‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

“Hey, over here, have your picture taken with a reclusive author! Today only, we’ll throw in a free autograph. But, wait! There’s more!”

with 4 comments

Pg. 1 of Zak Smith\'s Illustrated Gravity\'s Rainbow

Pg. 1 of Zak Smith's Illustrated Gravity's Rainbow

Thomas Pynchon is one of my all time favorite authors. That being said, I’ve only finished his novels in a very half-assed sort of way. I’ve read the first one hundred pages of V., his first novel, four times. I’ve read the first 10 pages of Mason&Dixon, twenty or thirty times, and I’ve read his short novella The Crying of Lot 49 in it’s entirety.



As well as fictional works, Pynchon has written essays, introductions, and reviews addressing subjects as diverse as missile security, the Watts Riots, Luddism and the work of Donald Barthelme. Some of his non-fiction pieces have appeared in the New York Times Book Review and The New York Review of Books, and he has contributed blurbs for books and records. His 1984 Introduction to the Slow Learner collection of early stories is significant for its autobiographical candour. He has written introductions to at least three books, including the 1992 collection of Donald Barthelme‘s stories, The Teachings of Don B. and, more recently, the Penguin Centenary Edition of George Orwell‘s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was published in 2003, and the Penguin Classics edition of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me written by Pynchon’s close friend, Richard Fariña, and first published in 1966. [ courtesy of Wikipedia ]


The image posted above is from Zak Smith’s monumental art project, “The Illustrated Gravity’s Rainbow”. Click on the image to see more, it is quite beautiful.

What I love about Thomas Pynchon is the way he plays with language. The way he plays with the names of his characters probably being the best example of his tongue in cheek humour.

Benny Profane

Pig Bodine

McClintic Sphere

Bongo Shafsbury

I’ll share a story with you, my delicate reader, that was shared with me. Professor Conley and I were discussing our mutual love for all things Thomas Pynchon, when he told me about a fellow professor friend of his who had attended a Modernist conference some years back in Chicago. This woman apparently had the most bizarre experience while in attendance. It appears that the organizer of the event, who had specifically created a program that centered around Thomas Pynchon and his many works was missing. Upon further scrutiny of the conference it turns out that none of the Professors, Conference Members, Committee Chairmen, etc, had actually had physical contact with the individual who organized the event. The entire Conference had been planned through e-mail, and post, etc. It turns out that the one hundred professors or so that showed up to this particular hotel were asked to leave shortly after the conference had begun. It turns out that there was some concerns for security, as some type of a threat had been phoned in. It was discovered by a chamber maid that the hotel room of the person who had planned the event, was filled with machine guns, several of them, all registered under the name of the Conference Organizer. Professor Conley, and this other Professor, whom he never offered a name of, well they like to think that this was Thomas Pynchon having a bit of fun at all of his fans expense, shocking the Academic world and making his grand statements in the most Pynchon like way of all, symbols of violence and destruction, throwing in a bit of humor too.

I do not find this story too hard to believe as anyone who goes to such great lengths to avoid the public eye, going so far as to track down all of the extra yearbooks at his high school and ripping out the pages that hold his photograph, well anyone this oddball, this brilliant…well you know what they say, there’s a fine line between genius and madness. I believe that line is littered with machine guns and fake conferences.

While I struggle to read and make sense of much of Pynchon’s work, I will never stop reading his works. I’d recommend picking up any of his works. The best way to read Thomas Pynchon is to just force yourself through, there will be moments where the story or plot will become lost or indecipherable, yet Pynchon recognizes this, it’s part of his method, his madness. I like to think of Pynchon as a motorcycle ride through the wilderness. You don’t always have control of where you’re going, but you know damned well, you’re having the ride of your life!

Written by thebeliever07

August 5, 2008 at 9:25 am

4 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the extended bibliography. I had no idea about the various essays, intros, etc. Been wondering after some kind of record like that for a few months.


    August 6, 2008 at 2:57 pm

  2. If you had read TRP’s work closely, you would know he would never do such a “joke”.

    I doubt if the story is true…….(lotsa non-truths around the Pynchon mythos such as
    that he hunted down old yearbooks. Never.)

    He has a deep vision of privacy and anti-charisma…(see Weber on)


    August 6, 2008 at 3:52 pm

  3. Yeah, I read Dubliners quite a few years back. “The Dead” remains one of the best stories I’ve ever read, I’ve gone back to it more than once. (This after I tried Portrait of the Artist when I was about 16, got my ass handed to me, heh.) Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.


    August 6, 2008 at 11:17 pm

  4. Great stuff! I just finished V. and I enjoyed it immensely. Why, oh, why did it take me so long to discover Thomas Pynchon?

    Bill Ectric

    August 7, 2008 at 12:00 pm

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