Sunday, January 11, 2004

Time for another update. A few interesting things before I get to the meat.
First, the NYT Magazine has an interesting article on blogs and blogging today.
Second, it seems that my friend the Duff has run across this blog and wanted to add a few comments. Unfortunately, Blogger doesn't yet support that. Too bad. Maybe they will eventually get their shit together.

This weekend was great. RS & I hung out with my little sister & her boyfriend on Friday, with my little brother & his girlfriend on Saturday night. Lots of fun both nights. On Saturday evening, several of us all went down to Ararat, a cool middle-eastern resturant. Good times.

After much delay, I finally finished The Crying of Lot 49 last night. Thoughts below.

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

"Shall I project a world?"

This seems to be the most commonly quoted passage from Pynchon's 4th (and shortest) novel. The Crying of Lot 49 is a fascinating, very challenging novel written in the early sixties. Pynchon is one of the masters of postmodernism. This novel explores themes of self-delusion, paranoia, conspiracy theories, information theory, textual revisionism, and a bunch of other weird, disconnected and disconcerting topics. It is a largely linear narrative, on the surface, it tells a story of a young woman drawn into a strange subculture in central California.

Plot summary: Oedipas Maas had a very wealthy boyfriend. He died and named her executor of his estate. In the course of her duties, she discovers hints to the existance of a secret society called the Trystero, which serves as a sort of anti/alternate postal service, and (apparently) has for several hundred years. Almost everyone Oedipas comes in contact with vanishes or dies. She continues to trace a series of clues and strange connections which become more and more bizarre. She eventually begins to doubt her own sanity. She (and we) are offerend a glimpse into a weird, dark world before the novels close in which, to quote Bob Dylan, 'nothing is revealed.'

Language. Pynchon is a master of language. It is no wonder that he is sometimes compared to Nabakov. His prose is dense, his metaphors beautiful. His writing is superlative and surreal. I understand now why William Gibson is always compared in turn, to Pynchon, in whose stylistic footsteps he very clearly follows. Likewise, I understand a great deal more now about David Foster Wallace. It had for years seemed to me that DFW was in a league unto himself when it came to wordplay, linguistic gymnasticis, and bizzare plot threads and narrative devices. It turns out the DFW is very clearly emulating Pynchon, happily dancing along in the disorenting cloud of DDT left in his master's wake. Likewise, an exploration of Pynchon's obvious penchant for the language theories of Wittgenstein would be fun. I thoughts the Broom of the Systerm was original in playing with logos & language as a symbol. It is not. The Crying of Lot 49 very obviously paved this road decades earlier.

I had a really hard time at first knowing what to do with the conclusion of this novel. I didn't 'get it'. The Professor told me there was nothing to get. She described the book as just Pynchon being playful with language, and in large part it is. Last night though, after reviewing a few websites on the topic ( ) I began to think of the book as more like something out of a Lovecraft story. Like Lovecraft, Pynchon doesn't want to explain to me how the world outside our own works. He doesn't want me to 'get it.' He wants to give me just a glimpe into some strange 'other spaces' where the rules and laws and logic that govern here don't hold complete sway. He wants me to underneath dark bridges and watch the funeral pyre of a sotted bum, and think about all the information destroyed when his matress burns. He wants me to wonder what the symbol of Trystero means. He wants me to think about language and reality as binary, either real, or unreal. Then he wants to close the window. It's a taste of a very strange candy that is offered here, one that is not satisfying at all, just very stimulating.