1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 67: The Crying Of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchin

Thomas Pynchin, who is famous for his laborious classic Gravity’s Rainbow (a hybrid of Catch-22 and The Naked Lunch) has found many fans via his novel The Crying Of Lot 49, which is esteemed by many to be on a par with Gravity’s Rainbow. If nothing else, it is at least more linear, shorter and ultimately more digestible. Being much easier to read than Gravity’s Rainbow does not mean it is without challenge. The first half of the novel seems to be written very much in the spirit of the fluidity of Gravity’s Rainbow, though the narrative becomes more succinct and linear as it moves along, and in turn offers clarity to the first half of the work. The plot is simple enough: A woman is made the executor of her ex-boyfriend’s will and goes on a journey to discover the history of a group of faux stamps, created and employed by and underground mail currier service. In the tradition of the post-modern narrative, no clear answer is ultimately offered, instead, the narrative come to an abrupt ending just as the novel’s protagonist is about to find insight into her journey (yes, yes, life is a journey, not a destination), and along the path we learn of both the dangers and hypocrisies of the free market (one entrepreneur is employing a small armada of Black men to make swastika arm bands which are selling by the proverbial boat load), while on the other end of the spectrum government agencies strong arm small upstarts from the business endeavours which they themselves embrace (lowering mail currier rates to a loss so that all private sector competitors and forced out of the industry and give the government a monopoly in the field, ironic considering the current state of the American postal system). Pynchon seems to be very much opposed to the American melting pot and big government, but his examples of laissez-faire economics is far from an optimistic one, and multicultralism is not without its problems.   Also in keeping with the post-modern tradition, Pynchon is merely posing the question it seems, and not answering it for us. Multiculturalism against the melting pot. The individual against the group. Big business against big government. Pnychon has no clear answer in any instance.

 

 

Words I thought I’d Look Up:

 

Kirsch: Cherry Brandy (that might have been an easy one for most, but I’m not a drinker, so I had to look it is).

 

Codicil: An appendix to a will.

 

Hierophant: From the Greek meaning sacred and reveal, it is a person who brings interpretation to events.

 

Deferent: A show of respect.

 

Precarious: Means unsafe, from the Latin for uncertain.

 

Shivaree (or Charivari): A French folk custom where a group of people sing, often at a wedding, and use items like pots and pans to create music, often resulting in a less than harmonious sound.

 

Eschatology: Religious doctrines concern death and the afterlife.

 

Cantankerous: Bad tempered.

 

Oubliette: Another word for dungeon, from the French for forget, which came from the Latin for oblivious.

 

Iridescences: Having rainbow colours.

 

Muzak: Is the name of a company that provides instrumental interpretations of popular songs, to be played in businesses such as doctor’s offices, or in elevators. People sometimes refer to this kind of music as muzak, sometime pejoratively. Often used in retail to encourage customers to slow down and spend more time browsing to great effect from my reading into the matter (aka Wiki-article).

Enmities: Hostilities, from the Latin for enemy.

Addendum: A supplement, or something added.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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