The Crying of Lot 49

A review of "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon

About a year ago, when I had just just read and enjoyed Stone Junction: An Alchemical Potboiler by Jim Dodge, a friend who has very similar taste in novels to me recommended that I read some Thomas Pynchon. This surprised me for two reasons. Firstly, I had (I am now ashamed to admit) always assumed without evidence that people who read Pynchon (and by extension, the man himself) were hopeless pseuds and that the experience of reading his work would thus be a disappointing one. Secondly, the only thing I had really heard about Pynchon was the supposedly fiendish complexity of his style and hearing that his books might be similar to the easy, fun narrative riffs of Jim Dodge seemed perculiar. In actual practise, I would say on refection that "The Crying of Lot 49" and "Vineland" are more like Jim Dodge, and "V" and "Gravity's Rainbow" are altogether darker and more troublesome. "Slow Learner" and "Mason and Dixon" form the final category, namely "Pynchon I haven't read yet".

So I embarked (with my trepidation tempered somewhat by the shortness of the novel) on "The Crying of Lot 49", and found (of course) that I was wrong and that Pynchon is exactly my sort of author. Funny, thoughtful and compassionate, he is capable of a staggering range and has an incredible dexterity with language and plot. His books are rich in allusion, but wear their erudition lightly, so where I was able to spot and decipher additional subtexts, they added something, but I never felt as if I was being presented merely with an exposition of the author's cleverness and research. If that makes me a pseud, then I am proud to be so.

I would strongly recommend that anyone who is the least bit curious about Pynchon start reading with "The Crying of Lot 49". It's tremendous fun to read and you'll never feel quite the same about waste bins again.

Muted Post Horn

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