In an interesting comment about Thomas Pynchon’s work, Lafayette Sennacherib, one of the (other) great writers who loiter in the comments threads, discusses reading some Pynchon novels. First he discusses reading Gravity’s Rainbow, and then moves on:
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 the first time, and maybe again life’s too short.
Just a few comments. Gravity’s Rainbow is one of my favorite books of all time. Besides being possibly the greatest novel since James Joyce’s Ulysses, it’s a fun, romping, joy to read. 30 years ago, I mentioned it in a bookstore, and this hippie girl said, “Oh, most people I know are reading Gravity’s Rainbow for the 8th or 9th time now.” Sure, why not? There’s worse things you could be doing. Why not read the greats over and over? You could be watching TV or reading supermarket novels instead.
The Crying of Lot 49 is out of this world. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s also a lot of fun, and it’s a very brief read. I think the plot has to do with Information Theory – he who controls information, controls the world.
I read V also, and it’s also a kick. I didn’t really understand it, but that didn’t bother me one bit. It’s one of those books you read and you can’t figure out what the Hell is going on or why anything is happening, but you don’t even care.
I read Vineland. That’s an easy and fun read too. I haven’t tried Mason and Dixon yet, because I don’t like the period prose. Nor have I bothered with Against the Day.
As far as life being too short, sure, but what better to spend a small part of one’s short life than reading a Thomas Pynchon novel? Or rereading one? Or reading one for the 8th time? Isn’t that a great way to while away your short hours?
I recall a conversation a professor literature who specialized in James Joyce had with an interviewer. The professor mentioned that he had only read one novel, James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, in the last 20 years! The interviewer was shocked. “But think of how many novels you could have read in that time, in 20 years!” he exclaimed. The professor thought for a moment and his eyes twinkled. “Ah, but you don’t understand. All those novels I could have read in 20 years, sure – but they are all in the Wake.”
Sure, instead of reading 200 novels in 20 years, read one novel that packs those 200, and 20,000 more, all in it in one amazing lifetime of a read.
I confess I have not read the Wake, though I have dipped into it. You really need a Companion Guide, otherwise it’s a waste of time.