‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘thomas pynchon

A book should be a book, right?

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I’ve read two recent articles over at the Guardian and it has made me reflect on a trend that seems to be occurring at the moment, the blending of mixed media when it comes to the book form.


Nick Cave, a musician, poet, artist, actor, dare I say it: renaissance man recently released: “Nick Cave’s new novel The Death of Bunny Munro – the story of a sex-maniac travelling salesman taking his last road trip – goes to market through the iPhone App Store, in an enhanced edition that is being launched before the print version.”

The enhanced app has the following advantages:

you can faff with fonts, change colour, bookmark it, and so on; and there’s some smart social networking stuff attached. But it also includes enhancements that could have a noticeable effect on the experience of reading. Instead of paginating the book conventionally, it’s presented as a continuous vertical scroll (one geek-pleasing trick is that you can adjust the scrolling speed with the angle of tilt of the phone), and the App includes an audiobook that syncs with the written text. Pop on the headphones, thumb the screen and Cave’s voice picks up where you left off.

So the question is? Is all of that necessary for the enjoyment of a book? Thomas Pynchon’s latest release Inherent Vice now has an added feature to “enhance” the reading. Pynchon has released a playlist to accompany the reading:

a list of the songs which feature in Inherent Vice, which follows the story of pot-smoking private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello. From The Beach Boys (God Only Knows and Help Me, Rhonda) to The Beatles (Can’t Buy Me Love), Frank Sinatra (Fly Me to the Moon) and Pink Floyd (Interstellar Overdrive), the soundtrack, whichhe designed for Amazon.com, is a journey through the music of the 1960s, the setting for his new novel.

It also includes a few fictional tunes: a song “performed” by Doc himself, Skyful of Hearts, as well as providing a nod to Scott Oof of Vineland fame, whose band Beer “performs” the theme song from The Big Valley.

Again, I have to ask if all of this is necessary for the reading of a book? I guess on the one hand I can understand that in today’s modern world with all of the distractions that are constantly around us, I can understand the desire to add some pizzazz and punch to a work of art in any medium to attract people so that they generate some interest and passion for the work. But it is also sad that it takes this much excess to draw the eye.

A book cannot be a book anymore, it must have a playlist, it must be read to us, it must glow in the dark and be downloaded instantly into our minds.

The fact that books now have “trailers” astounds me and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not? Good in catching the eye, but as I’ve said, bad because this signifies that we are too caught up in the light-show and that these works cannot simply stand on their own now.

I enjoy mixed media and I support the arts in all of its forms, but still, sometimes a book should just be a book. Maybe I’m turning into a curmudgeon (I can hear Erin saying outloud, “turning into….” with a very particular tone).

Your thoughts?

Written by thebeliever07

August 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Thomas Pynchon selling Thomas Pynchon:

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The rumors abound and I think that I’m on the side that believes. Rumor has it that Thomas Pynchon himself, narrated the book trailer for his recent release Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon.

“At that point it gets sort of peculiar. Maybe you’ll just want to read the book. Inherent Vice. Penguin Press. $27.95 … $27.95 – really? That used to be like, three weeks of groceries, man. What year is this again?”

If that’s not Pynchonesque, then I don’t know what is. I personally believe because it’s more fun to believe. Cheers to all my Pynchonheads out there, enjoy.

Written by thebeliever07

August 6, 2009 at 9:36 pm


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So I finished my paper. It turns out it was not a minimum of 20, it was 15-20 pages. Sadly I only managed to get to the end of page 14, but it is a quality paper and I’m pleased. I would not have been able to endure the past week without Miss Erin so a hearty thank you to her, huzzah!

I’m done for the term and now I can relax a bit.

I’ve watched a number of films the past few days, distractions for the paper I did not want to write at the time.



Starring Sean Penn and James Franco, this film centers around Harvey Milk one of the California’s first openly gay politicians. Set in the 70’s, the film is entertaining and it does open you eyes, as it should, to the difficulties that minorities face and the type of blatant bigotry and hatred that exists in our society, something we’re still dealing with. I use the word minorities, b/c this film touches on  number of issues (union, feminist rights, racial, etc)  not simply those that affect homosexuals.

This will definitely be an Oscar contender, whether it wins will be another matter all together. Penn’s performance tugs at the heart and he really gets inside of this character. Paul, as much as you hate homosexuals who meet an untidy end, usually through a form of extreme violence and/or degradation of some kind, this cannot be avoided in the film as there is history that they must follow. Harvey Milk was brutally murdered at work one day in City Hall. It is a difficult scene to watch, but I think it’s important to show that this type of thing occurred and still does to that part of our society and we should be attuned to these types of social issues, it effects all of us when it effects any part of our society.

Gran Torino


Directed and Starring Clint Eastwood, this film is about connections and a clash of cultures.  Clint stars as Wally, a recent widower who is unable to connect with his family, yet somehow through a series of neighborhood events, becomes caught up inside a gang war. His next door neighbors are from South-East Asia and its a film that I think beautifully portrays the misconceptions that people have about other cultures.  Forces you to admit that we all have these social stigmas and bias tendencies towards culture and people that we are unfamiliar with. I want to share more but its a short film and to reveal more would ruin it. This will also be an Oscar contender, though it is unlikely to win. One criticism is that the relationship between Clint’s character and his next door neighbors occurs a bit too rapidly, but for the sake of a film they cannot avoid it without stretching out the length of time that occurs in the film. Worth checking out though, will not be a waste of your money at the theatre, will leave you smiling. One of the best parts is the old 1940’s racial slang that Clint puts into his character Wally, most of it is offensive but in a way that you sort of just grin and bear, as it is from a generation that was much different from ours.

The Day the Earth Stood Still


Finally a role that allows Keanu Reeves to really make use of his dead-pan stare acting technique. A re-working of a film that probably should have been left alone to begin with, it is still entertaining. There is a large ECO-message that works and yet sort of feels a bit too in your face a times, as if we’re being hit with a hammer to confront these issues. Earth must redeem itself and prove that it is worth saving, this is the essential story line, we must explain ourselves to the aliens who have come to destroy us. The effects of this film are spectacular and its a fast paced thriller, full of action. What to watch out for: Will Smith’s son, Jaden who plays the most horribly precocious child since Dakota Phanning, watching the U.S. Government behave in the most absurd ways, continually making stupid mistake after stupid mistake, oh wait, maybe thats not something thats too far off from the truth. If you’re wanting something fun, its worth checking out, though probably better off waiting for the rental. The best part of the film is sadly the shortest, John Cleese as a scientist, in one of his most serious roles, it’s good times. This film is much like the recent adaptation of H.G. Wells’s War of the World, but wait, while that film was kind of shitty in large part to Tom Cruise’s under-acting, this film has all the fun and action of that film, minus the Cruise, just insert Keannu, and as shitty as he is as an actor he’s much better than Cruise.


Now that the Christmas break is here and I have some time to relax, I shall be jumping into my Christmas Read, and it is a large one. Roberto Bolano’s 2666 a sprawling story of Academics in a hunt to track down a reclusive author along the likes of (Salinger, or Pynchon), interestingly enough this is written in a very Pynchonian way, has some echoes, maybe not as playful, more somber, but still very much a story about lives that cross one another and stories built upon stories inside of stories. Divided into 5 parts, at a massive 896, I’m only about 115 pages in, but loving every moment. To be reviewed later. Cheers.

“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!”

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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