Thomas Pynchon – The Crying of Lot 49 (1965/2006)
Thomas Pynchon is a critically acclaimed, but somewhat mysterious author, (he doesn’t allow photographs, and he appeared on an episode of The Simpsons wearing a bag on his head!) who crafts odd, humorous, haunting, and disturbing books that leave their readers feeling uncomfortable and ill-at-ease, but entertained. This book, which is brilliant, is his shortest (many of his books being massive tomes that take extreme effort and a serious time commitment to get through), but at only 150 pages, even someone who reads as slowly as I do can finish this one in just a few days.
I’ve read this book at least four times, and each time I read it, I get something new out of the experience. Equal parts mystery-thriller, slap-stick comedy, and extreme social critique, The Crying of Lot 49 centers around Oedipa Maas, a woman trapped in the suburban Hell of southern Californian Tupperware Parties and fondue affairs, who inexplicably finds herself wrapped up in a hunt for proof of the existence of a centuries old secret society that just might point to a hidden network of underground misfits and world-wide, murderous conspiracies—or it might all just point to Oedipa herself, going slowly mad. Evidence piles up, supporting characters get taken out, and Oedipa wonders whether she’s really building a strong case, or just making connections where none really exist. Is it all a practical joke perpetrated by her dead, billionaire ex-lover?
Pynchon’s writing is poetic, but easy to read. The book is full of repetitions, symbols, booze, drugs, fake rock stars, bullets, death, dreams, and psychosis, and is very funny, sharp, and entertaining. I would recommend it for intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals who want to appear more intelligent by having it on their coffee tables, drug users, and for fans of books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Less Than Zero, and most Beat Generation lunacy! A great book.
—Richard F. Yates