Suffused with rich satire, chaotic brilliance, verbal turbulence and wild humour, "The Crying of Lot 49" opens as Oedipa Maas discovers that she has been made executrix of a former lover's estate. The performance of her duties sets her on a strange trail of detection, in which bizarre characters crowd in to help or confuse her. But gradually, ...
Suffused with rich satire, chaotic brilliance, verbal turbulence and wild humour, "The Crying of Lot 49" opens as Oedipa Maas discovers that she has been made executrix of a former lover's estate. The performance of her duties sets her on a strange trail of detection, in which bizarre characters crowd in to help or confuse her. But gradually, death, drugs, madness and marriage combine to leave Oepida in isolation on the threshold of revelation, awaiting "The Crying of Lot 49". This is one of Pynchon's shortest novels and one of his best.
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I couldn't decide what i thought about this book. I do plan to read other books by the author, but I'm not sure that that has as much to do with the book as it does with the author. Pynchon works closely with several post-modern ideas (invented a few, from what I understand) but I feel like he got the idea of death of the author backwards. The theory goes (for those not familiar) that anything the author may have intended doesn't matter, because the book's messages have everything to do with the people reading the book and nothing to do with the author. Unfortunately, in this book's case, I came away with no particular impression of the book, except that it was very difficult to choose to read the book for the story without worrying about litcrit. What I did come away with a wonderful impression of - the reason that I rate the book positively at all - was this fabulous feeling that the author was sitting over my shoulder watching me reading, and laughing at me and my confusion. Every time I began to discount all the hidden messages in the text and think that they really were just coincidences that meant nothing, there was Pynchon laughing at me. And every time I read too deeply, or googled a reference to look for connotations, there he was again. It was an excellent feeling - I've never felt like I understood so much about an author just by reading his book - but I don't think that it was really what people look for when they read books. Maybe they should. I know what I'll be hoping for when I buy my next book by Pynchon.
Sep 10, 2008
Worth reading, but possibly past its prime.
When I first told a co-worker I was enjoying my first foray into Thomas Pynchon, he snidely remarked, "NO ONE enjoys Pynchon...you experience him." That comment was intentionally pretentious, but there's some truth to it -- there is simply no way to digest Pynchon completely upon first read -- the question is whether or not you'll be intrigued enough to go back for another. In the case of THE CRYING OF LOT 49, my personal answer is no. It's certainly a clever book, and it feels quite modern given that it was written over 45 years ago in 1962. But the main conceit of the book, which I won't spoil, has been rendered far less shocking in the years that have since passed. While having cleverly named characters is worth something, the story itself isn't all that compelling - and the allegories and references Pynchon is making often went over my head. In many ways, reading his books is like staring at extreme modern art - it's often pleasant, but just as often makes you wonder if you are getting it at all. While I may try to tackle some of his larger works, the next time I want a confusing, overly clever book to read, I'll stick with David Foster Wallace.
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