Miriam
Thomas Pynchon
Have you read any works by Thomas Pynchon? Yesterday I read an article about him that started like this: "Without a doubt, he is the most important author of world literature since 1945: Thomas Pynchon, the mysterious, now 83-year-old American who revolutionized the narrative of our epoch with his eight novels." ("Zweifellos ist er der bedeutendste Autor der Weltliteratur seit 1945: Thomas Pynchon, der mysteriöse, mittlerweile 83-jährige Amerikaner, der mit seinen acht Romanen das Erzählen über unsere Epoche revolutioniert hat." Source: <a href="https://www.zeit.de/2020/25/die-enden-der-parabel-thomas-pynchon-hoerbuch-swr" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.zeit.de/2020/25/die-enden-der-parabel-thomas-pynchon-hoerbuch-swr</a>;). I have to admit that I have never heard of him before. Our library has "The Crying Lot of 49", so I'll start reading it next week. I heard that he is quite challenging to read.

Those who have read his works: Which did you like? Would you agree that he is "the most important author of world literature since 1945"?
Jun 13, 2020 1:20 PM
Comments · 32
Ha!

1) I have tried to read him a couple of times and didn't get far either time.

2) "The most important author of world literature since 1945" is one heck of a stretch. I would describe him as "an important, well-known, respected US author who is much admired in some literary circles."

I haven't looked at Wikipedia yet, but because of Wikipedia's editing process and the requirement for "verifiability" (citation of reliable sources), when Wikipedia expresses a judgement it is usually a good consensus mainstream judgement. Let's go see.

<em>Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. (/ˈpɪntʃɒn/,[1] commonly /-tʃən/;[2] born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow, he is noted for his dense and complex novels. His fiction and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, genres and themes, including history, music, science, and mathematics. For Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon won the 1973 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction."</em>

So, no Nobel prize, no Pulitzer prize. An important contemporary author, whom I personally don't happen to find readable.

"Most important author of world literature since 1945" reminds me of people I knew in college who liked to insist that Anton Webern was the greatest composer in history, or that Marshall McLuhan was the greatest thinker of the twentieth century, or that Barnett Newman was the greatest artist.

I wonder who was the greatest <em>before</em> 1945?
June 28, 2020
I sprayed my drink when I saw "the most important author of world literature since 1945". I finished The Crying of Lot 49 many years ago, but it was a slog, not a pleasure trip. It is also one of the books that made me decide not to get an MA in literature.

When I was an undergrad, I rather enjoyed the "literary detective work" required to understand many of the great works. But I think Joyce's Finnegan's Wake began a trend of deliberate obscurity as an end in itself. When I finished these books, I was left asking "Is this art? Or just a stunt?". There is a species of literary snob who regards obscurity as a sign of genius. Readability is for minor talents. So Pynchon has influenced many younger writers. Is that a good thing? Not in my eyes.

You might get some sort of satisfaction out of finishing works like these, a feeling of completing a feat of endurance. But is it really worth the effort? If you want a feat of endurance, with rewards equal to your labors, read the complete novels of Anthony Trollope. Or better yet discover the great Russian novelists,

There are modern novelists of great complexity who manage to produce works that are compulsively readable. Salmon Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Borges come to mind. I think they rank far above Pynchon, if you want my two cents.


June 29, 2020
"Most important" or "greatest" is always a kind of silly thing. I see that the Time of London actually has a list of <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-50-greatest-british-writers-since-1945-ws3g69xrf90" style="font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 12px;">The 50 greatest British writers since 1945 | The Times</a>

A cutoff of 1945 lets in George Orwell and both <em>Nineteen Eighty-Four</em> and <em>Animal Farm.</em> And J. R. R. Tolkien's <em>The Lord of the Rings.</em> I don't know about Ted Hughes but on <em>our</em> side of the Atlantic there is Sylvia Plath. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck did their most important work before 1945, I guess. But there is Kurt Vonnegut (<em>Slaughterhouse-Five). </em>

And I'm very poorly read outside the US. But even I can think of <em>Love in the Time of Cholera </em>(Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and <em>The Alchemist </em>(Paulo Coelho).

I'm not an expert and those were just a few quick ideas, but, no, I do not think Thomas Pynchon comes anywhere close to being "the most important." He is just "an important."
June 28, 2020
Definitely, I will not become a Pynchon aficionado. But in the meantime, I got a little more familiar with the function of his 'lush' side stories and reminiscences of diverse historical events, battles and wars when I read the 15,5 pages of "The Courier's Tragedy". Very bloody and creepy. Then the disillusioning comment of Driblette:
<em>“You came to talk about the play,” he said. “Let me discourage you. It was written to entertain people. Like horror movies. It isn’t literature, it doesn’t mean anything."</em>
 
Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49 (p. 71). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 
Here, we have a key: The play is just a parody of fiction in the fiction and reminds me of Eco’s refined net of stories and allusions around the main issue in “The Name of the Rose”. Maybe, we should settle with this statement? But I will wait until I have finished the novel. And I feel challenged to ignore the many (negative) reviews and make my own judgment.
Please, don't let's jump from one famous author to the next one. It is no problem to write long lists of authors and titles one should read. But if I recall correctly, we wanted to discuss Pynchon's The Crying Of Lot 49.
June 29, 2020
Miriam, I have to confess this novel will not belong to my favorites. I’m also struggling through chapter three right now. I can imagine the references behind the description of broken mirrors. I laughed about Oedipa's look like a "beachball with feet" when she attempts to outsmart her lover. I was amused by the description of a crazy hair spray can. I truly tried to come behind the meaning of the cryptic sign and Oedipa's unsuccessful attempts to decipher it. It might be true or not that a secret mail system called Tristero is delivering messages all around the world. And we got used to treating everything with suspicion since we have to sign privacy statements as soon as we 'enter' the internet. Oh dear, conspiracy theories are old, and we are currently faced with them more than enough. I am at the crossroads and have to decide whether I shall continue my reading or not. It's more work than play, to be honest... Definitely, it is the first time in my career as an English-reader that I feel more helpless and frustrated than entertained. But I am used to not giving up that quickly.
June 28, 2020
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Miriam
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), French, German
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin)