I also listened to The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. I listened to it on the way back from Zion and the next day. It’s rather remarkable. Pynchon’s writing is dense and thick with meaning; it requires concentration. But he’s bizarre and funny too, presenting the world through a warped mirror where everyone has names like Pierce Inverarity or Mike Fellopian or Oedipa Maas or Dr. Hilarious. The story itself is convoluted, a tangled mass of seeming red herrings and dead ends that may or may not all tie together in the end. It’s rather unclear. But that makes it beautiful.
Pynchon reminds me of Proust in that while his sentences and his paragraphs can be difficult to understand and to follow, you’re left with a startlingly vivid sense of place, character, and feeling. They are both seemingly able to conjure sharpness from the haze of their words. Perhaps this is a mark of good writing. What I like so much about Pynchon is how he is able to incorporate interesting and serious plot, bizarre tangents, elegant descriptions, science and philosophy, pop culture, and cap it all off with unheard of names that seem to mock the whole brilliant system and render the book an ironic portrayal of life that simultaneously offers tremendous insight.
I very much enjoyed it. Now to add Gravity’s Rainbow to the list.