Inspirations in Artistry, Part III

A screaming comes across the sky.  It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.”

Thus begins Gravitys Rainbow, the seminal work of prolific author and reclusive artist Thomas Pynchon.  His fiction is everywhere, but he is nowhere to be found.  He can absorb any subject, master any language, but no one can truly grasp him.  No genre can contain his work.  He moves like one of the shinobi in the dark of night: seeing all, but never seen.

The man is both esoteric and eclectic.  At any time, one might find a religious metaphor constructed around Einstein’s general theory of relativity or comparing the countdown of a rocket launch to the ten-fold path of the Sephiroth of Kabbalah.  His characters reference pop culture of all eras, particularly the sort found in the late twentieth century (however anachronistic it might be).  And They are always out to get you, the protagonist, because “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they dont have to worry about answers.”

The critic Arthur Salm has this to say about the reclusive raconteur:

[T]he man simply chooses not to be a public figure, an attitude that resonates on a frequency so out of phase with that of the prevailing culture that if Pynchon and Paris Hilton were ever to meet — the circumstances, I admit, are beyond imagining — the resulting matter/antimatter explosion would vaporize everything from here to Tau Ceti IV.

He is something of a mad saint in my authorial pantheon, as his sheer eccentricity and willingness to write mind-blowing prose such as this excerpt from The Crying of Lot 49:

For there either was some Tristero beyond the appearance of the legacy America, or there was just America and if there was just America then it seemed the only way she could continue, and manage to be at all relevant to it, was as an alien, unfurrowed, assumed full circle into some paranoia (Pynchon 150-151).

His stories are epic in scale, covering multiple frames of time and space.  His characters are legion, and there are whole Wikis devoted to cataloging, explaining, and theorizing about the myriad references he drops in every work.  And yet, if one has both the patience to finish one of his books and the mental fortitude to try and keep some sense of coherence about the story, there is an interesting message or spirit to be found within his tales.  It is never a straightforward message–no “moral of the story” to be unearthed, but rather a giant collage of life to be seen all at once and bit by bit.

To get an idea of his characters and plots, consider this: A young Brit in the Fifties searching for a mysterious woman who might be a WWII spy, his father’s mistress, or a sewer rat named Veronica.  A California housewife in the Sixties following clues to either an elaborate conspiracy to run an underground postal service or an equally elaborate hoax by her recently-deceased ex-boyfriend.  And a young American in 1940s Europe trying to learn the secrets of a German rocket that might have something to do with his unfortunately-timed erections.  All of whom encounter (and sometimes participate in) all manner of depravity with a seemingly infinite cast of oddball veering on psychotic individuals.

If none of the above makes sense to you, then that’s kinda like reading Pynchon: a little bizarre, a bit incoherent, but a distant Light shines through, bending around a sphere of Gravity to try and reach the Other Side…

Here’s a quick list of Pynchon’s works:

V. (1963)

The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

Gravitys Rainbow (1973)

Slow Learner (1984 collection of short stories)

Vineland (1990)

Mason & Dixon (1997)

Against The Day (2006)

Inherent Vice (2009)

Join me for yet another installment when I review the writing style and works of {{insert name here}}!

This is the Scriptorium signing off!


3 thoughts on “Inspirations in Artistry, Part III

  1. therese

    Must put aside time to read Thomas Pynchon. I know that you have recommended him to me before. Your blog has got me thinking again. Thanks. I look forward to the next installment.


  2. Pingback: The Perfect Book For A Long, Long Blimp Ride: “Against The Day” by Thomas Pynchon « The Rhapsodist

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