So I finally finished The Crying of Lot 49, and while I’d like to say the ending defied my expectations, it didn’t. My Goodreads review is as follows:
** spoiler alert ** A series of non-statements and mild suggestions and endless asides which we are supposed to forgive the author because he assigns his characters ridiculous names and makes his protagonist wander about having LSD-style revelations in longish semi-Faulknerian sentences. There’s a conspiracy to do something, and if you want to find out if any of its real, you’re going to have to decide for yourself, as the book merrily refuses to tell you. I guess you could call that a spoiler, but honestly there isn’t anything to spoil, and that’s the point. I want to punch the author for wasting my time.
But. This was an early work, and Pynchon has had a multi-decade career as a novelist. And really, what picqued my interest, as I said, was a viewing of the film for Inherent Vice. So I went to the library this weekend and picked it up.
So far, a chaper and change in, it doesn’t suck. The ridiculousness of the names are toned-down to something approaching verisimilitude, and the loose plot-logic is so far within the bounds of noir. I expect I’ll enjoy this one far more.
And that’s a good thing. It’s fun do damn a book, and even to condescend to an author from a great height, yet it’s also a shame.
Bonus: the Red Letter Media guys review the Inherent Vice movie:
A recent viewing of the film Inherent Vice led me to try to finish The Crying of Lot 49, which I abandoned out of frustration some time ago. I’ve made a small amount of headway, but am bored again.
Action is not being built. The plot is not going anywhere. The woman with the ridiculous name is having conversations with other people with ridiculous names about random nonsense that’s supposed to be relevatory but is entirely unconnected with what she’s ostensibly doing. I struggle to care.
It’s baffling to me that I can be so close to the end of a book this short and feel no desire to continue. This seems to be a problem I have with literature from this era. The Beats, Burroughs, Joyce, Waiting for Godot, it all seems so enamored of itself for frustrating readers as to form a kind of anti-literature. It’s less like reading a book than joining a Hermetic cult.
Call it the need for status, for differentiation from the semi-literate masses, but the need to set up a hyper-literacy, from the New Criticism on down, strikes me as largely self-defeating. No wonder all our cultural battles are fought over popcorn movies.
What is the difference between a real savage and a noble savage? Let us look into the iron shadows of the moonlight for an answer.
This story is well suited to the question, for it just so happens to have a lovely, half-clad and large-eyed brunette in distress; a highly civilized oriental aristocrat bent on her dishonor; a rough and semi-civilized pirate chief who hates Conan with hot passion (and wants him hanged on a hook); eldritch monuments from a forgotten civilization, haunted perhaps with the ghosts of an accursed peoples; and an apelike monstrosity equally likely to originate from the darkness of prehistory as the darkness of the netherworld.
In other words, we have one antagonist from each season of the rise and fall of cultures from primitive to civilized to decadent to dark ages and back to prehistory again.
As they say, Read the Whole Thing. And I have further contrasts of Conan with more modern fiction here, if you’re into that sort of thing.
People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing that they like.
A Man With No Business, Killing Time
When my car is in the shop They tell me “an hour and A half.”
So I have fish tacos and Salad and a pint that Lingers around the temples Tightening the skin in that Pleasant way it does.
And I wander about the mall With nothing to buy but A record if I felt like dropping Forty dollars on the latest from Queens of the Stone Age.
But Instead I slip through The attractions and lures of Commerce promising me Ease and joy and self-expression At a discounted rate This week only.
I wander back, as slow as I came, The heat somewhat stronger on my face Hoping to walk through Firestone’s doors with the words “I was just about to call you,” Greeting me
But instead I wait though A commercial break for American Pickers or a show like that To be told it isn’t done yet It isn’t started yet They’re very busy and very behind. I knew this as I walked in Because my car hadn’t moved Or spawned new tires.
And they tell me “another forty-five Minutes.”
So I cross the crosswalkless Boulevard in the other direction Along a tree-lined sidewalk Counting my steps on the FitBit Congratulating myself for activity Navigating the wide sweep of the Parking lot between the old H.H. Gregg and Barnes & Noble.
There are no books I intend To buy, but I might surprise myself, With Upanishads or Buddhist Scriptures Or a lesser C.S. Lewis tome But instead I wrinkle my nose at The gaudy covers of modern Poetry books, with their Instagram verses and their Banal politics and their Dull ironies on the urge To fornicate.
I read a few stanzas by Frost and say In my bookstore whisper “That’s beautiful.” I do not buy it.
I slip away into the attached Starbucks and order a Doppio Espresso in a paper cup And then my thumbs fall To recording The preceding As I drink and muse And consider waking back.
Over the course of that rainy muddy monsoon that was the summer of 2018, I wrote some poems, cheap, messy, quick, and therefore true. I consider it an expression of this idea I call Suburban Zen, which I have not fully defined. It’s closer to Zen that way.
This is my second such collection. The other one, Stir, was longer and composed over a longer period of time.
I am likely to keep doing this. There’s an ease an a gratification in making such small offerings. They keep the juices flowing.
A good discussion of the most modern of complaints: the University-as-therapy and the concomitant eradication of Free Speech.
Apart from its intellectual content and institutional structure descriptions, The Coddling of the American Mind makes being a contemporary college student in some schools sound like a terrible experience: Life in a call-out culture requires constant vigilance, fear, and self-censorship. Many in the audience may feel sympathy for the person being shamed but are afraid […]
Pursuant to Yesterday’s post, here’s new covers for old works. One is a glorified essay, the other a “Long Short Story” (Novellette?). They’ve been published a while, but I’ve never liked their cover art. These are better:
I do the philosophical justifications of Rebellion, as understood by The Bible, by Jefferson, by Marx. It’s a pondering.Link Here
This is fiction, and what you might call Suburban Realism. I like it. Link here.