Abstract only

Over a writing career spanning more than fifty years, Thomas Pynchon has been at the forefront of America's engagement with postmodern literary possibilities. This book explores the ways in which postmodernity, and its embrace of epistemological, ethical and ontological aporia, is put to work in the service of profound reflections on the political possibilities of narrative. Pynchon remains the most elusive and important writer of American postmodernity. V., Thomas Pynchon's first novel, was published in 1963. Within the dialectic of freedom and constraint , Pynchon's characters find themselves in networks of signification they struggle to understand but which urge them to make connections and establish forms of relationship. Of the stories reprinted in Thomas Pynchon's Slow Learner, the book discusses three in detail: 'Low-lands', 'The Secret Integration' and 'Entropy'. It examines how critics have argued about the ways in which Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 sets it in the contexts of debates about modernism and postmodernism. Published in 1973, Gravity's Rainbow has frequently been described by critics as Pynchon's most complex, challenging and experimental novel. Vineland describes how the paranoid sensibility is encouraged and maintained by structures of power that require the identification and persecution of an enemy who is variously defined across the political history of the United States. Mason & Dixon, published in 1997, takes the reader back to the period of the country's founding and the historical densities of eighteenth-century colonial culture. Against the Day is an epic novel of global and other-worldly proportions.

Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

1 Refuge and refuse in Slow Learner With the publication in 1984 of Slow Learner, Thomas Pynchon made easily available some of his earliest writing. At least one of the stories, ‘The Small Rain’, had been published (in the Cornell Writer in March 1959) while Pynchon was studying for his undergraduate degree at Cornell University. The other pieces in the collection are: ‘Low-lands’ (published in New World Writing in March 1960); ‘Entropy’ (in the spring 1960 edition of the Kenyon Review); ‘Under the Rose’ (in The Noble Savage in May 1961); and ‘The Secret

in Thomas Pynchon
Abstract only
‘The fork in the road’
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

Introduction: ‘the fork in the road’ Fifty years after the publication of his first novel, V., in 1963, Thomas Pynchon remains the most elusive and important writer of American postmodernity. For an author whose novels return again and again to the processes by which identity is structured by, and limited to, the shapes that society fashions for it, Pynchon’s own biographical self has remained tantalisingly out of focus, as if always one step ahead, or to the side of, attempts to locate and define him. It is one of the contentions of this book that such a stance

in Thomas Pynchon
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

3 Disappearing points: V. V., Thomas Pynchon’s first novel, was published in 1963. It was received by critics with a good deal of acclaim, and not a little bafflement: an often-cited review in Time Magazine describes it as a ‘likable, mad and unfathomable first novel’ that ‘sails with majesty through caverns measureless to man’, and concludes that ‘[f]ew books haunt the waking or sleeping mind, but this is one’; and George Plimpton’s review for The New York Times, while not describing much more than a sense of enjoyable confusion with regard to the plot, notes

in Thomas Pynchon
Abstract only
Inherent Vice as Pynchon Lite?
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

Conclusion: Inherent Vice as Pynchon Lite? Thomas Pynchon’s most recent novel, Inherent Vice, was published in August 2009. At just over 350 pages, it is his shortest book since The Crying of Lot 49. The novel’s comparative brevity, its having what appears at first sight to be a relatively straightforward narrative structure, and the recognisable generic form of private-eye fiction were among the first things that critics and reviewers noticed, and discussion of them formed the centre-points of almost all of the early responses to the novel. In a review for the

in Thomas Pynchon
Political and aesthetic disruption in Against the Day
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

the form’s development in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. While his story sweeps along at a rapid pace (inevitably so, given its appearance as a London Review of 184 Thomas Pynchon Books article), it is nevertheless instructive in helping us position the formal and ideological mutations that historical fiction has undergone. From its inception as ‘a nation-building exercise’, ‘an affirmation of human progress, in and through the conflicts that divide societies and the individuals within them’, Anderson describes its current incarnation as ‘Not the

in Thomas Pynchon
Power, presentation and history in Gravity’s Rainbow
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

all, might of course be taken to say a good deal about their respective failings, but is also more widely significant as it begins to indicate the sheer complexity of the work itself. Michael Wood sums up this difficulty most succinctly in an early review of the novel for the New York Review of Books: ‘Gravity’s Rainbow is literally indescribable, a tortured cadenza of lurid imaginings and total recall that goes on longer than you can quite believe. … It is crowded, technical, serious, self-indulgent, 100 Thomas Pynchon frivolous and very heavy going. It doesn

in Thomas Pynchon
Abstract only
Identity, interpretation and reference in The Crying of Lot 49
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

some way linked together: ‘There was the true continuity, San Narciso had no boundaries. … She has dedicated herself, weeks ago, to making sense of what Inverarity had left behind, never suspecting that the legacy was America’ (CL 123). And at the heart of this America, as the novel’s central enigmatic sign, lies a shady underground body that ‘she was to label the Tristero System or often only the Tristero (as if it might be something’s secret title)’ (CL 29), the roots of which appear to trace back to sixteenth-century European conflicts about 50 Thomas Pynchon

in Thomas Pynchon
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

5 Cultural nostalgia and political possibility in Vineland In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks, and the subsequent prosecution of a War on Terror by the Bush administration, Thomas Pynchon’s 1990 novel Vineland has accrued a renewed sense of significance. The book is concerned to uncover the ways in which widespread paranoia serves as a strategy for forging political consensus. Vineland describes how the paranoid sensibility is encouraged and maintained by structures of power that require the identification and persecution of an enemy who is

in Thomas Pynchon
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor

significance, both in terms of its geographical reach and its metaphorical potential, is central to Thomas Pynchon’s 1997 postmodern fictionalisation of its genesis. Mason & Dixon itself ranges beyond the geography of the original mission, and is divided into three parts: part 1, ‘Latitudes and Departures’, describes Mason’s and Dixon’s first meeting in 1760, their visit to Cape Town to measure the transit of Venus between the sun and the earth, Mason’s additional trip to the island of St Helena to undertake further astronomical calculations, and the two men’s return to

in Thomas Pynchon