Skip to main content

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.

Popular posts from this blog

How to make a simple origami bookmark

Here are some instructions on how to make a simple origami (paper folding) bookmark:

Take a square of paper. It can be patterned origami paper, gift paper or even office paper, just as long as it’s easy to fold. The square should not be much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches across, unless you intend to use the mark for a big book. The images show what the paper should look like after you follow each step of the instructions. The two sides of the paper are shown in different colours to make things easier, and the edges and fold lines are shown as black lines.


Fold the paper in half diagonally (corner to corner), and then unfold. Repeat with the other two corners. This is to find the middle and to make the rest of the folding easier. If the paper is thick or stiff it can help to reverse the folds.



Fold three of the corners in so that they meet in the middle. You now have a piece of paper resembling an open envelope. For the next two steps, ignore the flap.



Fold the square diagonally in two. You…

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finis…

Stiff – The curious lives of human cadavers

Originally published in November and December 2004, in 4 parts. Book 42 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Mary Roach
Year published: 2003
Pages: 303
Genre: Popular science, biology
Where got: amazon.co.uk

Mom, Dad, what happens after we die?

This is a classic question most parents dread having to answer. While this book doesn’t answer the philosophical/theological part of the question – what happens to the soul? - it does claim to contain answers to the biological part, namely: what happens to the body?



Reading progress for Stiff:
Stiff is proving to be an interesting read. Roach writes in a matter-of-fact journalistic style that makes the subject seem less grim than it really is, but she does on occasion become a bit too flippant about it, I guess in an attempt to distance herself. Although she uses humour to ease the grimness, the jokes – which, by the way, are never about the dead, only the living, especially Roach herself – often fall flat. Perhaps it’s just me, but this is a serio…