Saturday, January 7, 2012

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 46.3 (Thomas Pynchon)

The Crying of Lot 49
Pynchon, Thomas
The Crying of Lot 49

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books. This is not the copy I read, which I gave away or loaned to someone at some point and never saw again. A few years back, 2004, in fact, Lori was reading through Thomas Pynchon. She tried to start with Gravity's Rainbow, but, like many readers, quickly grew frustrated. I suggested she start with this and V. before moving on to that behemoth.

If I were to choose one Pynchon novel to read again, it would probably be this one. In fact, I am pretty sure that I have read it twice. I think I appreciate the fact that in comparison to the rest of Pynchon's novels this one is so concise. It has a certain level difficulty, takes a lot of detours, and is anything but straightforward, but there is something moving about Oedipa Maas and hear quest to find the meaning of the muted posthorn.

I can't say I ever cared much for Pynchon's on an emotional level. I did care about Oedipa. I also learned a lot of information about things like Maxwell's Demon, entropy, information theory, etc., all of which are quite useful things to know in the internet age.

from The Crying of Lot 49

One summer afternoon Mrs Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary. Oedipa stood in the living room, stared at by the greenish dead eye of the TV tube, spoke the name of God, tried to feel as drunk as possible. But this did not work. She thought of a hotel room in Mazatlan whose door had just been slammed, it seemed forever, waking up two hundred birds down in the lobby; a sunrise over the library slope at Cornell University that nobody out on it had seen because the slope faces west; a dry, disconsolate tune from the fourth movement of the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra; a whitewashed bust of Jay Gould that Pierce kept over the bed on a shelf so narrow for it she'd always had the hovering fear it would someday topple on them. Was that how he'd died, she wondered, among dreams, crushed by the only ikon in the house? That only made her laugh, out loud and helpless: You're so sick, Oedipa, she told herself, or the room, which knew.