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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 ...

Political Gothic

Andy Beckett: David Peace does the miners’ strike, 23 September 2004

by David Peace.
Faber, 465 pp., £12.99, March 2004, 0 571 21445 2
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... Throughout, there is an intriguing tension between the book’s desire, approaching that of a Thomas Pynchon novel, to set wheels turning within wheels, to present a political world of infinite complexity and, ultimately, chaos, and its desire for order, both organisational and moral. Peace loves describing meetings. He lingers over the rituals of ...

Anxiety of Influx

Tony Tanner, 18 February 1982

Plotting the Golden West: American Literature and the Rhetoric of the California Trail 
by Stephen Fender.
Cambridge, 241 pp., £15, January 1982, 0 521 23924 9
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Witnesses to a Vanishing America: The 19th-Century Response 
by Lee Clark Mitchell.
Princeton, 320 pp., £10.70, July 1981, 9780691064611
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... way westward, what other way was there but into those virgin sunsets to penetrate and to foul? Pynchon: Gravity’s Rainbow Near the end of The Great Gatsby Nick Carraway suddenly says: ‘I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all.’ It is a comment which might be made about American literature as a whole: writing about America turns ...

An American Genius

Patrick Parrinder, 21 November 1991

The Runaway Soul 
by Harold Brodkey.
Cape, 835 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 224 03001 9
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... But it suited everyone to disregard this fact. Today, with the dubious and decadent exception of Thomas Pynchon, there are no longer any white male novelists of the highest class below pensionable age in the United States. This gap may be amply filled by genre fiction, by female, ethnic and minority-group writers – not to mention the novelists of the ...

Voyage to Uchronia

Paul Delany, 29 August 1991

The Difference Engine 
by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Gollancz, 384 pp., £7.99, July 1991, 9780575050730
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... itself.’ The literary idea of a world oscillating between order and entropy goes back to Thomas Pynchon in the Sixties: but cyberpunk has given it a more specifically political slant. Gibson’s novels are futuristic allegories of Reaganism, projections of the contrast between the booming of America’s sunbelt suburbs and the crumbling of its ...


Christopher Tayler: Multofiction, 8 January 2004

Set This House in Order 
by Matt Ruff.
Flamingo, 496 pp., £12, October 2003, 0 00 716423 8
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... The Public Works Trilogy (1997), was a deeply whimsical, cod-Vonnegut satire on Ayn Rand. Thomas Pynchon, who was frequently guyed in it, described the book as ‘dizzyingly readable’, and his words have been borrowed to puff the new novel, too. On the whole, they still hold good: Set This House in Order is pretty hard to put down. As with the ...
The Restraint of Beasts 
by Magnus Mills.
Flamingo, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 00 225720 3
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... was given a further boost by a rare, cryptic – and surprisingly ungainly – endorsement from Thomas Pynchon, who described Mills’s novel as a ‘demented, deadpan comic wonder’ with ‘the exuberant power of a magic word it might possibly be dangerous (like the title of a certain other Scottish tale) to speak out loud’. Later, a great deal of ...

Genderbait for the Nerds

Christopher Tayler: William Gibson, 22 May 2003

Pattern Recognition 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 356 pp., £16.99, April 2003, 0 670 87559 7
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... neon and rain. But Gibson – ‘very much under the influence of Robert Stone’, as well as Thomas Pynchon and William Burroughs – was among the first to find a centre-stage role for information technology in his future scenarios. His stories were set in a world of porous borders, where multinationals and crime cartels had arrogated most of the ...


Jay McInerney: The Great American Novelists, 23 April 1987

... have been a brilliant one, though hardly palatable to any but the most reticent souls, such as Thomas Pynchon. Mailer and Capote, more than anyone else, used television and the popular press to create personae in a culture where art objects and ideas are considered indigestible except in a solution of strong personality. Mailer married ...

Kill the tuna can

Christopher Tayler: George Saunders, 8 June 2006

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil and In Persuasion Nation 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 358 pp., £10.99, June 2006, 0 7475 8221 1
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... he published his first short-story collection, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. This was praised by Thomas Pynchon as well as Wolff, and since then Saunders has been about as successful as a scrupulous writer of offbeat stories can be. He has returned to the writing-school circuit as a teacher and collected numerous National Magazine and O. Henry ...

Eat Caviar

Daniel Soar: Rubem Fonseca’s Cunning Stories, 26 February 2009

‘The Taker’ and Other Stories 
by Rubem Fonseca, translated by Clifford Landers.
Open Letter, 166 pp., $15.95, November 2008, 978 1 934824 02 3
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... Fonseca, who is now 83, has been one of those famously reticent writers – he’s a friend of Thomas Pynchon – who chooses to say as little as he can about what his fiction is meant to mean. One of the distractions his biography throws up is that he worked for the Rio police in the 1950s and 1960s: this is supposed to give him a licence to write ...

Mid-Century Male

Christopher Glazek: Edmund White, 19 July 2012

Jack Holmes and His Friend 
by Edmund White.
Bloomsbury, 390 pp., £18.99, January 2012, 978 1 4088 0579 4
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... and gives the novel a starred review, praising its ‘charming’ recombination of the styles of Thomas Pynchon and Boris Vian and its ‘tender’, ‘childlike’ depiction of heterosexual love. Jack figures the Kirkus reviewer must be a woman, probably studying French, unduly influenced by Will’s touched-up author photo. Then comes a review in the ...

The Greatest Geek

Richard Barnett: Nikola Tesla, 5 February 2015

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 
by W. Bernard Carlson.
Princeton, 520 pp., £19.95, April 2015, 978 0 691 05776 7
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... and charisma with a gift for big tech, electro-prophecy and bullshit. He was a near perfect Thomas Pynchon character, and his cameo appearance in Pynchon’s Against the Day in 2006 confirmed his status as a counter-cultural hero. Pynchon’s Tesla is a fleeting and mysterious ...

Modernity’s Undoing

Pankaj Mishra: ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’, 31 March 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad 
by Jennifer Egan.
Corsair, 336 pp., £14.99, March 2011, 978 1 78033 028 0
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... of work, consumption and war. The masters of this quintessentially American literature have been Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, prophets of Cold War paranoia, rather than Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen, or all the chroniclers of the immigrant experience from Henry Roth to Jhumpa Lahiri. Pynchon and DeLillo have had ...

There’s Daddy

Michael Wood, 13 February 1992

Flying in to Love 
by D.M. Thomas.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 7475 1129 2
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directed by Oliver Stone.
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... a need for hope in Americans and in others, and much of that hope died with him. There is, as D.M. Thomas’s novel suggests, continuing disbelief – it can’t have happened, it is a bad dream or a mere movie, reality will pick up and go on again. There is the mythological investment in the Kennedys as a doomed dynasty, a notion which also appears in ...

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