Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Crying of Lot 49 - Pynchon

If you look back a few entry's, you'll find a list of books I aim to read this year. On this list between Ayn Rand and Atonement you'll find a little book by Thomas Pynchon called The Crying of Lot 49. Not being a fan of post modern lit, I knew this was going to either be a great eye opening experience, or turn into another Sarah Throws Books on the Floor at Barnes and Noble problem.

The Crying of Lot 49

Thomas Pynchon

Oedpia Mass is to be the executor of her ex boyfriend's will. With no legal knowledge, a very shady therapist and a husband that is in his own world, Oedpia starts the task of breaking up Pierce Inverarity's massive state and discovers a postal conspiracy years in the making.

Why, oh why, did I think this was a good idea? Pynchon is the king of the run on sentence. Sometimes going on for two pages! In a book that is only 152 pages, sentences like that become a problem. There is also the issue of the names. While I liked Oedpia as a name, everyone else had weird names like Dr. Hilarious and Mike Fallopian that I couldn't take seriously and had a hard time processing. This all pales to how little I liked the story. I had a really hard time following what was happening with the Trystero stuff. I'm still not entirely sure if everything about the postal system was real or not, or if it was an elaborate joke or Oedpia going crazy or what. Regardless, I have never had such a hard time finishing 150 odd pages. I was really tempted to just set it aside and never come back, but the year is still young, so hopefully I'll be able to make up for the lost week I spent staring at the stupid cover and wishing it would burst into flames, or magically turn into Harry Potter.


Chelle said...

I've been leery of Pynchon for fear of reasons you've stated. Kudos for finishing!

Laura C. said...

This is the only Pynchon I've read and I do someday hope to change that. I think I commented on your earlier post that this book works best if read in one sitting. I think I started it twice before reading it, and both times when I picked it up to start reading where I left off, I had no idea what was going on and had to start again. In the end, I definitely wouldn't say it was my favorite.

Letter4no1 said...

@Chelle - Crying of Lot 49 is really short, so it's a good place to start, but he is really daunting.

@Laura C - I had a really hard time getting into the story, but I totally agree that it would have been better just to read it in one sitting instead of begrudgingly reading a couple pages a day.

Ellen said...

i kind of love reading people's thoughts on pynchon more than i like reading pynchon, because he's such a divisive writer. i've only read two of his books, and i liked lot 49 - which is not to say i understood everything. his books are, i think, hard to read without a guide of sorts. the other book of his that i read, vineland, worked hard to become one of my Least Favorite Novels, Ever, but it's also not supposed to be one of his better ones. i guess one day i'll tackle gravity's rainbow, but for now a reread of lot 49 would probably be better. (it's also the best intro to pynchon, for sure. i started with vineland. awful, awful choice.) and i'm with you on the names sometimes being grating...everything about pynchon's writing either amuses me or drives me insane.

Emily said...

I felt the exact same way about this book. I went into it expecting it to be hard but worthwhile. I came out of it wondering why I had wasted my time. I feel like sometimes Pynchon is confusing not for the sake of art or for a message (like, for example, Tony Morrison) but just because he can be, just for the sake of being confusing, just to watch people squirm. To me that is the ultimate level of pretentious.

Jenny O. said...

I tried reading this one a few yrs ago and promptly fell asleep after rereading the first page over and over and over again. I don't get how this was a classic. I don't care how obtuse that sounds.