The 150-word Review: If you find Thomas Pynchon intimidating, you’re not alone. Back when my literary pretensions were fresh (and sincere), my goal was to read “Gravity’s Rainbow” and claim it as a “trophy”–a bright shiny medal that I could pin to my chest and be the envy of bookish-types everywhere. Only to fail. Twice. (I have read “Mason & Dixon.” So there. Praise me. )
“The Crying of Lot 49” is a more accessible introduction to Pynchon. Consider it a 10K in comparison to the ultra-marathon of “Gravity’s Rainbow.” It has everything Pynchonites (Pynchonians? Pynchonese?) obsess over and provides a primer for tropes that Pynchon will eventually crank to eleven in later novels. When Oedipa Maas becomes the “executrix” of her ex-boyfriend’s estate, she embarks on a surreal Californian adventure, encountering wacky musicians, esoteric tech weenies, and the Tristero: a sinister, centuries-old society, whose underground mail service may still exist today.
Having this book on your shelf will impress: fans of inventive character names and silly song lyrics, conspiracy theorists, Harold Bloom, auctioneers, Lisa Simpson (Are you reading “Gravity’s Rainbow?” “Well, re-reading.”), Thurn und Taxis, boorish North Beach tourists, and nascent computer hackers.
This book will go great with: Paulaner Hefe-weizen
Set the mood with: Mr. Postman (Beatles cover)
Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, Thomas Pynchon may have modeled the fictional “Yoyodyne” corporation after Boeing, where he worked as a technical writer in the early ‘60’s.