The Crying of Lot 49
Read for 2 Reading Challenges:
What’s in a name
And for My own reading challenge
Category: Book published in 1966
This is a re-read. I read it back in France in 1984 or 1985, preparing the Concours d’Entrée à L’Ecole Normale Supérieure, specialty English. This work was on the programme to prepare for the Concours.
I remember writing a long essay on the theme of entropy in this book. Reading the book again today, I marvel at how smart I must have been one day, lol.
Too bad I tossed that essay. Oh, and part of the Concours was also to translate chunks of it!
Today, the book appears totally obscure to me, and I have to say, I would have abandoned it if it had not been on my list for 2 Reading Challenges.
It is about Oedipa Maas who is unexpectedly named as the executor of her late lover’s will. Trying to understand why, and connect with his company, she discovers that his estate is mysteriously connected with an underground organization, or is it really? One never surely knows if this is not rather part of her imagination. There’s also a lot of LSD stuff in this book, though she does not seem to be doing anything with it herself.
The book covers the time until the very minute when she sits at the auction. She just learned that a mysterious man, coming out of nowhere, will be present and the most important bidder. She has no clue who he is, and you will not have any either, as the book ends right there, just before the beginning of the auction. So you’ve spent 152 pages in the unknown, always wondering what, where, and why, and you don’t know more at the end than at the beginning.
Lots of passages sound almost like written under the influence, at least to me, though some critics say it more nicely and assert that Pynchon is imitating James Joyce’s style. Not so sure about that one – I did read also Ulysses for that Concours!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. For his most praised novel, Gravity’s Rainbow, Pynchon received the National Book Award, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Pynchon is a MacArthur Fellow noted for his dense and complex novels, and both his fiction and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, styles and themes, including (but not limited to) the fields of history, science, and mathematics.
Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known: V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), and Mason & Dixon (1997). Pynchon is also known for being reclusive; very few photographs of him have ever been published, and rumors about his location and identity have been circulated since the 1960s.
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One thing that always irks me about modernist fiction is how they always seem to conflate ambiguity with genius.
Well said! I approve totally. I believe a true genius should be transparent, be he/she a writer or a teacher
I believe that this conflation, or confusion, comes from the modernist presupposition that all is meaningless. But what good comes of this presupposition? Not good art. And certainly not a good society.
I have encountered cases where it was I believe the product of self-satisfaction, especially with French authors, who LOVE listening to their own voice. Oh, by the way, as you probably know, I am a French, and an occasional writer. LOL
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i read this one last year for a class and while i absolutely loved the early parts of the book when Oedipa is fumbling around, i felt the same disconnect towards the latter half as you. i did enjoy the way that Pynchon drew out the cityscapes, but the character development and bizarre ambiguity for the sake of literary merit was a little lost on me.
Yes, I really have hard time with that type of writing now. And I’m wondering if I accepted it when I was younger just because that was snobbish to like Pynchon in the circle of students preparing for Ecole Normale Supérieure!!
I am a Pynchon lover for way back-I think The Crying of Lot 49 should be your first Pynchon-then I would say go ahead and try GR-see what happens-if it works for you or not-I enjoyed hearing that Pynchon was trendy among your costudents
Thanks, I’ll go and have a look at Gravity’s Rainbow. i believe I also tried V way back then, but i forgot all about it, though I believe I had to write comparative essays in those days, on the theme of entropy. Yes, in 1985 or 86, Pynchon was one of the works students had to prepare to enter the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure, and we were all so darn pretentious.
I haven’t read it yet and it seems it won’t make it to the top of my TBR ^^
well, it’s an important classic, but…