How To Read Thomas Pynchon

June 15th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

I’ll begin this blog by stating the obvious: Thomas Pynchon is a genius almost beyond words. Anyone who has read anything by Pynchon will be amazed at how much esoteric information is packed into each and every one of his 7 novels. His novels are prodigiously dense and complex, full of allusions and alliterations, word-play, symbolism, irony and just about every other literary technique under the sun. He is considered by many scholars to be perhaps the most brilliant, unique, awe-inspiring postmodernist writer of the past half-century and nobody has seen him in 40 years. Yep, not unlike J.D. Salinger,  (recently deceased) Pynchon is a recluse and all we have is a picture of him from his high school yearbook from Oyster Bay, long Island, New York.
Thomas Pynchon writes a little like Vladimir Nabokov (his puns, references, allusions, long sentences, etc.) who not surprisingly was a student of the master of prose, Mr. Nabokov at Cornell University.
I just finished reading The Crying of Lot 49 (published in 1966, but was written when Pynchon was in his early 20’s; how is it possible for him to know so much already? Was he reincarnated?) and I was completely overwhelmed and “blown away” with his brilliant prose style, labyrinthine plot features, and just the wealth of references. Next on my reading list is Gravity’s Rainbow but I’m going to need a little help on this one; I’ve tried to read this about 10 years ago and had to put it down because of the incredibly vast array of references, themes, and allusions to: science & technology (Pynchon worked at Boeing as a technical writer), obscure historical events, punning weird names, believable conspiracies from huge corporations (paranoia is a theme throughout all of Pynchon’s work), hundreds of characters, reams of postmodernist themes and devices, entropy, industrialization, mathematics, literature, religious cults and so much more. I just purchased The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Pynchon and I’m a lot smarter now than I was a decade ago. So I’m ready to tackle Pynchon’s exhaustingly monster masterpiece.
Thomas Pynchon is not for everyone. If you’re going to read him you’re going to have to put in a whole lot of work into it yourself. However, I obviously believe the hard work is well-worth it – you’ll be a whole lot smarter, think differently and never look at mundane things, ideas, or objects the same again, and most importantly you will be entertained beyond your wildest dreams.
This can be a huge essay but I’ll stop writing here and allow you to have the pleasure of reading and researching those deliciously esoteric factoids yourself. Enjoy ! So whadayathink ? What do you think ? Do you like Thomas Pynchon ? Do you like to be challenged when you read (to this degree) ?

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4 Responses to “How To Read Thomas Pynchon”

  1. magdalena tabor Says:

    Welcome back to the world of blogging, Michael. I was beginning to think you were as reclusive as Pynchon himself. You must have been buried deep inside that book.

  2. Michael Tabor Says:

    you’ve got to hear this quote from Poet L.E. Sissman about Thomas Pynchon – ” He is almost a mathematician of prose, who calculates the least and the greatest stress each word and line, each pun and ambiguity, can bear, and applies his knowledge accordingly and virtually without lapses, though he takes many scary, bracing linguistic risks. Thus his remarkably supple diction can first treat of a painful and delicate love scene and then roar, without pause, into the sounds and echos of a drugged and drunken orgy.” ……. wow that is one amazing blurb

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  4. Barry Drab Says:

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