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The Crying of Lot 49

Originally published in July and August 2004, in 2 parts
Book 27 in my first 52 books challenge.


Author: Thomas Pynchon
Year published: 1966
Pages: 183
Genre: Literature
Where got: Public library

This book was recommended to me by Oedipa. I had never heard of it, but it is apparently a classic of 20th century American literature. After a bit of web browsing for information, I decided it would be worthwhile reading.

This review contains possible SPOILERS





The story:
Oedipa Maas is unexpectedly made the executor of the estate of her former boyfriend, Pierce Inverarity. Before long, she is immersed in the investigation of a secret, underground postal service that appears to have its roots way back in history. Along the way, she meets with all sorts of people, some crazier than others, and the book ends as she sits down to attend the auction of Inverarity’s stamp collection, which contains some stamps that may or may not have been made by the people who run the mysterious underground mail system. Or maybe it’s all a conspiracy by Pierce to confound and confuse her? That is left up to the reader to decide.

Technique:
Pynchon has a way with words. What else can I say? Actually, the writing is sometimes convoluted and confusing, like a train that has run off the rails, each sentence apparently loaded with meaning, or perhaps just a jumble of empty words, a stream of consciousness rendered into structured sentences. Somewhere inside this jumble of words is a rather interesting conspiracy plot that is carried along by wordplay and philosophical wondering. The narrative is sometimes funny and always slightly surreal. The story is nearly timeless, only a few hints point to its happening in the 1960’s, which I guess is part of what makes it appeal to people.
Perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I read it, but I didn’t much like this book. I had the slight feeling that the author was getting away with a joke that was just out of my grasp, that he was sitting somewhere out of reach and chuckling at me for being too clueless to see it, just like Oedipa near the end of the book.

Rating: Confusing and interesting, slightly surreal and ultimately inconclusive. 2+ stars.

Comments

George said…
Thomas Pynchon was touted as the Great American Novelist in the Sixties and Seventies. THE CRYING OF LOT 49 is Pynchon's shortest novel (which is why it is most frequently used in college English classes). I'm fond of V. It has a lot more humor than THE CRYING OF LOT 49. Pynchon's "masterpiece" is GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. It's 800 pages long and demands plenty of energy to finish it.

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