I'm no Pynchon expert, though I do enjoy his work, and "Vineland" and "Inherent Vice" seem close kin. As in, I had the fleeting suspicion that "Vice" was written as a side work at the same time and put away for many years.

Every time I finish a Pynchon novel, I close the book and wonder what the hell I just read and sometimes start again, right away. That's not love, more the need to figure out what has aroused my brain. Sure I have to suspend my disbelief, but there's also an immense drive to just go with it and to immerse myself (a stranger and afraid) in whatever world Pynchon has made, and to pay attention to what the guide is saying and not saying. Things flit by and I catch them out of the corner of my eye, and I want to go back and discover what they are, but I'm already on to the next thing I'm being shown. The pleasure is in making order out of these whirlwind tours. Gravity's rainbow, indeed.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:53 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've only read it once, but my take on Inherent Vice was that it is pretty much the same book as Vineland. Not just similar or reminiscent -- it has almost the exact same plot and characters.

Also, a handy tip for anyone who's read one of his books once and doesn't see what the fuss is about: you have to read them more than once. The first time through you just barely figure out the basics of what's going on. The magic happens in the re-reading.
posted by rusty at 5:19 AM on August 24, 2010


> I like how a lot of Pynchon discussion often turn into people cataloging his books and their opinions of them.

I don't. Did anybody actually read the linked article? If they did, there's no evidence here. It's pretty good, if anyone wants to bother. I mean, I love Pynchon too, and I'm happy to discuss his books, but if all we're going to do anytime anything Pynchon-related gets posted is sit around saying "I loved Gravity's Rainbow!" "I couldn't get into it." "Vineland is OK"... well, then, I don't really see the point of making a Pynchon post. Might as well just add him to the book club (see MetaTalk).

I mean, this is nice stuff:
His heavily accented English was like afternoon rain on a skylight when you are reading a book in bed, and though you are very warm and comfortable, you are definitely not going to sleep, you will just rest your eyes and head for a moment, not for long, just a second more …

I snapped awake in time to hear him say, “The detonator is more often than not a small breach in the syntax, and as for the nitro, well, it’s easy—it’s the nuclear energy that holds together our reality.” I wasn’t sure this made sense, so I looked to my neighbours for confirmation. The prophet’s expression was unreadable; on the pad of the man to my left there were no notes, just a drawing of a cat wearing a shirt and tie.
posted by languagehat at 6:05 AM on August 24, 2010


V. remains the most difficult book I have ever completed. I was quite unsure what was happening - let alone to whom.

I find that this is a common experience when reading V. (or any other Pynchon). My suggestion as a graduate student who has been forced to read often-times difficult texts. Force yourself through. While you may miss out on some things here and there, you'll still enjoy the text. I hope I'm not coming off as preachy.

I just find that many people give up on authors like: Borges, Joyce, Pynchon, Kafka, etc. because they feel as if they're not comprehending every little allusion or symbolic gesture made by the author. Who says that you have to pick up on all of those things. As long as you're enjoying a text, that's what matters.

I absolutely loved V. the way the image of the yo-yo plays itself out as both character and plot as well as the sentences themselves yo-yo back and forth through the text. Such a fun read. I've been making my way through Mason & Dixon and loving it.
posted by Fizz at 6:06 AM on August 24, 2010


Excessive Candour: Aubade, Poor Dad. John Clute's review of Against the Day
All the same, at least four story clusters might be sketched in. They flow together, separate, knot and vanish into thin air, but they can be followed.
...

1) "The Airship Boys cluster, which is told in a boys' adventure idiom. ...
2) "Western Revenge cluster, which is told through an array of western narrative voices ...
3) "The Geek Eccentric Scientist cluster, which is told in an amalgam of styles. ...
4) "The Flaneur Spy Adventuress cluster, told in any style that comes to hand, from the shilling shocker to Huysmans ...
I loved AtD. When I finished it, I wanted to start over. Someone linked to the wiki above. After finishing AtD I knew that if a wiki didn't exist I'd have to create one.
posted by bleary at 6:56 AM on August 24, 2010


I love The Crying of Lot 49.

This, however:
the vertiginous moments when I was no longer sure what was happening (let alone to whom)
is the sort of thing our English teachers punished us for. So, Pynchon, back to Mr. Keating's class for you.

Also: I have a reflexive hostility towards articles published in n+1.
posted by deanc at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2010


lh: I don't. Did anybody actually read the linked article? If they did, there's no evidence here. It's pretty good, if anyone wants to bother.

I read it and as prose it was nice enough writing, but I felt as if the essay was more about the experience of presenting at an academic meeting than Pynchon's work itself: we get sketches of the odd cranky elder critic, the (post-?) structuralist Frenchman spouting nuttiness who puts the author to sleep, the close-reading (and religion-oriented) American, and finally the author's own anxieties about his critique.

I have to admit that it gave me pause that this person presenting professionally on Pynchon had his first exposure to the author's work reading Mason & Dixon. Maybe just another sign I am getting old. Also, the essay cut off much too abruptly and left me thinking the author either was given an arbitrary word count or got bored with what he was writing - both of which possibilities left me vaguely annoyed.

rusty: I've only read it once, but my take on Inherent Vice was that it is pretty much the same book as Vineland.

Yes, I have thought about this too, though I am not sure I would say "almost exactly." But it's kind of like the same experimental procedure set into motion with different initial conditions -- Vineland is how this array of characters plays out in N. Calif in the Reagan 80s, and Inherent Vice is how the array plays out in the Nixon 70s.
posted by aught at 7:48 AM on August 24, 2010


What do you get out of finishing a book like that? It doesn't sound like any fun at all. What makes it a worthwhile experience for you?

My experience has been something like this: I had to read The Crying of Lot 49 in a lit class. Everybody hated it, and I went along with them. But there was something about it that my mind wouldn't let go of. Then I read it again, because I owned it and I was bored and broke. And I liked it a whole lot better the second time through. I thought hell, I'll read Gravity's Rainbow just to annoy myself. And so, the summer between my Junior and Senior years of college, I read it with a mix of "holy crap this is awesome!" and "I hate this so much." Then that book stuck in my mind for a long time until I read Vineland... and so on, and so on.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:49 AM on August 24, 2010


> I felt as if the essay was more about the experience of presenting at an academic meeting than Pynchon's work itself

You're making my point for me. If it had been an analysis of Pynchon's work, then the usual dive into people's personal feelings about that work would be less jarring. But the essay is indeed about the experience of presenting at an academic meeting (that happens to be about Pynchon), so the immediate turn to "V. remains the most difficult book I have ever completed" and "I've been sparring with Against the Day for about 8 months now" seems odd and solipsistic. It's like people see the name Pynchon in the post title and that's all they need: "Whee, it's time to tell people once again how awesome Gravity's Rainbow is!" (Of course, the same happens when people see "Palin," but I don't read those threads.)
posted by languagehat at 9:08 AM on August 24, 2010


Did anybody actually read the linked article? If they did, there's no evidence here.

Hurm, I was going to say there were several responses to the author's bit about never having met a woman who loved Pynchon, but that was quoted beneath the fold. Honestly, I found the piece sort of slight and wished it had either been a little more focused or longer.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:13 AM on August 24, 2010


languagehat: I've never presented at an academic conference. I read the article. It was interesting in an "I have nothing to add to that" kind of way. I see you don't have much to add to it either. So should we all just have a little moment of silence here, or what?

Or we could talk about Pynchon, which people clearly love to do. We could even do it without some crankbasket pointing and tsking at us, but that would probably just feel weird, so I'm glad you took up the mantle.
posted by rusty at 9:34 AM on August 24, 2010


Always nice to get your input, rusty.
posted by languagehat at 9:45 AM on August 24, 2010


Pynchon is my very favorite author, and I'm female. That said, I'm also single. Maybe I need a new favorite author. Any suggestions? Will Dan Brown improve my social life?

Well, it may populate your social life, but I doubt it will improve.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:46 AM on August 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Of course, the same happens when people see "Palin," but I don't read those threads.)

The similarities don't end there. Palin's book is full of one-dimensional characters with whimsical names (Tripp, Track, Willow, known as "the Palins"), a narrative that goes into bizarre tangents, and a paranoia that produces evidence of a conspiracy everywhere one looks.
posted by geoff. at 10:05 AM on August 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, jumping on the "women don't like Pynchon" theme. I'm personally a dude, but the time I finally got through Gravity's Rainbow — and finally realized how enjoyable/prescient the book is — was when I was reading it for a class taught by a professor who
  1. Loves Pynchon to death, and
  2. Happens to be a woman.
"Data" is not the plural of "anecdote," and I definitely do think it's problematic that the 20th century canon seems to be overpopulated by Great Weird Boy Books written by Great Weird Boys, but, well, Pynchon may be a Great Weird Boy but damn if he's not the best of them.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:28 AM on August 24, 2010


"I'm always happy to give it to you, languagehat," he said, while sipping a frosty double Entendre on the rocks.
posted by rusty at 10:28 AM on August 24, 2010


Well, I went and dutifully tried to slog through the article. Hit paragraph no. 3. Read this:
Despite getting lost and having to ask schoolchildren for directions—which they gave scornfully—I arrived at Marie Curie University ninety minutes early. I bought several packets of unfamiliar candy from the vending machines, which I ate while sitting beneath a pine tree. As I chewed, I considered my talk, which was on the idea of utopia in Inherent Vice.
. . . and quit. Jeez-usss, that's some weak-ass New Yorker-manque shit right there. "As I chewed . . ." Yes, because how would I get a full sense of the scene if I didn't get a clear sense of the rhythmic sounds of your mastication as you pondered. At each swallow, did you have to stop thinking about your talk until you'd stuffed another bonbon into your mouth?

In any case, boy howdy I'm glad you included such telling detail, Nick Holdstock, you ingenius craftsman of preciously uninflected prose, you. I wish you'd gone further: "I opened a packet of some sort of gummi candy, which turned out to be a little stale. As I pondered Pynchon's recurring use of song-and-dance numbers and lyrical wordplay, I realized one of the gummis had hardened into a thick paste and lodged itself behind my bottom left molar. I probed it with the tip of my tongue, wondering as I did whether Pynchon actually composed the songs he described and then transcribed them back into the text . . ."

So yeah, so much for all that. May as well just shoot the shit about Pynchon instead. I'm pretty much with Fizz on this . . .

I just find that many people give up on authors like: Borges, Joyce, Pynchon, Kafka, etc. because they feel as if they're not comprehending every little allusion or symbolic gesture made by the author. Who says that you have to pick up on all of those things. As long as you're enjoying a text, that's what matters.

I'm half-lost half the time reading Pynchon, but I find the cobwebby dreamscape aspect appealing somehow, and his writing has such rhythm and flow that I'm willing to ride along bewildered for dozens of pages at a time to get to the next incomparable set-piece. And yeah, if I was gonna recommend to someone a single book to wade in gently, I'd suggest Vineland. Straightforward and almost linear by Pynchon's standards, I don't remember getting fully lost once. (Haven't read Inherent Vice yet, so maybe it'll be the new go-to Pynchon primer.)
posted by gompa at 10:45 AM on August 24, 2010


If we're going to do generic PychonFilter (and I don't see why we shouldn't), can I add my own spurious observation? Namely, what is the deal with there being no Pynchon for Kindle? I love Mason & Dixon. I want to read it again. I don't want to tote it around now that I have a svelte little leather map bag that has room for nothing larger than a Penguin Classic when carrying my laptop around. Where is the love, Amazon?

and, yes, I realize this is probably more to do with Pynchon and/or his publisher than Amazon refusing to carry the title in digital format. Still, I have money and I'm willing to part with it for this. Someone make this happen!
posted by Fezboy! at 12:13 PM on August 24, 2010


Pretty much.

Ah, thank you. I really appreciate that tidbit of analysis.
posted by sammyo at 6:16 PM on August 24, 2010


Erk, then I read the rest of the comments and hit my comment and it sounds snarky to me but was not at all intended to be.
posted by sammyo at 7:08 PM on August 24, 2010


lh: It's like people see the name Pynchon in the post title and that's all they need:

Yes. A point I intended to make but apparently didn't was that Pynchon (like James Joyce, or John Ashbery for poetry) is one of those touchstone "well-known but reputedly difficult" writers people feel compelled either to publicly brag/rave about or disparage whenever the name comes up -- so there's really no reason to expect anything other than what happened once his name appeared in the post.
posted by aught at 6:34 AM on August 25, 2010


Regarding

dfan: Pretty much.
sammyo: Ah, thank you. I really appreciate that tidbit of analysis.


If anyone was confused, my "pretty much" comment was not intended to be snarky either! I meant that if the person I was responding to didn't like what they had read already for those reasons (difficulty sympathizing with the characters, convoluted plots), it was not really worth trying other Pynchon because they weren't going to like that either. Different strokes for different folks.
posted by dfan at 10:29 AM on August 25, 2010


I read the crying of lot 49 and gravity's rainbow in undergrad for fun. Followed by V., Against the Day and inherent vice. I dont' think I've read vineland and I'm slowly working on Mason & Dixon.

I got halfway through gravity's rainbow the first time before I had to restart it. Then I did it again. Grabbed some books out of the library about V2 rockets, etc. That was the hardest part for me was the technical / WWII related stuff.

I think my concise prose has suffered greatly because of reading Pynchon (and Gaddis to some degree).

I think I got obsessed with the fact that he started out studying engineering and switched to English. I'm still studying engineering.

Wondering what James Franco's first novel will be like... hopefully as awesome.
posted by nutate at 12:05 PM on August 25, 2010


so there's really no reason to expect anything other than what happened once his name appeared in the post.

Well, I think also there is how a post is framed which can influence what particular comment conversation happens afterwards... Plus, when people talk about Pynchon, I find that they don't want to get too deep into particulars about any given book, because half of the pleasure of Pynchon lies in discovery. So threads like this one end up being more "oh, I loved that" or "oh, I had to start that one 4 times before I got through" rather than really digging into the substance of the books, because otherwise it is just a giant thread of spoilers.
posted by hippybear at 2:40 PM on August 25, 2010


> Well, I think also there is how a post is framed which can influence what particular comment conversation happens afterwards.

The post was not framed to focus on Pynchon's books.

> So threads like this one end up being more "oh, I loved that" or "oh, I had to start that one 4 times before I got through" rather than really digging into the substance of the books

There was no reason whatever to talk about the substance of the books, because this is not a post about Pynchon or his books, it is a post about a conference and the amusing things and people the author of the article encountered. Did you read it?

Once again, I marvel at the ability of the word "Pynchon" to cloud men's minds and direct threads into the same comfortable rut.
posted by languagehat at 5:26 PM on August 25, 2010


Yes, of course I read it. Why do you ask?

The pullquote above the fold seems to have set the tone for the thread, actually. There were a lot of other sentences which could have been used to drive discussion toward talking about academic conferences, but the selections chosen were about 1) loving Pynchon's prose, 2) worshiping his books, and 3) making observations about Pynchon interest related to gender. I suppose if the quote found below the fold had been the first one mentioned, it's possible that the thread could have contained more discussion about whether women like Pynchon or not.

I'm not saying that I have deep knowledge about how these discussions work, necessarily. But I do know that I've learned a lot, through my own FPPs, about how picking a quote can draw people into focussing on something entirely different from what I thought the takeaway would be when I made the post.

All that aside, it seems every Pynchon thread has people encouraging others to read his works, and others stopping by to say that they want to approach it but are unsure, and anytime someone wants to try Pynchon and is encouraged to do so by people who like what he's written... I'm all for that.
posted by hippybear at 7:14 PM on August 25, 2010


Once again, I marvel at the ability of the word "Pynchon" to cloud men's minds and direct threads into the same comfortable rut.

someone mention PICHIN..

"Better behave yourself or we'll send you back to Dr. Jamf!
When Jamf conditioned him, he threw away the stimulus.
Looks like Dr. Jamf's been by to see your little thing
today, hasn't he?"

-Neil Nosepickers book of 50,000 Insults

(from a epigram in Gravity's Rainbow, pg 83)
posted by clavdivs at 8:20 PM on August 25, 2010


:{|
posted by clavdivs at 8:20 PM on August 25, 2010


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