The Crying Of Lot 49′ by Thomas Pynchon (first published in 1967)

This is not a review because, having struggled with this novel, I can’t think of anything meaningful to say that hasn’t already been said elsewhere on the net. It has the feel of a novel written while under the influence of LSD and probably makes more sense if the reader is tripping too.

Here are two quotes from pg 66 of the Picador paperback edition I read :

“Oedipa wondered whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end) she too might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements. intimations, but never the central truth itself, which must somehow each time be too bright for her memory to hold; which must always blaze out, destroying its own message irreversibly; leaving an overexposed blank when the ordinary world came back”.  

“I’m not sure I understand, Oedipa said”.

These are two extracts from critic’s reviews I can relate to:

“I suspect many readers tackle this brief novel—or in Pynchon’s enigmatic description, a work  “marketed as a novel”—with the thought that something so compact, a mere 45,000 words, will make for an easy introduction to a sometimes elliptical writer.  Ah, the joke is  on them.  A walk through a house of mirrors may be short when measured in steps, but if you keep on slamming your  face into your own reflection, the effect is anything but that of a leisurely stroll”. – Ted Gioia (From a review at Postmodern Mystery)

This book is the literary equivalent of some hipster noise band that everyone knows sucks but people will say they are good just to be in the “know.”  – Goodreads review by TeacherMrLoria.

I look for some illumination at The Modern Word  who write of the novel : ” Even thirty years after publication it is still considered quite open to interpretation: some critics feel that it is ultimately meaningless and impossible to interpret, while others have found it to be rather cohesive, and even possessed by a set of ethical directives. ……….All, however, agree that it is a vital work and a postmodern classic”.

None of this stops my brain from hurting but here are two reasons why you might want to persevere:


The Crying of Lot 49 is on David Foster Wallace’s ‘Formative reading list’ and  friend Mark Costello said that Wallace discovering Pynchon was like Dylan discovering Woody Guthrie.


Radiohead  use the acronym W.A.S.T.E. as the name of their online merchandise store and fan forum. In Pynchon’s novel, W.A.S.T.E. is found scrawled around Los Angeles and stands for “We Await Silent Trystero’s Empire.”  The Legomenon website explains:  “Trystero is the figurehead of an underground movement working “in the shadows,” intent on subverting the drives of the monopolistic mainstream culture…………Radiohead probably use W.A.S.T.E.  because (1) they are fans of Thomas Pynchon  and (2) the band is jokingly (and humbly) referring to Radiohead fan merchandise as “waste” or “trash” that Radiohead fans don’t really need, but want anyway”. 

An as yet unread copy of the more substantial Gravity’s Rainbow taunts me from my bookshelves – I need to summon up the courage to attempt this.