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Short Cuts

Thomas​ Jones: Thomas Pynchon

8 May 2003
... It’s ThomasPynchon’s birthday today: he’s 66. By today, I mean the date at the bottom of the page, not the day I’m writing this, or whenever you may be reading it. It’s more appropriate that way, since the man ...

Call It Capitalism

Thomas​ Jones: Pynchon

10 September 2009
Inherent Vice 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 369 pp., £18.99, August 2009, 978 0 224 08948 7
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... the National Book Award in 1974, its famously reclusive author surprised everyone by turning up at the ceremony to collect the prize. Except that the rambling, shambling figure at the podium wasn’t ThomasPynchon at all, but a comedian and actor, ‘Professor’ Irwin Corey, who had been hired by Pynchon’s publisher to impersonate the novelist. The audience gradually got the joke as Corey, who was ...

Well, duh

Dale Peck

18 July 1996
Infinite Jest 
by David Foster Wallace.
Little, Brown, 1079 pp., £17.99, July 1996, 0 316 92004 5
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... The US literary world can be divided into two camps: those who think ThomasPynchon is a very clever guy, and those who also think he’s a great writer. As it happens, I’m of the former camp. While I admit that Pynchon’s writing is packed with all sorts of ideas, ultimately the ...

Humming along

Michael Wood: The Amazing Thomas Pynchon

4 January 2007
Against the Day 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 1085 pp., £20, November 2006, 0 224 08095 4
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... Many readers can’t bear whimsy and never make it far into books containing cute animals and characters with funny names. I’m not wild about whimsy myself, and a first glance at ThomasPynchon’s new novel had me worried. I could scarcely be surprised by the funny names or the animals, since Pynchon’s early fiction had people called Dennis Flange, Rachel Owlglass and Emory Bortz, and in ...

Short Cuts

Bill Pearlman: Hanging with Pynchon

17 December 2009
... M.F. Beal, both writers, who lived up the road from us in a place called Beavercreek. We got into some swinging scenes, did some major acid, talked about the world. Shetzline had been a student with ThomasPynchon at Cornell in the 1950s, and he gave me Pynchon’s address in Manhattan Beach. When I went down to visit my parents, I knocked on his door. I grew up on 32nd Street and Pynchon was living on ...


Richard Poirier

24 January 1985
Slow Learner 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 204 pp., £8.50, January 1985, 0 224 02283 0
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... With V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) and Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) to his credit so far, ThomasPynchon, American of no known address, is possibly the most accomplished writer of prose in English since James Joyce. This is not to say that he is also the best novelist, whatever that would mean, but that ...

Oh my oh my oh my

John Lanchester

12 September 1991
Mao II 
by Don DeLillo.
Cape, 239 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 9780224031523
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Introducing Don DeLillo 
edited by Frank Lentricchia.
Duke, 221 pp., £28, September 1991, 0 8223 1135 6
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... it is flourishing in the United States at the moment, where the reputations of celebrity hermits such as Salinger and Brodkey swell inexorably with every book they fail to publish. Conversely, when ThomasPynchon finally broke his silence to publish Vineland two years ago, there was a strong sense of anticlimax, of a man having performed an act of vandalism on his own reputation: in going to such ...

In the Cybersweatshop

Christian Lorentzen: Pynchon​ Dotcom

26 September 2013
Bleeding Edge 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 477 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 0 224 09902 8
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... hired me, one of the ‘founders’ – what is it about starting a website that makes people think they have a lot in common with George Washington? – is now a not very funny comic wine columnist. ThomasPynchon’s Bleeding Edge is a period novel about Silicon Alley. Pynchon is fond of silly names, and in the dotcom bubble they seemed to be self-generating: Razorfish, AltaVista, HotBot, Yahoo! There ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: The Great Refusers

19 October 2016
... that book: that if someone needs privacy that badly, and hasn’t done anything wrong, we, collectively and individually, should let them have their space. Sometimes the culture manages to do that. ThomasPynchon is another famous recluse, not someone who grew sick of the publishing process and walked away, but someone who never took part in it. From a far distance, Pynchon’s identity seemed as ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inherent Vice’

5 February 2015
Inherent Vice 
directed by Paul Thomas​ Anderson.
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... come to us straightaway when we see a private detective using it all the time, making it his best supporting actor. In a sluggish movie we keep looking at our watch and it seems to have stopped. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is more slow than sluggish but pretty sluggish all the same. Anderson wrote the adaptation himself and clearly loves the 2009 ThomasPynchon novel he is adapting. He ...

Like Apollinaire

Michael Wood

4 April 1996
Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by Paul St John Mackintosh and Maki Sugiyama.
Boyars, 189 pp., £14.95, May 1995, 0 7145 2997 4
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A Personal Matter 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by John Nathan.
Picador, 165 pp., £5.99, January 1996, 0 330 34435 8
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Hiroshima Notes 
by Kenzaburo Oë, translated by David Swain and Toshi Yonezawa.
Boyars, 192 pp., £14.95, August 1995, 0 7145 3007 7
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... English and American coevals, whatever it was we were reading in the wake of Sartre and Camus, and before the Sixties became the Sixties. William Golding, Iris Murdoch, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, ThomasPynchon, who else? Oë wrote his graduation thesis on Sartre (in 1959), and evokes Camus in Hiroshima Notes: ‘A plague that ravages a city in North Africa, for example, appears as an abnormal ...

Short Cuts

Thomas​ Jones: Blurbs and puffs

20 July 2006
... of a novel was enough to decide whether or not it was going to be any good). Franzen’s willingness to give a junior colleague a leg-up is surpassed only by that of Salman Rushdie, J.M. Coetzee and ThomasPynchon. There’s clearly a connection between reclusiveness and readiness to puff, even if Rushdie’s withdrawal from the public eye was neither voluntary nor permanent. Maybe it’s simply a ...
17 July 1997
Mason & Dixon 
by Thomas Pynchon.
Cape, 773 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 9780224050012
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... the brisk Wind off Delaware’ – that’s what it says right now in the window of my local bookshop. It’s been painted on the glass by hand. It’s from the first sentence of Mason – Dixon. ThomasPynchon was born on Long Island, New York in 1937. He studied engineering, physics and, later, English literature, at Cornell University, then worked as a technical writer for Boeing until 1962. Not ...
8 February 1990
by Thomas Pynchon.
Secker, 385 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 436 39866 4
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... Seventeen years have passed since the publication of Pynchon’s immense Gravity’s Rainbow, during which time exegesis has continued more or less unabated. It is accompanied by tireless speculation as to what the author could be up to next, where he was ...
1 April 1982
The Dean’s December 
by Saul Bellow.
Secker, 312 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 436 03952 4
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...  The way a writer names his characters provides a good index to the way he sees the world – to his reality-level, his responsiveness to the accidental humour and freakish poetry of life. ThomasPynchon uses names like Oedipa Maas and Pig Bodine (where the effect is slangy, jivey, cartoonish); at the other end of the scale, John Braine offers us Tom Metfield, Jack Royston, Jane Framsby (can these ...

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