I Wonder How Common This Is?

Many of you may be familiar with Thomas Pynchon, the famous reclusive author who has refused to be photographed, interviewed, or in any way revealed for a very long time now. He’s now married to New York book editor, lives in New York City (Yet remains anonymous?!) and I believe he may have a kid or two. Formerly, he was living in Northern California for a while, and there was a famous article about him published in Playboy Magazine by Jules Siegel, a friend of his, called, Who Is Thomas Pynchon and Why Did He Run Off With My Wife? It’s really hard to find but you might want to see if you can find it somewhere. Siegel describes living in Mexico (He still lives there, I am acquainted with Jules, and have communicated with him recently) back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Pynchon was living some sort of a hippie life while writing the opus Gravity’s Rainbow. He blew in to Jules’ pad in Mexico one day, 34 years old, long hair, a teenage runaway on one arm, a suitcase full of GR drafts in the other hand, and pound of the finest hash in his pocket. I guess he was surviving by dealing for a while. He had an affair with Siegel’s wife and ran off with her for a bit. In piecing together Pynchon’s strange life, many folks have been interviewed. One interview I found striking. A woman said that she had spent an hour or two washing dishes with Pynchon after a big dinner party in British Colombia, and other than being one of the greatest writers of all time, there was absolutely nothing interesting about the guy whatsoever. That’s really interesting. Here’s one of the greatest artists of our time, and people who actually sat down and talked to him decided he was about as interesting as the postman or the guy in the liquor store. I wonder how common that is? I met quite a few (now famous) musicians when I was running around Hollywood and acting crazy in my endless party phase back in my 20’s. You think they are going to be some kind of super-people, but once you get to know them (Not so easy!) they’re pretty much like anyone else. Amazingly, there is actually a video that in my opinion contains footage of Thomas Pynchon walking the New York streets still sitting out there on the web, but you need Windows 95 to play it, and I’ve moved up in the world. It’s in some old dead format from the 1990’s and I’m not sure if it can be converted. What’s amazing about Pynchon is that somehow he has convinced everyone who has ever known him to not release or take any photos of him. How did he manage to do that?

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3 thoughts on “I Wonder How Common This Is?”

  1. Pynchon writes like some people talk on cannabis – a sort of stream of consciousness word association. But it’s a lot more inspired than most – he leaves most so-called modern poetry at the starting post It doesn’t make him an easy read though; several time in a page he can just take off on all the random associations of a word or phrase – too much of this can kill the momentum in the writing i.e. what propels you to keep reading. I would recommend Gravity’s Rainbow to anyone; at first it is, though brilliant, a bit of a slog, for the reasons I gave above, but have faith – there IS a plot and it DOES come together, in fact so brilliantly and hilariously that it’s the only time I’ve ever felt like giving a novel a round of applause. Maybe the best American novel since Faulkner ( ‘Absalom, Absalom’ my choice), Burrough’s ‘Naked Lunch’ being the only real competition (especially because the academics don’t like to mention it).
    I haven’t tried ‘ Crying of Lot 49 yet’ . ‘V’ I finally got all the way through at the third attempt, but I couldn’t really be sure it was worth the effort – maybe another try, but life’s too short. Same with ‘Mason & Dixon’ – I got all the way through it first time ( I was convalescing), but it’s just too packed for my mind to absorb first time, and maybe again life’s too short. ‘Vineland’ is an unusually easy read, and is certainly worthwhile, but is not brilliant (vergers on the silly often), and while a very worthwhile subject ( the government’s military operations against marijuana cultivators in N. California), only hints at Pynchon’s strengths. I haven’t started ‘Against the Day’ yet – it sits on my bookshelf, a huge, threatening presence.
    He has some huge flaws, but there’s plenty of real inspiration. The USA has turned out a lot of great writers ( and musicians); it’s a pity, if predictable, that it’s pompous, pretentious, asinine crap like Saul Bellow and Updike, which gets liberal colour-supplement land excited.

  2. That’s really interesting. Here’s one of the greatest artists of our time, and people who actually sat down and talked to him decided he was about as interesting as the postman or the guy in the liquor store. I wonder how common that is?
    Keep in mind that it was a woman making the assessment. Introduce most women to the 100 greatest minds in the world (say, writers, scientists, artists, philosophers, etc.), and the women will probably just tell you how “boring” or “lame” they all were.

  3. Yeah, maybe you are right after all. Women don’t seem to appreciate genius very much. They see genius, and they shrug their shoulders and want to know where the money is.

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