Thirty years ago, more or less, I took a seminar in college on Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot 49 for the warm-up and Gravity’s Rainbow for the rest of the semester. The professor teaching was a brilliant, goofy Virginian that everyone thought, as impressionable young students often do at other colleges of their Pynchon professors, that our man was him. It’s ludicrous, of course. But it was stoked even further when said professor went on sabbatical “to tour the South” and a few years later Mason & Dixon was published.
Some hangers-on still cling to the notion that our old professor was Pynchon lampooning as a Virginian with a PhD. I like to imagine that even Thomas Pynchon has his limits.
Anyway, I have since gone back to Lot 49 and GR several times over the years, and all his other books save Slow Learner in its entirety. My favorite is probably Against the Day. Vineland had its moments. Oddly enough, I didn’t enjoy Inherent Vice as much as I should have. Bleeding Edge had its moments too, especially the passage about people eventually submitting to surveillance:
“Dick Tracy’s wrist radio? it’ll be everywhere, the rubes’ll all be begging to wear one,” decries Ernie, “handcuffs of the future.”
I wouldn’t be so flippant as to say Pynchon’s an acquired taste. Good literature as we all know has more to it than that. But if you’re like me and you memorize license plates of cars that pass your house more than twice in one day it’s nice to know someone out there knows, as William Burroughs once pointed out in reference to paranoia, a little about what’s going on.