By Thomas Pynchon
Regarded as one of the major novels of the 20th century, a postmodern epic, nearly 800 pages long…and the only Pynchon book I’ve read is The Crying of Lot 49 — his shortest novel! I’m not sure I’m adequately prepared for this one, which promises to be a whole different ball of yarn.
Its first sentence: “A screaming comes across the sky.” This is printed alone on the back cover of at least one edition, so I’m inferring it’s a famous opener; from this and other hints I glean some whispers of the book’s themes and topics: language, chaos, the tangles of existence.
One one-star review calls it “a trudge through sludge”. Another decries it as “Awful. Tiresome, circuitous, tedious, pointless, chaotic, without plot or storyline narrated with all the enthusiasm of a funeral director giving school tours of a crematorium.”
Of course it’s also a modern classic, “sprawling, encyclopedic…penetrating…an intellectual tour de force.” The book “uses beautiful prose to induce an altered state of consciousness, a buzz.”
One reader provides a list of tips designed to help acclimate dauned readers to the text; another tells us that “reviews of this book are basically pointless.” The book is “supposed to be either a brilliant, compendious, funny, tragic novel about war, modernity and history or a stupid, slack, paranoid rant by a burnt-out (probable) druggy.” So yeah, it’s divisive, but I’m inclined to trust those who swear it’s well worth the effort.
I don’t even care what the plot is, although I just read the synopsis and it sounds delightfully manic and fucked up. I basically just want to read it because it sounds weird and challenging and hilarious and jam-packed with dense absurdities and thrilling feats of writing.