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Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Thomas Pynchon, 8 May 2003

... It’s Thomas Pynchon’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 doesn’t exist, in public, other than on the printed page. He has only been photographed twice, both times against his will, in the forty years since his first novel, V ...

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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... ceremony to collect the prize. Except that the rambling, shambling figure at the podium wasn’t Thomas Pynchon 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 once described by ...

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 Thomas Pynchon 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 novels strike me as more crudités than smorgasbord: the appetisers keep coming (and coming, and coming), but the main course never arrives ...

Short Cuts

Bill Pearlman: Hanging with Pynchon, 17 December 2009

... swinging scenes, did some major acid, talked about the world. Shetzline had been a student with Thomas Pynchon 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 ...

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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... animals and characters with funny names. I’m not wild about whimsy myself, and a first glance at Thomas Pynchon’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 Mason ...


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, Thomas Pynchon, 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 sentence by sentence he can do more than any novelist of this century with the resources of the English-American language and with the various media by which it is made available to us, everything from coterie slangs to technological jargons, from film to economic history, from comic books to the poetry of T ...

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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... have a lot in common with George Washington? – is now a not very funny comic wine columnist. Thomas Pynchon’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 was a strange ...

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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... as Salinger and Brodkey swell inexorably with every book they fail to publish. Conversely, when Thomas Pynchon 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 lengths to focus our attention exclusively on his ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Blurbs and puffs, 20 July 2006

... to give a junior colleague a leg-up is surpassed only by that of Salman Rushdie, J.M. Coetzee and Thomas Pynchon. 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 question of having plenty of time on one’s hands. Or ...

Wicked Converse

Keith Thomas: Bewitched by the Brickmaker, 12 May 2022

The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World 
by Malcolm Gaskill.
Allen Lane, 308 pp., £20, November 2021, 978 0 241 41338 8
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... mere village, situated a mile north-east of the city on the old Roman road. This is where William Pynchon, a key figure in Malcolm Gaskill’s new book, went to live in 1610. Born in 1590 in Writtle, another Essex village, he grew up to be a convinced Puritan, profoundly unsympathetic to the church of Charles I and William Laud. Gaskill exaggerates when he ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inherent Vice’, 5 February 2015

Inherent Vice 
directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
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... 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 Thomas Pynchon novel he is adapting. He follows its plot and ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: The Great Refusers, 20 October 2016

... and individually, should let them have their space. Sometimes the culture manages to do that. Thomas Pynchon 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 mysterious and ...

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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... the Sixties became the Sixties. William Golding, Iris Murdoch, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Thomas Pynchon, 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 phenomenon; but the doctors and citizens who struggle ...

A Hologram for President

Eliot Weinberger, 30 August 2012

... the least worst choice from a pack of bizarre characters seemingly drawn from reality TV shows or Thomas Pynchon novels, but he’s not finding much love, even at his own coronation. Only 27 per cent of Americans think that he’s a ‘likeable’ guy. (Obama gets 61 per cent.) On television he projects a strange combination of self-satisfaction and an ...

The Moronic Inferno

Martin Amis, 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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... to his reality-level, his responsiveness to the accidental humour and freakish poetry of life. Thomas Pynchon 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 people really exist, in our minds or anywhere ...

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