Sunday, May 4, 2014

Reading Challenge- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

My post last month described my reading challenge; the books published in 1966 from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and quite manageable at just six books.

The first on this list is Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. It's on order from the library and not knowing anything at all about Pynchon I thought I'd read through 1001 Books to see what I could find out.

Born in the U.S. in 1937, there are apparently very few photos of Pynchon which must be the root of this Simpson's cartoon:
The first reference to Pynchon is the statement that "without Lolita it is difficult to image Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49" . I guess I'll understand that comment after reading it. This is followed by the comment that "alongside works by (among other authors) Pynchon...opened the floodgates for a wave of U.S. fiction which war represented with a new countercultural sensibility in a language every bit as wild, grotesque, and bizarre as the real thing."

His first novel V was published in 1963 and won the William Faulkner Foundation Award. This novel "established Pynchon as an enigmatic cult hero of American literature."

The Crying of Lot 49 was published in 1966 and won the Rosenthal Foundation Award. Described as "the postmodernist's perfect thriller, guaranteed to fox the literal-minded sleuth, while deliciously deft with its play of possible interpretations."

Gravity's Rainbow published in 1973 won The National Book Award, and this "massive work opens with London under attack from V-2 rockets during the closing stages of the Second World War."

Considered to be "as futile to attempt a plot summary of Gravity's Rainbow here as it would be to say that Ulysses is about two men and their day in Dublin."

In Vineland published in 1990 "Pynchon returns to a modern American setting, after the historical European excursions of V and Gravity's Rainbow."  With this novel said to be "finally emerging after the dark complexities of Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon's Vineland was a disappointment  to many critics, and it remains Pynchon's most misunderstood and underrated novel."

Mason and Dixon was published in 1997. Described as "loosely speaking, a kind of "updated" eighteenth-century novel that reanimated the lives, loves, and adventures of the two astronomers/ surveyors who drew the boundary line across America that would eventually be used to distinguish the slave-holding states from the free states and is still used to distinguish the South from the North to this day."

Not covered in my copy of the 2006 version of 1001 Books are any reference to the since published Against The Day (2006), Inherent Vice (2009) and the most recent Bleeding Edge (2013).

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