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Thread: Thomas Pynchon

  1. #1
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    Default Thomas Pynchon

    I had a look through the forum to see if there was some sort of Pynchon thread where I could post this but I couldn't find one. I've seen a few other people talking about him on here so it's probably not a bad idea to have a Pynchon thread.

    Anyway...

    Thomas Pynchon's new novel BLEEDING EDGE will be published on September 17, deals with Silicon Alley between dotcom boom collapse and 9/11.
    https://twitter.com/sarahw/status/306036683562971136

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    Wow, that sounds freakin' awesome. Thanks for starting this thread. I still need to finish Gravity's Rainbow. To be honest, I don't think I was paying careful enough attention last time. When the seances started, I kind of lost my way.

    Anyway, if we're allowed to use this thread to discuss not just Pynchon, but also the Pynchonesque, I've just bought this novel that's the latest Pynchonian* novel to come out -- there haven't been many since David Foster Wallace, have there? Anyway, it's called A Naked Singularity, by Sergio De La Pava, and is like a perfect cross between Tom P and Dostoevsky. It's a sprawling, verbose thriller about the US justice system. De La Pava is a New York lawyer and self-published it to begin with, but it got a proper release a year or so ago, after his wife emailed everyone on the Internet who'd written about Infinite Jest and suggested they read her husband's work. Eventually, someone did, and it's become kind of a sleeper hit since then. I've only just started it, and from what I've read, yeah, I can see it working, even if the style seems a little forced.

    *What's the correct adjective to describe something similar to or inspired by Thomas Pynchon -- Pynchonesque or Pynchonian? Either could work. I've heard Pynchonesque used more, but I'll usually go to great lengths to avoid using '-esque' as a suffix just because it sounds so wanky and pretentious, like somebody hearing Woody Allen describing sex as Kafkaesque, and then describing things as Kafkaesque, even though they've never read Kafka. '-Esque', for me, will always be associated with those people. So the answer I'm looking for, I guess, is that we're going to stick to calling things Pynchonian after this impassioned plea.

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    ^^ Typical Lewisesque thing to say.
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    That's two punches I owe you now.

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    I'm sort of torn over Pynchon. He's got so much talent and so many ideas, waving it all in your face, but...well I'm not sure what the But is, exactly, but there is a But. I might try and collect my thoughts a bit tomorrow. I've only read V. and - of course - Gravity's Rainbow. Which I sometimes hilariously think of to myself as Gravity's Brain-Ow.

    I think GR was the weirdest book I'd read until Cyclonopedia, which is saying something.

    Edit: and apart from anything else it's just fucking amazing that he's still writing, I mean how old is he now, like 90 or something? His must be one of the longest-running careers of any major novelist alive today.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 27-02-2013 at 09:29 PM.
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    Default Return of the Kafkians

    Quote Originally Posted by Bangpuss View Post

    *What's the correct adjective to describe something similar to or inspired by Thomas Pynchon -- Pynchonesque or Pynchonian? Either could work. I've heard Pynchonesque used more, but I'll usually go to great lengths to avoid using '-esque' as a suffix just because it sounds so wanky and pretentious, like somebody hearing Woody Allen describing sex as Kafkaesque, and then describing things as Kafkaesque, even though they've never read Kafka. '-Esque', for me, will always be associated with those people. So the answer I'm looking for, I guess, is that we're going to stick to calling things Pynchonian after this impassioned plea.
    Seems to me there's a distinction to be drawn between the Pynchonian, things that are directly of Pynchon, and the Pynchonesque, which merely resembles the Pynchonian.

    You to thread?

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    Pynchonics: a subfield of particle physics concerning the properties of Pynchons.
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    Quote Originally Posted by craner View Post
    ballistics
    Yeah, he's so clever he used to be an *actual* rocket scientist! Imagine that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    Yeah, he's so clever he used to be an *actual* rocket scientist! Imagine that.
    It does mean that you get a much better range of crap maths jokes than you normally do with literary authors. There's a bit in Mason and Dixon where someone asks a talking dog whether he knows the integral of one over (book) d (book).

    What may or may not be really clever is that the other thing the dog gets asked is whether he knows "where the be suck there suck I", a line which has caused amusement to generations of schoolboys because the old fashioned 'long s' is indistinguishable from an 'f'. A-and tne 'long s' is also the symbol that the integral sign is based on. Now wait a minute...

    I think all the crap humour and blatant silliness is part of the point, FWIW, although I'd have trouble articulating how. If everything was serious and plausible they'd be much weaker books...

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    Yes, they are fundamentally silly and packed with puns and innuendos and whatnot, and I agree that's all part of the fun. Charges of excess wackiness notwithstanding.

    The integral 'joke' is done in a different way in GR, I recall, where there's a sum that goes "[integral] d[cabin]/[cabin] = log cabin + C = houseboat". Groanworthy, for sure, but I suspect anyone who gets it will find themselves liking it just because of the fun of being in on a joke that will go over most people's heads.

    Edit: he also shows, in V. I think, how 'Kilroy':



    derives from the schematic for a band-pass filter:



    On the more serious side, I think he conjures up sinister conspiracies very well, which always makes for a story that really grips the reader, I find. In fact it introduces an element of genuine psychological horror into otherwise mostly light-hearted novels.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 01-03-2013 at 12:14 PM.
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    Besides the first half of the Crying of Lot 49, which is just about as perfect as a piece of fiction could ever be, my favourite Pynchon is the introductory essay to Slow Learner, his collection of early stories published in the 80s (I think). It's very sweet and self-deprecating, and even offers insights not only his young-man personality (he seemed to be a bit of a jock), but also his early influences. While it's perhaps not surprising to learn that the wacky spy elements come from a love of John Buchan's novels, he was also a big fan of the Beats and in particular On The Road. As someone trying to create work that at least pleases me -- something I rarely achieve -- it's heartening to see a master come across as similarly frought with doubt, and not even as a matter of false modesty. Because I can totally see his point, when he levels criticism at those early stories. While there are flashes of brilliance and wild imagination (Meatball Mulligan, for instance), I do find his early work quite a few shades below what he achieved a few years later with the Crying of Lot 49. In short, it gives me hope.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bangpuss View Post
    it's heartening to see a master come across as similarly frought with doubt, and not even as a matter of false modesty.
    i imagine a lot of authors (and other artists) go through this - Henry James was famous for it, and I suppose David Foster Wallace is an obvious recent example to go with. The overstated praise artists are subject to can presumably be just as unbalancing as the criticism - if you're sitting there reading a review about how you're a 'genius', and you live every day with yourself and don't even understand what that could even mean, then it can easily foster doubt, I'd've thought. You know in your heart of hearts how good you think you really are, in other words, and, unless you're an insane narcissist, you'll be able to see how much room there is for improvement, whtever the critics say.

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    Thankfully I've never had to live with the genius tag, nor will I. What I find heartening about Pynchon's early work is also what scares me slightly. He went from merely quite good to frickin amazingly outrageously brilliant in a matter of like two or three years. Of course, studying under Nabokov could have helped. As could the Himalayan mountain range of intelligence he clearly possesses. But there was clearly something that changed inside of him very quickly -- something 'clicked' -- and he went from 'journeyman', as he put it, to visionary titan so quickly, a bit like '61 Bob Dylan to '64 Bob Dylan.

    I'd never try to write anything like Pynchon -- in particular, the fact that he tried to consciously remove his fiction from his own experience as much as possible in terms of plot and characters and motivations and so forth. This is why I think he lacks the emotional depth of many of his 'heirs', and therefore why it's often a more brutal read than the equally dense offerings of Wallace and Vollmann, who both possess an equally unattainable level of ability, so it's not even worth comparing yourself to them.
    Last edited by Bangpuss; 01-03-2013 at 02:34 PM.

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