Monday, 20 January 2014

The Crying Of Lot 49 Review

By Thomas Pynchon,

Free to good home: 3 x Thomas Pynchon Novels.  Just email me your postal address (perseusq at gmail dot com) and I'll send you an unread copy of Gravity's Rainbow, a half-read copy of Inherent Vice and a half-ready copy of The Crying Of Lot 49, and in return you just have to send me one book you think I might like  - you win in that transaction.  I have given up on Pynchon, and I don't want his books to poison my bookshelf any more.

I heard a while back that Paul Thomas Anderson was making a movie of Inherent Vice, and, figuring I'd probably go see it as I like PTA films, I further figured it was time to try Pynchon.  I bought the three novels (all new) and started on Inherent Vice and hated it.  The dialogue was so impossible, implausible and nonsensical that I found myself yearning for a descriptive passage to break the confusion, but when I got a descriptive passage, I had no idea what he was describing.  This is not being anti-art, or anti-prose, or anti-anything, hell, I read Shakespeare for fun and I can happily spend hours pondering a single Dylan Thomas line. I dig Kathy Acker!  So, I'm not being lazy in dismissing his dense sentences, evasive storylines and dialogue that smacks of snippets, hints and echoes of actual conversation - no, it's not laziness on my part, I just hate it, that's all.  To quote TISM - it's novel, it's unique, it's shithouse.

But, just this morning I decided that maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind when I tried Inherent Vice, so I picked up The Crying Of Lot 49.  I followed the storyline for all of three pages.  Then he started doing what he did in Inherent Vice... not one piece of dialogue seemed realistic, 'quirky' characters popped up by the fuckload, came in, dropped hints, then off they fucked, leaving me confused.  Pynchon lays out a storyline, then goes all Jackson Pollock on it.  But at least a Jackson Pollock can be positioned to match the upholstery on your couch. 

In this book, a woman is named as the executor of her ex-lover's will, and she travels to California to deal with it, then, I read 60 pages of her not doing anything about it, and instead becoming engrossed in nonsensical plots and subterfuges.  It was clearly going nowhere so I stopped at page 64.  The dialogue made no sense at all - it doesn't sound like people talking - it sounds like a word generator is just throwing words around - and the story, meagre as it is, is merely a backdrop to Pynchon's quirky use of language and his "important comic talent" (Spectator) which reminds me, he's meant to be funny?  Never cracked a smile. 

Pynchon fans will argue that I am trying too hard to 'get' it.  I argue back, I don't care if I get something or not so long as I am entertained or informed as I go, and he does neither for me.  It's just words.  It's just hip words randomly scattered like he's Kerouac's retarded cousin. 

I like stories.  I like well-told stories.  I like well-told stories with believable characters.  I just don't think Pynchon a) can do that for me and b) even wants to do that.   I am glad he has his fans.  I am glad they have all found each other, but I live in a different literary world.



Melba said...

Oh dear. I'm not tempted sorry. David Foster Wallace was a big Pynchon fan, but then I don't know what you think of him. His novels, to me, are really hard. Love his essays though. Um. Just donate the books to the oppy. Get rid of them.

Perseus said...

DFW's essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing..." is the best 100 pages of anything I've ever read (maybe). I then read 60 pages of Infinite Jest and threw it across the room in frustration.

Melba said...

Infinite Jest. I don't think I got much further than you. And yes the cruise story is great.