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Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon

Overview
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist
American literature
American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British...

. For his most praised novel, Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

, Pynchon received the National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

. Pynchon is a MacArthur Fellow noted for his dense and complex novels, and both his fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

 and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, styles
Literary genre
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children's. They also must not be confused...

 and themes
Theme (literature)
A theme is a broad, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character,...

, including (but not limited to) the fields of history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, and mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

.

Hailing from Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

, Pynchon served two years in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and earned an English
English studies
English studies is an academic discipline that includes the study of literatures written in the English language , English linguistics English studies is an academic discipline that includes the study of literatures written in the English language (including literatures from the U.K., U.S.,...

 degree from Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

.
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Quotations

Why should things be easy to understand?

Pynchon's response to Jules Siegel|Jules Siegel about the complexity of V, as quoted in "Who Is Thomas Pynchon... And Why Did He Take Off With My Wife?", Playboy (March 1977)

My belief is that "recluse" is a code word generated by journalists... meaning, "doesn't like to talk to reporters."

Phone call to CNN (5 June 1997)

I did not write those letters. This has been a hoax that I've had nothing to do with. I'm sorry it's gone on as long as it has.

On the rumors that he had written a series of letters to a newspaper using the name Wanda Tinasky|Wanda Tinasky, in a phone call to CNN (5 June 1997)

Christmas Eve, 1955, Benny Profane, wearing black levis, suede jacket, sneaker and big cowboy hat, happened to pass through Norfolk, Virginia.

First lines
Encyclopedia
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist
American literature
American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States. During its early history, America was a series of British...

. For his most praised novel, Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

, Pynchon received the National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

. Pynchon is a MacArthur Fellow noted for his dense and complex novels, and both his fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

 and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, styles
Literary genre
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children's. They also must not be confused...

 and themes
Theme (literature)
A theme is a broad, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character,...

, including (but not limited to) the fields of history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, and mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

.

Hailing from Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

, Pynchon served two years in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and earned an English
English studies
English studies is an academic discipline that includes the study of literatures written in the English language , English linguistics English studies is an academic discipline that includes the study of literatures written in the English language (including literatures from the U.K., U.S.,...

 degree from Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

. After publishing several short stories
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s for which he is best known: V.
V.
V. is the debut novel of Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963. It describes the exploits of a discharged U.S. Navy sailor named Benny Profane, his reconnection in New York with a group of pseudo-bohemian artists and hangers-on known as the Whole Sick Crew, and the quest of an aging traveller named...

(1963), The Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49 is a novel by Thomas Pynchon, first published in 1966. The shortest of Pynchon's novels, it is about a woman, Oedipa Maas, possibly unearthing the centuries-old conflict between two mail distribution companies, Thurn und Taxis and the Trystero...

(1966), Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

(1973), and Mason & Dixon
Mason & Dixon
Mason & Dixon is a postmodernist novel by American author Thomas Pynchon published in 1997. It centers on the collaboration of the historical Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in their astronomical and surveying exploits in Cape Colony, Saint Helena, Great Britain and along the Mason-Dixon line in...

(1997). Pynchon is also known for being very private; very few photographs of him have ever been published, and rumors about his location and identity have been circulated since the 1960s.

Biography


Thomas Pynchon was born in 1937 in Glen Cove
Glen Cove, New York
Glen Cove is a city in Nassau County, New York on the North Shore of Long Island. As of the United States 2010 Census, the city population was 26,964....

, Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

, New York, one of three children of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Sr. (1907–1995) and Katherine Frances Bennett (1909–1996). His earliest American ancestor, William Pynchon
William Pynchon
William Pynchon was an English colonist in North America best known as the founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, United States. He was also a colonial treasurer, original patentee of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the iconoclastic author of the New World's first banned book...

, emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

 with the Winthrop Fleet
Winthrop Fleet
The Winthrop Fleet was a group of eleven sailing ships under the leadership of John Winthrop that carried approximately 700 Puritans plus livestock and provisions from England to New England over the summer of 1630.-Motivation:...

 in 1630, and thereafter a long line of Pynchon descendants found wealth and repute on American soil. Pynchon's family background and aspects of his ancestry have provided source material for his fictions, particularly in the Slothrop family histories related in the short story "The Secret Integration
Slow Learner
Slow Learner is the 1984 published collection of six early novellas by the American novelist Thomas Pynchon, originally published in various sources between 1959 and 1964.The book is also notable for its introduction, written by Pynchon...

" (1964) and Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

(1973).

Childhood and education


Pynchon attended Oyster Bay High School
Oyster Bay High School
Oyster Bay High School is a high school located in Oyster Bay, New York. The school is a part of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District. A more comprehensive history may be found on the school's website.-History:...

 in Oyster Bay, where he was awarded 'student of the year' and contributed short fictional pieces to his school newspaper. These juvenilia incorporated some of the literary motifs and recurring subject matter he would use throughout his career: oddball names, sophomoric humor, illicit drug use, and paranoia (Pynchon 1952–3).

After graduating from high school in 1953 at the age of 16, Pynchon studied engineering physics
Engineering physics
Engineering physics is the study of the combined disciplines of physics, engineering and mathematics in order to develop an understanding of the interrelationships of these three disciplines. Fundamental physics is combined with problem solving and engineering skills, which then has broad...

 at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, but left at the end of his second year to serve in the U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

. In 1957, he returned to Cornell to pursue a degree in English. His first published story, "The Small Rain", appeared in the Cornell Writer in May 1959, and narrates an actual experience of a friend who had served in the Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

; subsequently, however, episodes and characters throughout Pynchon's fiction draw freely upon his own experiences in the Navy (Pynchon 1984: 10–11).

While at Cornell, Pynchon started his friendships with Richard Fariña
Richard Fariña
Richard George Fariña was an American writer and folksinger.-Early years and education:Richard Fariña was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Cuban and Irish descent. He grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn Technical High School...

 and David Shetzline
David Shetzline
David W. Shetzline is an American author residing in Oakridge, Oregon.Shetzline received his bachelor of arts from Cornell University in 1956 and his masters in literature from the University of Oregon in 1997. His dissertation was entitled “Quantum Dialogues: The Rhetorics of Religion and the...

; Pynchon would go on to dedicate Gravity's Rainbow to Fariña, as well as serve as his best man and as his pallbearer. Together the two briefly led what Pynchon has called a 'micro-cult' around Oakley Hall
Oakley Hall
Oakley Maxwell Hall was an American novelist. He was born in San Diego, California, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and served in the Marines during World War II. Some of his mysteries were published under the pen names "O.M...

's 1958 novel Warlock. Pynchon later reminisced about his college days in the introduction he wrote in 1983 for Fariña's novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me is a novel by Richard Fariña. First published in the United States during 1966 the novel, based largely on Fariña's college experiences and travels, is a comic picaresque story that is set in the American West, in Cuba during the Cuban Revolution, and at an...

,
first published in 1966. He reportedly attended lectures given by Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

, who then taught literature at Cornell. Although Nabokov later said that he had no memory of Pynchon, Nabokov's wife, Véra, who graded her husband's class papers, commented that she remembered his distinctive handwriting as a mixture of printed and cursive
Cursive
Cursive, also known as joined-up writing, joint writing, or running writing, is any style of handwriting in which the symbols of the language are written in a simplified and/or flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writing easier or faster...

 letters (Sweeney 2008). Other of Pynchon's teachers at Cornell, such as the novelist James McConkey, recall him as being a gifted and exceptional student. In 1958, Pynchon and Cornell classmate Kirkpatrick Sale
Kirkpatrick Sale
Kirkpatrick Sale is an independent scholar and author who has written prolifically about political decentralism, environmentalism, luddism and technology...

 wrote part or all of a science-fiction musical, Minstrel Island, which portrayed a dystopian future in which IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

 rules the world (Gibbs 1994). Pynchon received his BA in June 1959.

V.



After leaving Cornell, Pynchon began to work on his first novel: V. From February 1960 to September 1962, he was employed as a technical writer at Boeing
Boeing
The Boeing Company is an American multinational aerospace and defense corporation, founded in 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Boeing has expanded over the years, merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Boeing Corporate headquarters has been in Chicago, Illinois since 2001...

 in Seattle
Seattle, Washington
Seattle is the county seat of King County, Washington. With 608,660 residents as of the 2010 Census, Seattle is the largest city in the Northwestern United States. The Seattle metropolitan area of about 3.4 million inhabitants is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country...

, where he compiled safety articles for the Bomarc Service News (see Wisnicki 2000–1), a support newsletter for the BOMARC surface-to-air missile
Bomarc Missile Program
The CIM-10 Bomarc was the only surface-to-air missile ever deployed by the United States Air Force. All other U.S. land-based SAMs were and are under the control of the United States Army....

 deployed by the U.S. Air Force. Pynchon's experiences at Boeing inspired his depictions of the 'Yoyodyne
Yoyodyne
__notoc__Yoyodyne is the name of several companies in fiction and real life.Yoyodyne is a fictional defense contractor introduced in Thomas Pynchon's V. and featured prominently in his novel The Crying of Lot 49 . Described in the latter book as "a giant of the aerospace industry", Yoyodyne was...

' corporation in V.
V.
V. is the debut novel of Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963. It describes the exploits of a discharged U.S. Navy sailor named Benny Profane, his reconnection in New York with a group of pseudo-bohemian artists and hangers-on known as the Whole Sick Crew, and the quest of an aging traveller named...

and The Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49 is a novel by Thomas Pynchon, first published in 1966. The shortest of Pynchon's novels, it is about a woman, Oedipa Maas, possibly unearthing the centuries-old conflict between two mail distribution companies, Thurn und Taxis and the Trystero...

,
and both his background in physics and the technical journalism he undertook at Boeing provided much raw material for Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

. When published in 1963, V. won a William Faulkner Foundation Award for the best first novel of the year.

After resigning from Boeing, Pynchon spent some time in New York and Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 before moving to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, where he was reportedly based for much of the 1960s and early 1970s, most notably in an apartment in Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach, California
Manhattan Beach is the wealthiest beachfront city located in southwestern Los Angeles County, California, USA. The city is on the Pacific coast, south of El Segundo, and north of Hermosa Beach. Manhattan Beach is the home of both beach and indoor volleyball, and surfing. During the winter, the...

 (see Frost 2003), as he was composing the highly-regarded Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon during this time flirted with the lifestyle and some of the habits of the Beat
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 and hippie
Hippie
The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The etymology of the term 'hippie' is from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into San Francisco's...

 counterculture
Counterculture
Counterculture is a sociological term used to describe the values and norms of behavior of a cultural group, or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. Counterculture can also be described as a group whose behavior...

s (see, for example, Gordon 1994).

A negative aspect, in addition to several good ones, that Pynchon retrospectively found in the hippie cultural and literary movement, both in the form of the Beats of the 1950s and the resurgence form of the 1960s, was that it "placed too much emphasis on youth, including the eternal variety." (Introduction, Slow Learner
Slow Learner
Slow Learner is the 1984 published collection of six early novellas by the American novelist Thomas Pynchon, originally published in various sources between 1959 and 1964.The book is also notable for its introduction, written by Pynchon...

, 1984, pp. 8–9) Some reviewer argued that Pynchon's 1990 novel Vineland, in which former 1960s rebels, like character Frenesi Gates, betray their past and turn into hypocritical informants helping the FBI spy on suspected radicals, (Patell 2001 p. 129; Bawer 1990; Vineland 1990 p. 74 quote: "snitch community") can be taken as Pynchon's own retrospective assessments of the motives, values, and achievements of the student and youth milieux of the era, including the view that the behavior of the characters in the novel was the prevailing one within various branches of the youth movement of the 1960s, and that such behaviors had a prominent role in a failure of the social revolution in that period.

In 1964, his application to study mathematics as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 was turned down (Royster 2005). In 1966, Pynchon wrote a first-hand report on the aftermath and legacy of the Watts riots
Watts Riots
The Watts Riots or the Watts Rebellion was a civil disturbance in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California from August 11 to August 15, 1965. The 5-day riot resulted in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, and 3,438 arrests...

 in Los Angeles. Entitled "A Journey Into the Mind of Watts," the article was published in the New York Times Magazine
The New York Times Magazine
The New York Times Magazine is a Sunday magazine supplement included with the Sunday edition of The New York Times. It is host to feature articles longer than those typically in the newspaper and has attracted many notable contributors...

(Pynchon 1966).

From the mid-1960s Pynchon has also regularly provided blurbs and introductions for a wide range of novels and non-fiction works. One of the first of these pieces was a brief review of Hall's Warlock which appeared, along with comments by seven other writers on "neglected books", as part of a feature entitled "A Gift of Books" in the December 1965 issue of Holiday.

The Crying of Lot 49



In an April 1964 letter to his agent, Candida Donadio, Pynchon wrote that he was facing a creative crisis, with four novels in progress, announcing: "If they come out on paper anything like they are inside my head then it will be the literary event of the millennium." (Gussow 1998)

In December 1965, Pynchon politely turned down an invitation from Stanley Edgar Hyman
Stanley Edgar Hyman
Stanley Edgar Hyman was a literary critic who wrote primarily about critical methods: the distinct strategies critics use in approaching literary texts. Though most likely to be remembered today as the husband of writer Shirley Jackson, he was influential for the development of literary theory in...

 to teach literature at Bennington College
Bennington College
Bennington College is a liberal arts college located in Bennington, Vermont, USA. The college was founded in 1932 as a women's college and became co-educational in 1969.-History:-Early years:...

, writing that he had resolved, two or three years earlier, to write three novels at once. Pynchon described the decision as "a moment of temporary insanity", but noted that he was "too stubborn to let any of them go, let alone all of them." (see McLemee 2006)

Pynchon's second novel, The Crying of Lot 49, was published a few months later in 1966. Whether it was one of the three or four novels Pynchon had in progress is not known, but in a 1965 letter to Donadio, Pynchon had written that he was in the middle of writing a "potboiler". When the book grew to 155 pages, he called it, "a short story, but with gland trouble", and hoped that Donadio could "unload it on some poor sucker." (Gussow 1998)

The Crying of Lot 49 won the Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Foundation Award shortly after publication. Although more concise and linear in its structure than Pynchon's other novels, its labyrinthine plot features an ancient, underground mail service known as 'The Tristero' or 'Trystero', a parody of a Jacobean revenge drama
Revenge play
The revenge play or revenge tragedy is a form of tragedy which was extremely popular in the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. The best-known of these are Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and William Shakespeare's Hamlet...

 called The Courier's Tragedy, and a corporate conspiracy involving the bones of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 American GIs
GI (term)
G.I. is a noun used to describe members of the United States armed forces or items of their equipment. The term is now used as an initialism of "Government Issue" , but originally referred to galvanized iron....

 being used as charcoal cigarette filter
Cigarette filter
A cigarette filter has the purpose of reducing the amount of smoke, tar, and fine particles inhaled during the combustion of a cigarette. Filters also reduce the harshness of the smoke and keep tobacco flakes out of the smoker's mouth.-History:...

s. It proposes a series of seemingly incredible interconnections between these events and other similarly bizarre revelations that confront the novel's protagonist, Oedipa Maas. Like V., the novel contains a wealth of references to science and technology and to obscure historical events, with both books dwelling on the detritus of American society and culture. The Crying of Lot 49 also continues Pynchon's strategy of composing parodic song lyrics and punning names, and referencing aspects of popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

 within his prose narratives. In particular, it incorporates a very direct allusion to the protagonist of Nabokov's Lolita
Lolita
Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York, and later translated by the author into Russian...

within the lyric of a love lament sung by a member of 'The Paranoids', a teenage band who deliberately sing their songs with British accents (p. 17).

In 1968, Pynchon was one of 447 signatories to the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest". Full-page advertisements in The New York Post and The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books is a fortnightly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs. Published in New York City, it takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity...

listed the names of those who had pledged not to pay "the proposed 10% income tax surcharge or any war-designated tax increase", and stated their belief "that American involvement in Vietnam is morally wrong". (New York Review of Books 1968:9)

Gravity's Rainbow



Pynchon's most celebrated novel is his third, Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

, published in 1973. An intricate and allusive fiction that combines and elaborates on many of the themes of his earlier work, including preterition
Apophasis
Apophasis refers, in general, to "mention by not mentioning". Apophasis covers a wide variety of figures of speech.-Apophasis:...

, paranoia
Paranoia
Paranoia [] is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself...

, racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

, colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

, conspiracy
Conspiracy theory
A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.-Usage:The term "conspiracy...

, synchronicity
Synchronicity
Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance and that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner...

, and entropy
Entropy
Entropy is a thermodynamic property that can be used to determine the energy available for useful work in a thermodynamic process, such as in energy conversion devices, engines, or machines. Such devices can only be driven by convertible energy, and have a theoretical maximum efficiency when...

 (Plater 1978; Chambers 1982), the novel has spawned a wealth of commentary and critical material, including reader's guides (Fowler 1980; Weisenburger 1988), books and scholarly articles, online concordances and discussions, and art works. Its artistic value is often compared to that of James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

's Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

(Ruch 2000). Some scholars have hailed it as the greatest American post-WW2 novel (Almansi 1994: 226), and it has similarly been described as "literally an anthology of postmodernist themes and devices" (McHale 1987: 16).

The major portion of Gravity's Rainbow takes place in London and Europe in the final months of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the weeks immediately following VE Day
Victory in Europe Day
Victory in Europe Day commemorates 8 May 1945 , the date when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The formal surrender of the occupying German forces in the Channel Islands was not...

, and is narrated for the most part from within the historical moment in which it is set. In this way, Pynchon's text enacts a type of dramatic irony
Irony
Irony is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is a sharp incongruity or discordance that goes beyond the simple and evident intention of words or actions...

 whereby neither the characters nor the various narrative voices
Narrator
A narrator is, within any story , the fictional or non-fictional, personal or impersonal entity who tells the story to the audience. When the narrator is also a character within the story, he or she is sometimes known as the viewpoint character. The narrator is one of three entities responsible for...

 are aware of specific historical circumstances, such as the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 and, except as hints, premonitions and mythography, the complicity between Western corporate interests and the Nazi war machine, which figure prominently in readers' apprehensions of the novel's historical context. For example, at war's end the narrator observes: "There are rumors of a War Crimes Tribunal under way in Nürnberg. No one Slothrop has listened to is clear who's trying whom for what ... " (p. 681) Such an approach generates dynamic tension and moments of acute self-consciousness, as both reader and author seem drawn ever deeper into the "plot", in various senses of that term:
The novel invokes anti-authority sentiments, often through violations of narrative conventions and integrity. For example, as the aforementioned protagonist, Tyrone Slothrop, considers the fact that his own family "made its money killing trees", he apostrophizes his apology and plea for advice to the coppice within which he has momentarily taken refuge. In an overt incitement to eco-activism, Pynchon's narrative agency then has it that "a medium-sized pine nearby nods its top and suggests, 'Next time you come across a logging operation out here, find one of their tractors that isn't being guarded, and take its oil filter with you. That's what you can do.'" (p. 553)

Encyclopedic in scope and often self-conscious in style, the novel displays erudition in its treatment of an array of material drawn from the fields of psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, chemistry, mathematics, history, religion, music, literature and film. Pynchon wrote the first draft of Gravity's Rainbow in "neat, tiny script on engineer's quadrille paper". (Weisenburger 1988) Pynchon worked on the novel throughout the 1960s and early 1970s while he was living in California and Mexico City.

Gravity's Rainbow was a joint winner of the 1974 National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

 for Fiction, along with Isaac Bashevis Singer
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Isaac Bashevis Singer – July 24, 1991) was a Polish Jewish American author noted for his short stories. He was one of the leading figures in the Yiddish literary movement, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978...

's A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories. In the same year, the fiction jury unanimously recommended Gravity's Rainbow for the Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 though the Pulitzer board vetoed the jury's recommendation, describing the novel as "unreadable", "turgid", "overwritten", and in parts "obscene", and no prize was awarded. (Kihss 1974) In 1975, Pynchon declined the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
The William Dean Howells Medal is awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Established in 1925, it is given once every five years, generally in recognition of the most distinguished American novel published during that period, although some awards have been made to novelists for their...

.

Later career


A collection of Pynchon's early short stories, Slow Learner
Slow Learner
Slow Learner is the 1984 published collection of six early novellas by the American novelist Thomas Pynchon, originally published in various sources between 1959 and 1964.The book is also notable for its introduction, written by Pynchon...

, was published in 1984, with a lengthy autobiographical
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 introduction. In October of the same year, an article entitled "Is It O.K. to Be a Luddite?" was published in the New York Times Book Review. In April 1988, Pynchon contributed an extensive review of Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez is a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo throughout Latin America. He is considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in...

's novel Love in the Time of Cholera
Love in the Time of Cholera
Love in the Time of Cholera is a novel by Nobel Prize winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez first published in the Spanish language during 1985. Alfred A. Knopf published the English translation during 1988...

to the New York Times, under the title "The Heart's Eternal Vow". Another article, entitled "Nearer, My Couch, to Thee", was published in June 1993 in the New York Times Book Review, as one in a series of articles in which various writers reflected on each of the Seven Deadly Sins
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

. Pynchon's subject was "Sloth
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

".

Vineland



Pynchon's fourth novel, Vineland
Vineland
Vineland is a 1990 novel by Thomas Pynchon, a postmodern fiction set in California, United States in 1984, the year of Ronald Reagan's re-election...

, was published in 1990, but disappointed a majority of fans and critics. It did, however, receive some positive reviews, notably from the novelist Salman Rushdie. The novel is set in California in the 1980s and 1960s, and describes the relationship between an FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO
COINTELPRO was a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.COINTELPRO tactics included discrediting targets through psychological...

 agent and a female radical filmmaker. Its strong socio-political undercurrents detail the constant battle between authoritarianism
Authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy...

 and communalism
Communalism
Communalism is a term with three distinct meanings according to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary'.'These include "a theory of government or a system of government in which independent communes participate in a federation". "the principles and practice of communal ownership"...

, and the nexus between resistance
Resistance movement
A resistance movement is a group or collection of individual groups, dedicated to opposing an invader in an occupied country or the government of a sovereign state. It may seek to achieve its objects through either the use of nonviolent resistance or the use of armed force...

 and complicity, but with a typically Pynchonian sense of humor. (Rushdie 1990; Berressem 1992: 236-7)

In 1988, he received a MacArthur Fellowship and, since the early 1990s at least, many observers have mentioned Pynchon as a Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 contender (see, for example, Grimes 1993; Ervin 2000). Renowned American literary critic Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic, and is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is known for his defense of 19th-century Romantic poets, his unique and controversial theories of poetic influence, and his prodigious literary output, particularly for a literary...

 named him as one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo is an American author, playwright, and occasional essayist whose work paints a detailed portrait of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries...

, Philip Roth
Philip Roth
Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of Jewish-American life that earned him a National Book Award...

, and Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels, spanning the Southern Gothic, Western, and modernist genres. He received the Pulitzer Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction for The Road...

.http://www.avclub.com/articles/harold-bloom-on-blood-meridian,29214/

Mason & Dixon



Pynchon's fifth novel, Mason & Dixon
Mason & Dixon
Mason & Dixon is a postmodernist novel by American author Thomas Pynchon published in 1997. It centers on the collaboration of the historical Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in their astronomical and surveying exploits in Cape Colony, Saint Helena, Great Britain and along the Mason-Dixon line in...

, was published in 1997, though it had been a work in progress since at least January 1975. (Gussow 1998; Ulin 1997)

The meticulously researched novel is a sprawling postmodernist
Postmodern literature
The term Postmodern literature is used to describe certain characteristics of post–World War II literature and a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature.Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is hard to define and there is little agreement on the exact...

 saga recounting the lives and careers of the English astronomer, Charles Mason
Charles Mason
Charles Mason was an English astronomer who made significant contributions to 18th-century science and American history, particularly through his involvement with the survey of the Mason-Dixon line, which came to mark the division between the northern and southern United States...

, and his partner, the surveyor Jeremiah Dixon
Jeremiah Dixon
Jeremiah Dixon was an English surveyor and astronomer who is perhaps best known for his work with Charles Mason, from 1763 to 1767, in determining what was later called the Mason-Dixon line....

, the surveyors of the Mason-Dixon line
Mason-Dixon line
The Mason–Dixon Line was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute between British colonies in Colonial America. It forms a demarcation line among four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and...

, during the birth of the American Republic
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. The majority of commentators acknowledged it as a welcome return to form. The noted American critic Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic, and is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is known for his defense of 19th-century Romantic poets, his unique and controversial theories of poetic influence, and his prodigious literary output, particularly for a literary...

 has hailed the novel as Pynchon's "masterpiece to date". (Bloom 2003)

Against the Day



A variety of rumors pertaining to the subject matter of Against the Day
Against the Day
Against the Day is a novel by Thomas Pynchon. The narrative takes place between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the time immediately following World War I and features more than a hundred characters spread across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central Asia, and "one or two places not strictly...

circulated for a number of years. Most specific of these were comments made by the former German minister of culture, Michael Naumann
Michael Naumann
Michael Naumann is a German politician, publisher and journalist. He was the German secretary of culture from 1998 until 2001. He is married to Marie Warburg, daughter of Eric Warburg and granddaughter of Max Warburg....

, who stated that he assisted Pynchon in his research about "a Russian mathematician [who] studied for David Hilbert
David Hilbert
David Hilbert was a German mathematician. He is recognized as one of the most influential and universal mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in many areas, including invariant theory and the axiomatization of...

 in Göttingen
Göttingen
Göttingen is a university town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Göttingen. The Leine river runs through the town. In 2006 the population was 129,686.-General information:...

", and that the new novel would trace the life and loves of Sofia Kovalevskaya
Sofia Kovalevskaya
Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya , was the first major Russian female mathematician, responsible for important original contributions to analysis, differential equations and mechanics, and the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe.She was also one of the first females to...

.

In July 2006, a new untitled novel by Pynchon was announced along with a synopsis written by Pynchon himself, which appeared on Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

, it stated that the novel's action takes place between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair
World's Columbian Exposition
The World's Columbian Exposition was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Chicago bested New York City; Washington, D.C.; and St...

 and the time immediately following World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. "With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead", Pynchon wrote in his book description
Blurb
A blurb is a short summary or some words of praise accompanying a creative work, usually used on books without giving away any details, that is usually referring to the words on the back of the book jacket but also commonly seen on DVD and video cases, web portals, and news websites.- History :The...

, "it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred." He promised cameos by Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer...

, Bela Lugosi
Béla Lugosi
Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó , commonly known as Bela Lugosi, was a Hungarian actor of stage and screen. He was best known for having played Count Dracula in the Broadway play and subsequent film version, as well as having starred in several of Ed Wood's low budget films in the last years of his...

 and Groucho Marx
Groucho Marx
Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx was an American comedian and film star famed as a master of wit. His rapid-fire delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers. He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born...

, as well as "stupid songs" and "strange sexual practices". Subsequently, the title of the new book was reported to be Against the Day
Against the Day
Against the Day is a novel by Thomas Pynchon. The narrative takes place between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the time immediately following World War I and features more than a hundred characters spread across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central Asia, and "one or two places not strictly...

and a Penguin spokesperson confirmed that the synopsis was Pynchon's. (Patterson 2006ab; Italie 2006)

Against the Day
Against the Day
Against the Day is a novel by Thomas Pynchon. The narrative takes place between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the time immediately following World War I and features more than a hundred characters spread across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central Asia, and "one or two places not strictly...

was released on November 21, 2006 and is 1,085 pages long in the first edition hardcover. The book was given almost no promotion by Penguin and professional book reviewers were given little time in advance to review the book, presumably in accord with Pynchon's wishes. An edited version of Pynchon's synopsis was used as the jacket flap copy and Kovalevskaya does appear, although as only one of over a hundred characters.

Composed predominantly of a series of interwoven pastiches of popular fiction genres from the era in which it is set, the novel inspired several reactions from critics and reviewers. One reviewer in Time magazine remarked that, "It is brilliant, but it is exhaustingly brilliant."(Complete Review 2006) The novel's extensive condemnation of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

, and its loyalty to the 1960s ideals, was received with great regret by mainstream critics in the US. (Pincio 2009, Complete Review 2006) Some made the point that this was ostensibly the culmination of Pynchon's career and a summation of his personal philosophy, while others suggested that it was a "loose baggy monster" which had been pieced together from several long-time Pynchonian works-in-progress and offcuts from other of his novels.

Inherent Vice



Information regarding a new Pynchon novel scheduled for publication in August 2009 was leaked in October 2008 (Kellogg 2008) and subsequently confirmed by a spokesperson for Penguin Press. The leak was correct and the novel was published in August 2009.

A synopsis and brief extract from the novel, along with the novel's title, Inherent Vice, and dust jacket image, were printed in Penguin Press' Summer 2009 catalogue (Penguin 2009a: 28–9, 44). The book was advertised by the publisher as "part- noir
Hardboiled
Hardboiled crime fiction is a literary style, most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. The style was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined...

, part- psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye
Private investigator
A private investigator , private detective or inquiry agent, is a person who can be hired by individuals or groups to undertake investigatory law services. Private detectives/investigators often work for attorneys in civil cases. Many work for insurance companies to investigate suspicious claims...

 Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love
Free love
The term free love has been used to describe a social movement that rejects marriage, which is seen as a form of social bondage. The Free Love movement’s initial goal was to separate the state from sexual matters such as marriage, birth control, and adultery...

 slips away and paranoia
Paranoia
Paranoia [] is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself...

 creeps in with the L.A. fog." (Penguin 2009a)

A promotional video for the novel was released by Penguin Books on August 4, 2009, with the character voiceover narrated by the author himself. (Penguin 2009b) This may be found on Youtube
YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos....

.
There have been rumors that award-winning writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He has written and directed five feature films: Hard Eight , Boogie Nights , Magnolia , Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood...

 is working on a film version of the novel. It would be the first Pynchon work adapted to the screen.

Style


Poet L. E. Sissman, wrote from The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

: "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 echoes of a drudged and drunken orgy."(Sissman 1973)

Themes


Along with its emphasis on sociopolitical themes such as racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 and imperialism
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

, its awareness and appropriation of many elements of traditional high culture
High culture
High culture is a term, now used in a number of different ways in academic discourse, whose most common meaning is the set of cultural products, mainly in the arts, held in the highest esteem by a culture...

 and literary
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 form, Pynchon's work explores philosophical, theological, and sociological ideas exhaustively, though in quirky and approachable ways. His writings demonstrate a strong affinity with the practitioners and artifacts of low culture
Low culture
Low culture is a term for some forms of popular culture. Its opposite is high culture. It has been said by culture theorists that both high culture and low culture are subcultures....

, including comic book
Comic book
A comic book or comicbook is a magazine made up of comics, narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog as well as including...

s and cartoons
Animated cartoon
An animated cartoon is a short, hand-drawn film for the cinema, television or computer screen, featuring some kind of story or plot...

, pulp fiction
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...

, popular films, television programs
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, cookery, urban myths, conspiracy theories, and folk art
Folk art
Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic....

. This blurring of the conventional boundary between "High" and "low" culture, sometimes interpreted as a "deconstruction
Deconstruction
Deconstruction is a term introduced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology. Although he carefully avoided defining the term directly, he sought to apply Martin Heidegger's concept of Destruktion or Abbau, to textual reading...

", is seen as one of the defining characteristics of postmodernism (Mead 1989; Krafft 2008).

In particular, Pynchon has revealed himself in his fiction and non-fiction as an aficionado of popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

. Song lyrics and mock musical numbers appear in each of his novels, and, in his autobiographical introduction to the Slow Learner
Slow Learner
Slow Learner is the 1984 published collection of six early novellas by the American novelist Thomas Pynchon, originally published in various sources between 1959 and 1964.The book is also notable for its introduction, written by Pynchon...

collection of early stories, he reveals a fondness for both jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 and rock and roll
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

. The character McClintic Sphere in V. is a fictional composite of jazz musicians such as Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman is an American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s....

, Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charles Parker, Jr. , famously called Bird or Yardbird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer....

 and Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer considered "one of the giants of American music". Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser"...

. In The Crying of Lot 49, the lead singer of "The Paranoids" sports "a Beatle
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

 haircut" and sings with an English accent. In the closing pages of Gravity's Rainbow, there is an apocryphal report that Tyrone Slothrop, the novel's protagonist, played kazoo
Kazoo
The kazoo is a wind instrument which adds a "buzzing" timbral quality to a player's voice when the player vocalizes into it. The kazoo is a type of mirliton, which is a membranophone, a device which modifies the sound of a person's voice by way of a vibrating membrane."Kazoo" was the name given by...

 and harmonica
Harmonica
The harmonica, also called harp, French harp, blues harp, and mouth organ, is a free reed wind instrument used primarily in blues and American folk music, jazz, country, and rock and roll. It is played by blowing air into it or drawing air out by placing lips over individual holes or multiple holes...

 as a guest musician on a record released by The Fool
The Fool (design collective)
The Fool were a Dutch design collective and band who were influential in the psychedelic style of art in British popular music in the late 1960s. The colourful art draws on many fantastical and mystical themes...

 in the 1960s (having magically
Magic realism
Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of...

 recovered the latter instrument, his "harp
Blues harp
The Richter-tuned harmonica, or 10-hole harmonica or blues harp , is the most widely known type of harmonica...

", in a German stream in 1945, after losing it down the toilet in 1939 at the Roseland Ballroom in Roxbury
Roxbury, Massachusetts
Roxbury is a dissolved municipality and current neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, and became a city in 1846 until annexed to Boston on January 5, 1868...

, Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, to the strains of the jazz standard 'Cherokee', upon which tune Charlie Parker was simultaneously inventing bebop
Bebop
Bebop differed drastically from the straightforward compositions of the swing era, and was instead characterized by fast tempos, asymmetrical phrasing, intricate melodies, and rhythm sections that expanded on their role as tempo-keepers...

 in New York, as Pynchon describes). In Vineland, both Zoyd Wheeler and Isaiah Two Four are also musicians: Zoyd played keyboards in a '60s surf
Surf music
Surf music is a genre of popular music associated with surf culture, particularly as found in Orange County and other areas of Southern California. It was particularly popular between 1961 and 1965, has subsequently been revived and was highly influential on subsequent rock music...

 band called "The Corvairs", while Isaiah played in a punk
Punk rock
Punk rock is a rock music genre that developed between 1974 and 1976 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in garage rock and other forms of what is now known as protopunk music, punk rock bands eschewed perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock...

 band called "Billy Barf and the Vomitones". In Mason & Dixon, one of the characters plays on the "Clavier" the varsity drinking song which will later become "The Star-Spangled Banner
The Star-Spangled Banner
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States of America. The lyrics come from "Defence of Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships...

"; whilst in another episode a character remarks tangentially "Sometimes, it's hard to be a woman"
Stand By Your Man
"Stand by Your Man" is a song co-written by Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill and originally recorded by Tammy Wynette, released as a single in September 1968 in the USA...

.

In his introduction to Slow Learner
Slow Learner
Slow Learner is the 1984 published collection of six early novellas by the American novelist Thomas Pynchon, originally published in various sources between 1959 and 1964.The book is also notable for its introduction, written by Pynchon...

, Pynchon acknowledges a debt to the anarchic bandleader Spike Jones
Spike Jones
Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny and other Warner Brothers cartoon characters, performed a drunken, hiccuping verse for 1942's "Clink! Clink! Another Drink"...

, and in 1994, he penned a 3000-word set of liner notes
Liner notes
Liner notes are the writings found in booklets which come inserted into the compact disc jewel case or the equivalent packaging for vinyl records and cassettes.-Origin:...

 for the album Spiked!, a collection of Jones's recordings released on the short-lived BMG Catalyst label. Pynchon also wrote the liner notes for Nobody's Cool, the second album of indie rock
Indie rock
Indie rock is a genre of alternative rock that originated in the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1980s. Indie rock is extremely diverse, with sub-genres that include lo-fi, post-rock, math rock, indie pop, dream pop, noise rock, space rock, sadcore, riot grrrl and emo, among others...

 band Lotion
Lotion (band)
Lotion was a Manhattan indie rock band formed in 1991 by brothers Bill and Jim Ferguson , drummer Rob Youngberg, and vocalist Tony Zajkowski.-Career:...

, in which he states that "rock and roll remains one of the last honorable callings, and a working band is a miracle of everyday life. Which is basically what these guys do." He is also known to be a fan of Roky Erickson
Roky Erickson
Roky Erickson is an American singer, songwriter, harmonica player and guitarist from Texas. He was a founding member of the 13th Floor Elevators and a pioneer of the psychedelic rock genre.-Biography:...

.

Investigations and digressions into the realms of human sexuality
Human sexuality
Human sexuality is the awareness of gender differences, and the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Human sexuality can also be described as the way someone is sexually attracted to another person whether it is to opposite sexes , to the same sex , to either sexes , or not being...

, psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, and technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 recur throughout Pynchon's works. One of his earliest short stories, "Low-lands" (1960), features a meditation on Heisenberg's
Werner Heisenberg
Werner Karl Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory...

 uncertainty principle
Uncertainty principle
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known...

 as a metaphor for telling stories about one's own experiences. His next published work, "Entropy" (1960), introduced the concept
Entropy
Entropy is a thermodynamic property that can be used to determine the energy available for useful work in a thermodynamic process, such as in energy conversion devices, engines, or machines. Such devices can only be driven by convertible energy, and have a theoretical maximum efficiency when...

 which was to become synonymous with Pynchon's name (though Pynchon later admitted the "shallowness of [his] understanding" of the subject, and noted that choosing an abstract concept first and trying to construct a narrative around it was "a lousy way to go about writing a story"). Another early story, "Under the Rose" (1961), includes amongst its cast of characters a cyborg
Cyborg
A cyborg is a being with both biological and artificial parts. The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. D. S...

 set anachronistically in Victorian-era Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 (a type of writing now called steampunk
Steampunk
Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain or "Wild West"-era United...

). This story, significantly reworked by Pynchon, appears as Chapter 3 of V. "The Secret Integration" (1964), Pynchon's last published short story, is a sensitively-handled coming-of-age tale in which a group of young boys face the consequences of the American policy of racial integration
Racial integration
Racial integration, or simply integration includes desegregation . In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely...

. At one point in the story, the boys attempt to understand the new policy by way of the mathematical operation
Antiderivative
In calculus, an "anti-derivative", antiderivative, primitive integral or indefinite integralof a function f is a function F whose derivative is equal to f, i.e., F ′ = f...

, the only sense of the word with which they are familiar.

The Crying of Lot 49 also alludes to entropy and communication theory
Communication theory
Communication theory is a field of information and mathematics that studies the technical process of information and the human process of human communication.- History :- Origins :...

, and contains scenes and descriptions which parody or appropriate calculus
Calculus
Calculus is a branch of mathematics focused on limits, functions, derivatives, integrals, and infinite series. This subject constitutes a major part of modern mathematics education. It has two major branches, differential calculus and integral calculus, which are related by the fundamental theorem...

, Zeno's paradoxes
Zeno's paradoxes
Zeno's paradoxes are a set of problems generally thought to have been devised by Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea to support Parmenides's doctrine that "all is one" and that, contrary to the evidence of our senses, the belief in plurality and change is mistaken, and in particular that motion is...

, and the thought experiment
Thought experiment
A thought experiment or Gedankenexperiment considers some hypothesis, theory, or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences...

 known as Maxwell's demon
Maxwell's demon
In the philosophy of thermal and statistical physics, Maxwell's demon is a thought experiment created by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell to "show that the Second Law of Thermodynamics has only a statistical certainty." It demonstrates Maxwell's point by hypothetically describing how to...

. At the same time, the novel also investigates homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

, celibacy
Celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

 and both medically-sanctioned and illicit psychedelic drug
Psychedelic drug
A psychedelic substance is a psychoactive drug whose primary action is to alter cognition and perception. Psychedelics are part of a wider class of psychoactive drugs known as hallucinogens, a class that also includes related substances such as dissociatives and deliriants...

 use. Gravity's Rainbow describes many varieties of sexual fetish
Sexual fetishism
Sexual fetishism, or erotic fetishism, is the sexual arousal a person receives from a physical object, or from a specific situation. The object or situation of interest is called the fetish, the person a fetishist who has a fetish for that object/situation. Sexual fetishism may be regarded, e.g...

ism (including sado-masochism, coprophilia
Coprophilia
Coprophilia , also called scatophilia or scat, is the paraphilia involving sexual pleasure from feces...

 and a borderline case of tentacle rape
Tentacle rape
is found in some horror or hentai titles, with tentacled creatures having sexual intercourse with female characters. The genre is popular enough in Japan that its occasionally even the subject of parody. In recent years, Japanese and Asian films of this genre have become more common in the United...

), and features numerous episodes of drug use, most notably marijuana
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 but also cocaine
Cocaine
Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

, naturally occurring hallucinogens, and the mushroom Amanita muscaria
Amanita muscaria
Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita , is a poisonous and psychoactive basidiomycete fungus, one of many in the genus Amanita...

.
Gravity's Rainbow also derives much from Pynchon's background in mathematics: at one point, the geometry of garter belts is compared with that of cathedral
Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 spires, both described as mathematical singularities
Mathematical singularity
In mathematics, a singularity is in general a point at which a given mathematical object is not defined, or a point of an exceptional set where it fails to be well-behaved in some particular way, such as differentiability...

. Mason & Dixon explores the scientific, theological, and socio-cultural foundations of the Age of Reason
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 whilst also depicting the relationships between actual historical figures and fictional characters in intricate detail and, like Gravity's Rainbow, is an archetypal example of the genre of historiographic metafiction.

Influence



An eclectic catalogue of Pynchonian precursors has been proposed by readers and critics. Beside overt references in the novels to writers as disparate as
Henry Adams,
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. He was professor in philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1939 until 1947...

,
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico was a pre-Surrealist and then Surrealist Italian painter born in Volos, Greece, to a Genovese mother and a Sicilian father. He founded the scuola metafisica art movement...

,
Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life...

,
William March
William March
William March was an American author and a highly decorated US Marine. The author of six novels and four short-story collections, March was praised by critics and heralded as "the unrecognized genius of our time", without attaining popular appeal until after his death.March grew up in rural...

,
Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke , better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian–Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language...

,
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

,
Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Scott Reed is an American poet, essayist, and novelist. A prominent African-American literary figure, Reed is known for his satirical works challenging American political culture, and highlighting political and cultural oppression.Reed has been described as one of the most controversial...

,
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

,
Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O'Brian, CBE , born Richard Patrick Russ, was an English novelist and translator, best known for his Aubrey–Maturin series of novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and centred on the friendship of English Naval Captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish–Catalan physician Stephen...

, and
Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco Knight Grand Cross is an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, best known for his novel The Name of the Rose , an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...

 and to an eclectic mix of iconic religious and philosophical sources, credible comparisons with works by
Rabelais,
Cervantes
Cervantes
-People:*Alfonso J. Cervantes , mayor of St. Louis, Missouri*Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, 16th-century man of letters*Ignacio Cervantes, Cuban composer*Jorge Cervantes, a world-renowned expert on indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse cannabis cultivation...

,
Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne was an Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics...

,
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

,
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

,
Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

,
Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

,
Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad was a Polish-born English novelist.Conrad is regarded as one of the great novelists in English, although he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties...

,
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual...

,
William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
William Seward Burroughs II was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th...

,
Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison
Ralph Waldo Ellison was an American novelist, literary critic, scholar and writer. He was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953...

,
Patrick White
Patrick White
Patrick Victor Martindale White , an Australian author, is widely regarded as an important English-language novelist of the 20th century. From 1935 until his death, he published 12 novels, two short-story collections and eight plays.White's fiction employs humour, florid prose, shifting narrative...

, and
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved...

 have been made.

Some commentators have detected similarities with those writers in the Modernist tradition who wrote extremely long novels dealing with large metaphysical
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 or political issues. Examples of such works might include Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

by James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

,
A Passage to India
A Passage to India
A Passage to India is a novel by E. M. Forster set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. It was selected as one of the 100 great works of English literature by the Modern Library and won the 1924 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Time...

by E.M. Forster,
The Castle by Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

,
The Apes of God
The Apes of God
The Apes of God is a 1930 novel by the British artist and writer Wyndham Lewis. It is a satire of London's contemporary literary and artistic scene....

by Wyndham Lewis
Wyndham Lewis
Percy Wyndham Lewis was an English painter and author . He was a co-founder of the Vorticist movement in art, and edited the literary magazine of the Vorticists, BLAST...

,
The Man Without Qualities
The Man Without Qualities
The Man Without Qualities is an unfinished novel in three books by the Austrian writer Robert Musil....

by Robert Musil
Robert Musil
Robert Musil was an Austrian writer. His unfinished long novel The Man Without Qualities is generally considered to be one of the most important modernist novels...

, and
U.S.A.
U.S.A. trilogy
The U.S.A. Trilogy is a major work of American writer John Dos Passos, comprising the novels The 42nd Parallel ; 1919, also known as Nineteen Nineteen ; and The Big Money . The three books were first published together in a single volume titled U.S.A by Harcourt Brace in January, 1938...

by John Dos Passos
John Dos Passos
John Roderigo Dos Passos was an American novelist and artist.-Early life:Born in Chicago, Illinois, Dos Passos was the illegitimate son of John Randolph Dos Passos , a distinguished lawyer of Madeiran Portuguese descent, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison of Petersburg, Virginia. The elder Dos Passos...

. In his 'Introduction' to Slow Learner, Pynchon explicitly acknowledges his debt to Beat Generation
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 writers, and expresses his admiration for Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac
Jean-Louis "Jack" Lebris de Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic...

's On the Road
On the Road
On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, written in April 1951, and published by Viking Press in 1957. It is a largely autobiographical work that was based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of...

in particular; he also reveals his familiarity with literary works by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, Henry Miller
Henry Miller
Henry Valentine Miller was an American novelist and painter. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of 'novel' that is a mixture of novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism, one that is...

, Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow was a Canadian-born Jewish American writer. For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts...

, Herbert Gold
Herbert Gold
-Early life:Gold was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in Lakewood, a community he was later to memorialize in his first book, Birth of a Hero, published in 1951 by Viking Press. He moved to New York City at age 17 after several of his poems had been accepted by New York literary magazines...

, Philip Roth
Philip Roth
Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of Jewish-American life that earned him a National Book Award...

 and Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer
Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S...

, and non-fiction works by Helen Waddell
Helen Waddell
Helen Jane Waddell was an Irish poet, translator and playwright.-Biography:She was born in Tokyo, the tenth and youngest child of Hugh Waddell, a Presbyterian minister and missionary who was lecturing in the Imperial University. She spent the first eleven years of her life in Japan before her...

, Norbert Wiener
Norbert Wiener
Norbert Wiener was an American mathematician.A famous child prodigy, Wiener later became an early researcher in stochastic and noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronic engineering, electronic communication, and control systems.Wiener is regarded as the originator of cybernetics, a...

 and Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...

.

Comparisons with other authors


Contemporary American authors whose fiction is often categorized alongside Pynchon's include
John Hawkes,
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle , Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.-Early...

,
Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson , known to friends as "Bob", was an American author and polymath who became at various times a novelist, philosopher, psychologist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, civil libertarian and self-described agnostic mystic...

,
Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller was a US satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. His best known work is Catch-22, a novel about US servicemen during World War II...

,
Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme was an American author known for his playful, postmodernist style of short fiction. Barthelme also worked as a newspaper reporter for the Houston Post, managing editor of Location magazine, director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston , co-founder of Fiction Donald...

,
Steve Erickson
Steve Erickson
Stephen Michael Erickson is an American novelist, essayist and film critic. He is the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters's Award in Literature and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation., and is considered an important representative of the Avantpop...

,
John Barth
John Barth
John Simmons Barth is an American novelist and short-story writer, known for the postmodernist and metafictive quality of his work.-Life:...

,
William Gaddis
William Gaddis
William Thomas Gaddis, Jr. was an American novelist. He wrote five novels, two of which won National Book Awards and one of which, The Recognitions , was chosen as one of TIME magazine's 100 best novels from 1923 to 2005...

,
Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo is an American author, playwright, and occasional essayist whose work paints a detailed portrait of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries...

, and
Joseph McElroy
Joseph McElroy
Joseph McElroy is an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist.McElroy grew up in Brooklyn Heights, NY, a neighborhood that features prominently in much of his fiction. He received his B.A. from Williams College in 1951 and his M.A. from Columbia University in 1952...

 (Mead 1989; Krafft 2008).

The wildly eccentric characters, frenzied action, frequent digressions, and imposing lengths of Pynchon's novels have led critic James Wood
James Wood (critic)
James Wood is a literary critic, essayist and novelist. he is Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine.-Background and education:...

 to classify Pynchon's work as hysterical realism
Hysterical realism
Hysterical realism, also called recherché postmodernism, is a term coined in 2000 by the English critic James Wood in an essay on Zadie Smith's White Teeth to describe what he sees as a literary genre typified by a strong contrast between elaborately absurd prose, plotting, or characterization and...

. Other writers whose work has been labeled as hysterical realism include Steve Erickson
Steve Erickson
Stephen Michael Erickson is an American novelist, essayist and film critic. He is the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters's Award in Literature and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation., and is considered an important representative of the Avantpop...

, Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson
Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction.Difficult to categorize, his novels have been variously referred to as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk...

, and Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith is a British novelist. To date she has written three novels. In 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors...

.

Epigones


Younger contemporary writers who have been touted as heirs to Pynchon include David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace was an American author of novels, essays, and short stories, and a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California...

, William Vollmann, Richard Powers
Richard Powers
Richard Powers is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology.- Life and work :...

, Steve Erickson
Steve Erickson
Stephen Michael Erickson is an American novelist, essayist and film critic. He is the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters's Award in Literature and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation., and is considered an important representative of the Avantpop...

, David Mitchell
David Mitchell (author)
David Stephen Mitchell is an English novelist. He has written five novels, two of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize.- Biography :...

, Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson
Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction.Difficult to categorize, his novels have been variously referred to as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk...

, Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers is an American writer, editor, and publisher. He is known for the best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and for his more recent work as a screenwriter. He is also the co-founder of the literacy project 826 Valencia.-Life:Eggers was born in Boston, Massachusetts,...

, and Tommaso Pincio
Tommaso Pincio
Tommaso Pincio is the pseudonym of Marco Colapietro, an Italian author of five novels, including Love-shaped story, the only one translated in English so far.- Pseudonym :...

 whose pseudonym is an Italian rendering of Pynchon's name.

Pynchon's work has been cited as an influence and inspiration by many writers and artists, including
T. Coraghessan Boyle
T. Coraghessan Boyle
Tom Coraghessan Boyle is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the mid 1970s, he has published twelve novels and more than 100 short stories...

,
David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace was an American author of novels, essays, and short stories, and a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California...

,
Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo is an American author, playwright, and occasional essayist whose work paints a detailed portrait of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries...

,
Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin, OBE, DL , is a Scottish crime writer. His best known books are the Inspector Rebus novels. He has also written several pieces of literary criticism.-Background:He attended Beath High School, Cowdenbeath...

,
William Gibson
William Gibson
William Gibson is an American-Canadian science fiction author.William Gibson may also refer to:-Association football:*Will Gibson , Scottish footballer...

,
Elfriede Jelinek
Elfriede Jelinek
Elfriede Jelinek is an Austrian playwright and novelist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2004 for her "musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that, with extraordinary linguistic zeal, reveal the absurdity of society's clichés and their subjugating power."-...

,
Rick Moody
Rick Moody
Rick Moody is an American novelist and short story writer best known for the 1994 novel The Ice Storm, a chronicle of the dissolution of two suburban Connecticut families over Thanksgiving weekend in 1973, which brought widespread acclaim, became a bestseller, and was made into a feature film of...

,
Alan Moore
Alan Moore
Alan Oswald Moore is an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books, a medium where he has produced a number of critically acclaimed and popular series, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell...

,
Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Arturo Pérez-Reverte Gutiérrez is a Spanish novelist and journalist. He worked as a war correspondent for twenty-one years . His first novel, El húsar, set in the Napoleonic Wars, was released in 1986. He is well known outside Spain for his "Alatriste" series of novels...

,
Richard Powers
Richard Powers
Richard Powers is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology.- Life and work :...

,
Salman Rushdie,
Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson
Neal Town Stephenson is an American writer known for his works of speculative fiction.Difficult to categorize, his novels have been variously referred to as science fiction, historical fiction, cyberpunk, and postcyberpunk...

,
Bruce Sterling
Bruce Sterling
Michael Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre.-Writings:...

,
Jan Wildt,
Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson
Laura Phillips "Laurie" Anderson is an American experimental performance artist, composer and musician who plays violin and keyboards and sings in a variety of experimental music and art rock styles. Initially trained as a sculptor, Anderson did her first performance-art piece in the late 1960s...

,
Zak Smith
Zak Smith
Zak Smith, also known as Zak Sabbath, is an American artist and alternative porn star. He was born in Syracuse, New York in 1976, and grew up in Washington, D.C. After receiving a BFA from Cooper Union in 1998, he studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and went on to receive an...

,
David Cronenberg
David Cronenberg
David Paul Cronenberg, OC, FRSC is a Canadian filmmaker, screenwriter and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror or venereal horror genre. This style of filmmaking explores people's fears of bodily transformation and infection. In his films, the...

, and
Adam Rapp
Adam Rapp
Adam Rapp is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, musician and film director. His play Red Light Winter was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2006.-Early life:...

.

Thanks to his influence on Gibson and Stephenson in particular, Pynchon became one of the progenitors of cyberpunk
Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk is a postmodern and science fiction genre noted for its focus on "high tech and low life." The name is a portmanteau of cybernetics and punk, and was originally coined by Bruce Bethke as the title of his short story "Cyberpunk," published in 1983...

 fiction; a 1987 essay in Spin magazine by Timothy Leary
Timothy Leary
Timothy Francis Leary was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs like LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison...

 explicitly named Gravity's Rainbow as the "Old Testament" of cyberpunk, with Gibson's Neuromancer
Neuromancer
Neuromancer is a 1984 novel by William Gibson, a seminal work in the cyberpunk genre and the first winner of the science-fiction "triple crown" — the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award. It was Gibson's debut novel and the beginning of the Sprawl trilogy...

and its sequels as the "New Testament". Though the term "cyberpunk" did not become prevalent until the early 1980s, since Leary's article many readers have retroactively included Gravity's Rainbow in the genre, along with other works — e.g., Samuel R. Delany
Samuel R. Delany
Samuel Ray Delany, Jr., also known as "Chip" is an American author, professor and literary critic. His work includes a number of novels, many in the science fiction genre, as well as memoir, criticism, and essays on sexuality and society.His science fiction novels include Babel-17, The Einstein...

's Dhalgren
Dhalgren
Dhalgren is a science fiction novel by Samuel R. Delany. The story begins with a cryptic passage:to wound the autumnal city.So howled out for the world to give him a name.The in-dark answered with wind....

and many works of Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick
Philip Kindred Dick was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist whose published work is almost entirely in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments and altered...

 — which seem, after the fact, to anticipate cyberpunk styles and themes. The encyclopedic
Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge....

 nature of Pynchon's novels also led to some attempts to link his work with the short-lived hypertext fiction
Hypertext fiction
Hypertext fiction is a genre of electronic literature, characterized by the use of hypertext links which provides a new context for non-linearity in "literature" and reader interaction. The reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next, and in this fashion arranges a...

 movement of the 1990s (Page 2002; Krämer 2005).

Media scrutiny of private life


Relatively little is known about Thomas Pynchon's private life; he has carefully avoided contact with reporters for more than forty years. Only a few photos of him are known to exist, nearly all from his high school and college days, and his whereabouts have often remained undisclosed.

A review of V. in the New York Times Book Review described Pynchon as "a recluse" living in Mexico, thereby introducing the media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 label with which journalists have characterized him throughout his career (Plimpton 1963: 5). Nonetheless, Pynchon's personal absence from mass media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 is one of the notable features of his life, and it has generated many rumors and apocryphal anecdotes.

1970s and 1980s


After the publication and success of Gravity's Rainbow, interest mounted in finding out more about the identity of the author. At the 1974 National Book Award
National Book Award
The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

 ceremony, the president of Viking Press
Viking Press
Viking Press is an American publishing company owned by the Penguin Group, which has owned the company since 1975. It was founded in New York City on March 1, 1925, by Harold K. Guinzburg and George S. Oppenheim...

, Tom Guinzberg, arranged for double-talking comedian "Professor" Irwin Corey to accept the prize on Pynchon's behalf (Royster 2005). Many of the assembled guests had no idea who Corey was, and, having never seen the author, they assumed that it was Pynchon himself on the stage delivering Corey's trademark torrent of rambling, pseudo-scholarly verbiage (Corey 1974). Towards the end of Corey's address a streaker ran through the hall, adding further to the confusion.

An article published in the Soho Weekly News claimed that Pynchon was in fact J. D. Salinger
J. D. Salinger
Jerome David Salinger was an American author, best known for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, as well as his reclusive nature. His last original published work was in 1965; he gave his last interview in 1980....

 (Batchelor 1976). Pynchon's written response to this theory (reported in Tanner 1982) was simple: "Not bad. Keep trying."

Thereafter, the first piece to provide substantial information about Pynchon's personal life was a biographical account written by a former Cornell University friend, Jules Siegel
Jules Siegel
Jules Siegel is a writer and graphic designer whose work has appeared over the years in Playboy, Best American Short Stories, Library of America's Writing Los Angeles, and many other publications...

, and published in Playboy
Playboy
Playboy is an American men's magazine that features photographs of nude women as well as journalism and fiction. It was founded in Chicago in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. The magazine has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with...

magazine. In his article, Siegel reveals that Pynchon had a complex
Complex (psychology)
A complex is a core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes in the personal unconscious organized around a common theme, such as power or status...

 about his teeth and underwent extensive and painful reconstructive surgery, was nicknamed "Tom" at Cornell and attended Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 diligently, acted as best man at Siegel's wedding, and that he later also had an affair with Siegel's wife. Siegel recalls Pynchon saying he did attend some of Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

's lectures at Cornell but that he could hardly make out what Nabokov was saying because of his thick Russian accent. Siegel also records Pynchon's comment that "[e]very weirdo in the world is on my wavelength", an observation borne out by the crankiness
Crank (person)
"Crank" is a pejorative term used for a person who unshakably holds a belief that most of his or her contemporaries consider to be false. A "cranky" belief is so wildly at variance with commonly accepted belief as to be ludicrous...

 and zealotry which has attached itself to his name and work in subsequent years. (Siegel 1977)

In the late 1980s, author Robert Clark Young
Robert Clark Young
Robert Clark Young is an American author of novels, essays, short stories and journalism. Recurring themes in Young's fiction include the relation between alcoholism, the abuse of power, and institutional dysfunction in American life, while his nonfiction has recently focused on eldercare topics...

 prevailed upon his father, an employee of the California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 Department of Motor Vehicles, to look up Pynchon's driving record, using Pynchon's full name and known birth date. The results showed that Pynchon was living at the time in Aptos, California
Aptos, California
Aptos is a census-designated place in Santa Cruz County, California, United States. The population was 6,220 at the 2010 census.Aptos is an unincorporated area of Santa Cruz county, consisting of several small communities...

, and was driving a 1974 Datsun
Datsun
Datsun was an automobile marque. The name was created in 1931 by the DAT Motorcar Co. for a new car model, spelling it as "Datson" to indicate its smaller size when compared to the existing, larger DAT car. Later, in 1933 after Nissan Motor Co., Ltd...

 (Young 1992). The cancelled license subsequently found its way into the hands of at least two academics publishing scholarly work on Pynchon.

1990s


Pynchon does not like to talk with reporters, and refuses the spectacle of celebrity
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

 and public appearances. Journalists have continued to speculate about his identity and activities, and characterized his mass media avoidance as "reclusive". Some readers and critics have suggested that there were and are perhaps aesthetic (and ideological) motivations behind his choice to remain aloof from public life. For example, the protagonist in Janette Turner Hospital
Janette Turner Hospital
Janette Turner Hospital is a novelist and short story writer who has lived for most of her adult life in Canada or the U.S., principally Boston , Kingston and Columbia...

's short story, "For Mr. Voss or Occupant" (publ. 1991), explains to her daughter that she is writing
More recently, book critic Arthur Salm has written that
Belying this reputation somewhat, Pynchon has published a number of articles and reviews in the mainstream American media, including words of support for Salman Rushdie and his then-wife, Marianne Wiggins
Marianne Wiggins
Marianne Wiggins is an American author. She is noted for the unusual characters and storylines in her novels. She has won the Whiting Writers' Award, an NEA award and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize.- Biography :...

, after the fatwa
Fatwa
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

 was pronounced against Rushdie
The Satanic Verses controversy
The Satanic Verses controversy was the heated and sometimes violent Muslim reaction to the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses. Many Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemy or unbelief and in 1989 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie...

 by the Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (Pynchon 1989). In the following year, Rushdie's enthusiastic review of Pynchon's Vineland prompted Pynchon to send him another message hinting that if Rushdie were ever in New York, the two should arrange a meeting. Eventually, the two did meet, and Rushdie said of him that he was "extremely Pynchon-esque" and "the Pynchon he wanted him to be."

In the early 1990s, Pynchon married his literary agent, Melanie Jackson
Melanie Jackson
Melanie Jackson is a leading literary agent. She founded the highly respected Melanie Jackson Agency. Among the many awards won by her clients are: the Nobel Prize in Literature, four Pulitzer Prizes, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.-Biography:Melanie Jackson is...

 — a great-granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 and a granddaughter of Robert H. Jackson
Robert H. Jackson
Robert Houghwout Jackson was United States Attorney General and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court . He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials...

, U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg trials prosecutor — and fathered a son, Jackson, in 1991.
The disclosure of Pynchon's 1990s location in New York City, after many years in which he was believed to be dividing his time between Mexico and northern California, led some journalists and photographers to try to track him down. Shortly before the publication of Mason & Dixon in 1997, a CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 camera crew filmed him in Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

. Angered by this invasion of his privacy, he called CNN asking that he not be identified in the footage of the street scenes near his home. When asked by CNN, Pynchon rejected their characterization of him as a recluse, remarking "My belief is that 'recluse' is a code word generated by journalists ... meaning, 'doesn't like to talk to reporters'." CNN also quoted him as saying, "Let me be unambiguous. I prefer not to be photographed." (CNN 1997) The next year, a reporter for the Sunday Times managed to snap a photo of him as he was walking with his son (Bone 1998).

After several references to Pynchon's work and reputation were made on NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

's The John Larroquette Show
The John Larroquette Show
The John Larroquette Show is a situation comedy that ran on the NBC network from 1993 to 1996. The show, created by Don Reo, was a vehicle for John Larroquette following his run as Dan Fielding on Night Court. The series took place in a seedy bus terminal in St. Louis, Missouri and focused on the...

,
Pynchon (through his agent) reportedly contacted the show's producers to offer suggestions and corrections. When a local Pynchon sighting became a major plot point in a 1994 episode of the show, Pynchon was sent the script for his approval; as well as providing the title of a fictitious work to be used in one episode ("Pandemonium of the Sun"), the novelist apparently vetoed a final scene that called for an extra playing him to be filmed from behind, walking away from shot (CNN 1997; Glenn 2003). Also during the 1990s, Pynchon apparently befriended members of the band Lotion
Lotion (band)
Lotion was a Manhattan indie rock band formed in 1991 by brothers Bill and Jim Ferguson , drummer Rob Youngberg, and vocalist Tony Zajkowski.-Career:...

 and attended a number of their shows, culminating in the liner notes he contributed for the band's 1995 album Nobody's Cool. The novelist then conducted an interview with the band ("Lunch With Lotion") for Esquire in June 1996 in the lead-up to the publication of Mason & Dixon. More recently, Pynchon provided fax
Fax
Fax , sometimes called telecopying, is the telephonic transmission of scanned printed material , normally to a telephone number connected to a printer or other output device...

ed answers to questions submitted by author David Hajdu
David Hajdu
David Hajdu is an American columnist, author and professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is the music critic for The New Republic....

 and permitted excerpts from his personal correspondence to be quoted in Hajdu's 2001 book, Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez
Joan Baez
Joan Chandos Baez is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician and a prominent activist in the fields of human rights, peace and environmental justice....

, Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña
Richard Fariña
Richard George Fariña was an American writer and folksinger.-Early years and education:Richard Fariña was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Cuban and Irish descent. He grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn Technical High School...

(Warner 2001).

Pynchon's insistence on maintaining his personal privacy
Privacy
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively...

 and on having his work speak for itself has resulted in a number of outlandish rumors and hoaxes over the years. Indeed, claims that Pynchon was the Unabomber
Theodore Kaczynski
Theodore John "Ted" Kaczynski , also known as the "Unabomber" , is an American mathematician, social critic, anarcho-primitivist, and Neo-Luddite who engaged in a mail bombing campaign that spanned nearly 20 years, killing three people and injuring 23 others.Kaczynski was born in Chicago, Illinois,...

 or a sympathizer with the Waco Branch Davidians after the 1993 siege were upstaged in the mid-1990s by the invention of an elaborate rumor insinuating that Pynchon and one "Wanda Tinasky
Wanda Tinasky
Wanda Tinasky, ostensibly a bag lady living under a bridge in the Mendocino County area of Northern California, was the pseudonymous author of a series of playful, comic and erudite letters sent to the Mendocino Commentary and Anderson Valley Advertiser between 1983 and 1988. These letters were...

" were the same person. A spate of letters authored under that name had appeared in the late 1980s in the Anderson Valley Advertiser
Anderson Valley Advertiser
The Anderson Valley Advertiser is a small but well-known weekly newspaper published in Anderson Valley, California. It was founded in 1955 as a local, community-based paper...

in Anderson Valley
Anderson Valley
Anderson Valley is a sparsely populated region in western Mendocino County in Northern California. Located approximately 100 miles north of San Francisco, the name "Anderson Valley" applies broadly to several rural, unincorporated communities in or near the alluvial terraces along Anderson Creek...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. The style and content of those letters were said to resemble Pynchon's, and Pynchon's Vineland, published in 1990, also takes place in northern California, so it was suggested that Pynchon may have been in the area at that time, conducting research. A collection of the Tinasky letters was eventually published as a paperback book in 1996; however, Pynchon himself denied having written the letters, and no direct attribution of the letters to Pynchon was ever made. "Literary detective" Donald Foster subsequently showed that the Letters were in fact written by an obscure Beat
Beat generation
The Beat Generation refers to a group of American post-WWII writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they both documented and inspired...

 writer called Tom Hawkins, who had murdered his wife and then committed suicide in 1988. Foster's evidence was conclusive, including finding the typewriter on which the "Tinasky" letters had been written (Foster 2000).

In 1998, over 120 letters that Pynchon had written to his longtime agent, Candida Donadio, were donated by the family of private collector, Carter Burden, to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City. The letters ranged from 1963 to 1982, thus covering some of the author's most creative and prolific years. Although the Morgan Library originally intended to allow scholars to view the letters, at Pynchon’s request the Burden family and Morgan Library agreed to seal these letters until after Pynchon's death. (Gussow 1998)

2000s


After the September 11 attacks, a supposed "interview" with Pynchon appeared in an issue of Playboy Japan. Published under the heading "Most News is Propaganda. Bin Laden May Not Exist", it purported to be a talk with Pynchon on the events of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...

. Its authenticity has been questioned by experts and it has never been republished in the American media.


Responding to the image which has been manufactured in the media over the years, during 2004, Pynchon made two cameo animated appearances on the television series The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

. The first occurs in the episode "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife
Diatribe of a Mad Housewife
"Diatribe of a Mad Housewife" is the tenth episode of The Simpsons fifteenth season, which originally aired January 25, 2004. Marge is inspired to write a romance novel, though after Homer hears rumors that Marge is secretly in love with Ned Flanders due to the storyline of the novel, he grows...

", in which Marge Simpson
Marge Simpson
Marjorie "Marge" Simpson is a fictional main character in the animated television series The Simpsons and part of the eponymous family. She is voiced by actress Julie Kavner and first appeared on television in The Tracey Ullman Show short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987...

 becomes a novelist. He plays himself, with a paper bag over his head, and provides a blurb for the back cover of Marge's book, speaking in a broad Long Island accent: "Here's your quote: Thomas Pynchon loved this book, almost as much as he loves cameras!" He then starts yelling at passing cars: "Hey, over here, have your picture taken with a reclusive author! Today only, we'll throw in a free autograph! But, wait! There's more!" In his second appearance, in "All's Fair in Oven War
All's Fair in Oven War
"All's Fair in Oven War" is the second episode of The Simpsons sixteenth season, and originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 14, 2004. In the episode, Marge gets her kitchen remodeled and the dishes she make inside it get rave reviews...

", Pynchon's dialogue consists entirely of pun
Pun
The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use and abuse of homophonic,...

s on his novel titles ("These wings are 'V'-licious! I'll put this recipe in 'The Gravity's Rainbow Cookbook', right next to 'The Frying of Latke 49'."). The cartoon representation of Pynchon reappears in a third, non-speaking cameo, as a guest at the fictional WordLoaf convention depicted in the 18th season (2006) episode, "Moe'N'a Lisa
Moe'N'a Lisa
"Moe'n'a Lisa" is the sixth episode of the The Simpsons eighteenth season, and first aired on November 19, 2006. Lisa aides Moe in discovering his inner-poet and he gains swift popularity and recognition from a group of successful American authors, when Lisa helps to get his poetry published...

". The episode first aired on November 19, 2006, the Sunday before Pynchon's sixth novel, Against the Day
Against the Day
Against the Day is a novel by Thomas Pynchon. The narrative takes place between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the time immediately following World War I and features more than a hundred characters spread across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central Asia, and "one or two places not strictly...

, was released.

In July 2006, Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com, Inc. is a multinational electronic commerce company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the world's largest online retailer. Amazon has separate websites for the following countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, and...

 created a page showing an upcoming 992-page, untitled, Thomas Pynchon novel. A description of the soon-to-be published novel appeared on Amazon purporting to be written by Pynchon himself. The description was taken down, prompting speculation over its authenticity, but the blurb was soon back up along with the title of Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day.

Shortly before Against the Day was published, Pynchon's prose appeared in the program for "The Daily Show
The Daily Show
The Daily Show , is an American late night satirical television program airing each Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central. The half-hour long show premiered on July 21, 1996, and was hosted by Craig Kilborn until December 1998...

: Ten Fu@#ing Years (The Concert)", a retrospective on Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart is an American political satirist, writer, television host, actor, media critic and stand-up comedian...

's comedy-news broadcast The Daily Show.'

On December 6, 2006, Pynchon joined a campaign by many other major authors to clear Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan
Ian Russell McEwan CBE, FRSA, FRSL is a British novelist and screenwriter, and one of Britain's most highly regarded writers. In 2008, The Times named him among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945"....

 of plagiarism charges by sending a typewritten
Typewriter
A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical device with keys that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. Typically one character is printed per keypress, and the machine prints the characters by making ink impressions of type elements similar to the pieces...

 letter to his British publisher, which was published in the
Daily Telegraph newspaper (Pynchon 2006).

Pynchon's 2009 YouTube promotional teaser for the novel
Inherent Vice
Inherent Vice
Inherent Vice is a novel by Thomas Pynchon, originally published in August 2009.-Title:The term "inherent vice" is a legal tenet referring to a "hidden defect of a good or property which of itself is the cause of its deterioration, damage, or wastage...

is the second time a recording of his voice has been released to mainstream outlets (the first being his appearances on The Simpsons
The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

) (Meerkat Media 2009).

Works list


Pynchon's fiction books are:
  • V.
    V.
    V. is the debut novel of Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963. It describes the exploits of a discharged U.S. Navy sailor named Benny Profane, his reconnection in New York with a group of pseudo-bohemian artists and hangers-on known as the Whole Sick Crew, and the quest of an aging traveller named...

    (March, 1963)
    • Nominated for a National Book Award
      National Book Award
      The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

      , 1963
    • William Faulkner Foundation award ("Best debut novel of the year")
  • The Crying of Lot 49
    The Crying of Lot 49
    The Crying of Lot 49 is a novel by Thomas Pynchon, first published in 1966. The shortest of Pynchon's novels, it is about a woman, Oedipa Maas, possibly unearthing the centuries-old conflict between two mail distribution companies, Thurn und Taxis and the Trystero...

    (April 27, 1966).
  • Gravity's Rainbow
    Gravity's Rainbow
    Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973.The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest...

    (February 28, 1973)
    • 1974 National Book Award
      National Book Award
      The National Book Awards are a set of American literary awards. Started in 1950, the Awards are presented annually to American authors for literature published in the current year. In 1989 the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization which now oversees and manages the National Book...

       for fiction
    • Judges' unanimous selection for Pulitzer Prize
      Pulitzer Prize
      The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

      , overruled by advisory board
    • William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1975 (declined)
  • Slow Learner
    Slow Learner
    Slow Learner is the 1984 published collection of six early novellas by the American novelist Thomas Pynchon, originally published in various sources between 1959 and 1964.The book is also notable for its introduction, written by Pynchon...

    (April, 1984), collection of early short stories
  • Vineland
    Vineland
    Vineland is a 1990 novel by Thomas Pynchon, a postmodern fiction set in California, United States in 1984, the year of Ronald Reagan's re-election...

    (February, 1990)
  • Mason & Dixon
    Mason & Dixon
    Mason & Dixon is a postmodernist novel by American author Thomas Pynchon published in 1997. It centers on the collaboration of the historical Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in their astronomical and surveying exploits in Cape Colony, Saint Helena, Great Britain and along the Mason-Dixon line in...

    (April 30, 1997)
  • Against the Day
    Against the Day
    Against the Day is a novel by Thomas Pynchon. The narrative takes place between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the time immediately following World War I and features more than a hundred characters spread across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central Asia, and "one or two places not strictly...

    (November 21, 2006)
  • Inherent Vice
    Inherent Vice
    Inherent Vice is a novel by Thomas Pynchon, originally published in August 2009.-Title:The term "inherent vice" is a legal tenet referring to a "hidden defect of a good or property which of itself is the cause of its deterioration, damage, or wastage...

    (August 4, 2009)


As well as fictional works, Pynchon has written essay
Essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s and review
Review
A review is an evaluation of a publication, a product or a service, such as a movie , video game, musical composition , book ; a piece of hardware like a car, home appliance, or computer; or an event or performance, such as a live music concert, a play, musical theater show or dance show...

s addressing subjects as diverse as missile security, the Watts Riots
Watts Riots
The Watts Riots or the Watts Rebellion was a civil disturbance in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California from August 11 to August 15, 1965. The 5-day riot resulted in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, and 3,438 arrests...

, Luddism, and the work of Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme was an American author known for his playful, postmodernist style of short fiction. Barthelme also worked as a newspaper reporter for the Houston Post, managing editor of Location magazine, director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston , co-founder of Fiction Donald...

. His non-fiction pieces have appeared in the
New York Times Book Review
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

and The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books is a fortnightly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs. Published in New York City, it takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity...

. His introduction to Slow Learner is significant for its autobiographical
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 candor.

He has contributed introductions to at least three other books, including the 1992 Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme
Donald Barthelme was an American author known for his playful, postmodernist style of short fiction. Barthelme also worked as a newspaper reporter for the Houston Post, managing editor of Location magazine, director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston , co-founder of Fiction Donald...

 collection,
The Teachings of Don B., and, more recently, the Penguin Books
Penguin Books
Penguin Books is a publisher founded in 1935 by Sir Allen Lane and V.K. Krishna Menon. Penguin revolutionised publishing in the 1930s through its high quality, inexpensive paperbacks, sold through Woolworths and other high street stores for sixpence. Penguin's success demonstrated that large...

 Centennial Edition of George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

's
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is a dystopian novel about Oceania, a society ruled by the oligarchical dictatorship of the Party...

, which was published in 2003, and the 1983 reissue of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me is a novel by Richard Fariña. First published in the United States during 1966 the novel, based largely on Fariña's college experiences and travels, is a comic picaresque story that is set in the American West, in Cuba during the Cuban Revolution, and at an...

written by Pynchon's close friend, Richard Fariña
Richard Fariña
Richard George Fariña was an American writer and folksinger.-Early years and education:Richard Fariña was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Cuban and Irish descent. He grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and attended Brooklyn Technical High School...

, first published in 1966.

Further reading


External links


The following links were last verified on January 31, 2010.