Ok, I lied. I’m not going to try my hand at a review of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, mostly because Amazon.com already has 155 of them. Instead I thought I’d just note a couple thoughts on it. I was inspired to re-read it after I picked up a copy of a book of Pynchon’s early stories at the District of Columbia Public Library’s bookstore downtown.
I had vaguely remembered rushing through The Crying of Lot 49 for a class in college and making a note that it might be something I’d be interested in revisiting. This time through I thought it was a good deal funnier, and further impressed by how much it is a book about the 1960s, laced as it is with references to LSD, Freud, new suburban development, etc. It also seemed to me that the point Pynchon is making about Trystero (a mysterious underground mail delivery service discovered by the novel’s heroine) is one about the nature of the new society emerging in the 1960s. The system uncovered by Mrs. Oedipa Maas cannot possibly be called a proper conspiracy because those aware of the system share the so little — sometimes just the knowledge of their little corner of the system, or a misremembered name or jingle connected to the historical organization. It is this knowledge — that culture is becoming so stretched the shared connections are nearly meaningless — that Oedipa realizes. In Pynchon’s novel Trystero, which appears at first an intelligible fragment of the broader society, is like the larger society itself inherently unknowable.
For more detailed information on the book the Wikipedia article is a good place to start.