Tuesday, September 03, 2002

"Although Manhattan Beach is known for affluent conservatism, back in the early 70s it harbored a healthy counterculture. It was during this time that Thomas Pynchon wrote his classic "Gravity's Rainbow" in a tiny apartment at 217 33rd Street. ...Pynchon apparently moved to Manhattan in 1969 or 1970, taking up residence in a small bachelor apartment behind a beachfront house before moving to his place on 33rd. Jim Hall, who knew Pynchon at the time, recalls the author being "very intense, really smart ... light years beyond anyone else." Among his few friends, Pynchon displayed much of the paranoia that would mark both his writing and career. But his first landlord in Manhattan recently speculated that his privacy might simply have been due to his difficult stutter. Pynchon the eccentric was known to lock himself up for weeks at a time while working, and he was often seen carrying a yellow plastic pig. His "Vineland," published in 1997, is full of references to Torrance, Hawthorne and Hermosa Beach. The novel also contains a description of a house in the fictional town of Gordita Beach, which could easily double for Manhattan: "But having been put up back during an era of overdesign, it proved to be sturdier than it looked, with its old stucco eaten at to reveal generations of paint jobs in different beach-town pastels, corroded by salt and petrochemical fogs that flowed in the summer up the sand slopes, on up past Sepulveda ..."

The Aesthetic

The date of Vineland's publication date is incorrect (first ed., 1990). That "carrying a yellow plastic pig" seems a tad romantic.