Friday, 22 October 2010

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Ah I am naïve (or ignorant)sometimes. When I composed my list of American Classics to read (see 'The American Project') I merrily threw caution to the wind and added authors that I had never heard of, as well as those I had, with not the faintest idea of what their writing was actually like. Thomas Pynchon was one such author. Both 'Gravity's Rainbow' and 'The Crying of Lot 49' were both on my list. I read 'The Crying of Lot 49' first after a suggestion from Brenna of Literary Musings and boy am I glad I listened to her.

The Crying of Lot 49 is a small book at just over 100 pages long and I can't really do a proper synopsis as I am sure I only got the general gist of the plot. It has something to do with a woman called Oedipa investigating a conflict between two mail companies in America one of which has been forced to operate underground. Anyway she runs around bumping into wacky and strange characters while she investigates this and it all (I think) has something to do with her late ex-boyfriend's will...I think, frankly I'm still not sure.

Some parts of this book actually had me laughing and was really funny. I read out a couple of bits to Chris because I found them so funny, but he only looked at me confused before asking “What the hell are you reading? What kind of idiot would post a St. Bernard on periscope watch during the Battle of Gallipoli?'. I had to quickly explain that I was describing a film in the book which Oedipa was describing. Makes perfect sense then.

Despite not having a clue what was going on I struggled through, laughing in places, finding other parts strangely melancholy and yet other parts frustrating and boring. During this I had but one thought in my head; there is no WAY I am reading Gravity's Window.

So while I can belong to the club of people that have read a Thomas Pynchon book I will never belong to the rather elite group of people that have tackled Gravity's Window because I am taking that off the list.

One person who has recently read Gravity's Window is Greg from The New Dork Review of Books. You should go over there and pat him on the back, he deserves it :)

Posted by Jess


  1. Once upon a time, this book was on my list. I took it off because it intimidated me too much. I didn't realize it was so short though - for some reason I was thinking it was a 600-page tome similar in style/tone to Finnegan's Wake...still, I'm not sure I'm going to add it back to my list.

  2. Not long finished this book myself & I loved it, as I did V before. As for describing it to others, I think it's a case of "you had to be there", for other people to comprehend what you are saying. Am hoping to review this one myself soon, as I enjoyed the post I did on V, oh & Gravity's rainbow is a definitely on my TBR. enjoyed your write up

  3. I have a fear of Pynchon that I don't foresee getting over...

  4. I read a portion of this book for my postmodern lit class in college. I don't really have a desire to finish the book after that.

  5. hahaha that is exactly how I felt while reading this. There Is No Way I'm Reading Gravity's Rainbow. I actually put a big 'nooooooo' next to it on my list.

    Maybe one day I'll re-read the crying lot and like it. But that is not this day D:

  6. I loved this book and I loved your review of it. Read it back in my undergraduate days and even went around campus write W.A.S.T.E. on the walls of bathroom stalls.

    I've not read Gravity's Rainbow but I did get almost to the end of V. About 75 pages from the end I left my copy on the streetcar one day. I decided that was actually a fitting way for the book to end and never replaced my lost copy.

  7. Amanda - I think all of his other books are 500+ page monsters which is why you might have thought this one was too. I think most ppl can read this one but it took me a while to read.

    parrish lantern - yes, I mean what could I say about it? I loved the describtion of the play and the film more than the actual story though.

    Shelley - I'm not surprised! I have a fear of all his other books now LOL

    Stephanie - Thats not a good sign then really is it? I would have hated to study this book as I think Id be terrible in an exam.

    Toni - LOL Im glad I'm not the only one then. I think I resigned myself quite early on that I wasnt going to keep up with the 'plot' Once I did that I enjoyed it more but still I'm not reading 500 pages of gravitys window.

    C.B. James - LOL at you writing W.A.S.T.E - that is such a student thing to do! I do want to see the film of V now as Im curious but this is the end of the road for me and Pynchon (ah well)

  8. I attempted this book a few years ago and failed to finish it. I couldn't follow it and it seemed like too much hard work so I gave up after about 40 pages. I don't think I'll be trying any of his other books anytime soon!

  9. Jackie - I think the only reason I read the whole thing was because it was 100 pages and they were hard work.

  10. I've tried reading Gravity's Rainbow about four times, with no joy, and I really want to finish that before I go near another Pynchon - with this one being the next on my list!

    Congratulations on finishing it - it sounds totally whacky. That's a good thing, right?

  11. Great review - what a wonderful cover the book has too. I've never read any Pynchon so a treat in store perhaps? Thanks for visiting mine

  12. anothercookiecrumbles - this one is only 100 pages so will seem easy compared to Gravitys window I bet. Its certainly wacky so you kinnda have to just let go and go with it.

    Tom C - alas my copy had a much more boring cover :)