Wednesday, December 27, 2006

3 novels of interest to Pynchon readers

pynchonoid received a fine after-Xmas package, three novels from Soft Skull Press:

The Age of Sinatra by David Ohle
Electric Flesh by Claro (French translator of Pynchon)
H2O by Mark Swartz

We'll write more about them after reading them. Based on previous experience with Soft Skull Press novels, we're looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"the color and the music of this English idiom we are blessed to have inherited"

Note: the "From Thomas Pynchon" at the top of the typewritten letter appears to be hand-written in block capitals and is partially underlined; Atonement is underlined as well in the original:

From Thomas Pynchon

Given the British genius for coded utterance, this could all be about something else entirely, impossible on this side of the ocean to appreciate in any nuanced way-- but assuming that it really is about who owns the right to describe using gentian violet for ringworm, for heaven's sake, allow me a gentle suggestion. Oddly enough, most of us who write historical fiction do feel some obligation to accuracy. It is that Ruskin business about "a capacity responsive to the claims of fact, but unoppressed by them." Unless we were actually there, we must turn to people who were, or to letters, contemporary reporting, the Internet until, with luck, we can begin to make a few things of our own up. To discover in the course of research some engaging detail we know can be put into a story where it will do some good can hardly be classed as a felonious acvt-- it is simply what we do. The worst you can call it is a form of primate behavior. Writers are naturally drawn, chimpanzee-like, to the color and the music of this English idiom we are blessed to have inherited. When given the choice we will usually try to use the more vivid and tuneful among its words. I cannot of course speak for Mr. McEwan's method of proceeding, but should be very surprised indeed if something of the sort, even for brief moments, had not occurred during his research for Atonement- Gentian violet! Come on. Who among us could have resisted that one?

Memoirs of the Blitz have borne indispensable witness, and helped later generations know something of the tragedcy and heroism of those days. For Mr. McEwan to have put details from one of them to further creative use, acknowledging this openly and often, and then explaining it clearly and honorably, surely merits not our scolding, but our gratitude.

from Pynchon-L:

Makes the front page of the Telegraph this morning, along with his own
section, with sailor suit pic, of the McEwan full page.

Front page text:


By Nigel Reynolds
Arts Correspondent

Thomas Pynchon, who vies with J D Salinger for the title of the
world's most secretive author, has broken his strict rules on privacy
to join a campaign to clear the British Booker Prize-winning novelist
Ian McEwan of charges of plagiarism.

In a move described by his British publisher as "unknown", Pynchon, an
American who is never seen in public, does not give interviews and
whose whereabouts are a closely guarded secret, sent a typed letter to
his British agent yesterday to say that McEwan "merits not our
scolding but our gratitude" for using details from another author's

McEwan has been under fire for copying several details from the
memoirs of a wartime nurse in London for his Booker-nominated novel,

In an extraordinary campaign launched yesterday, many of the world's
best known authors rallied around McEwan, complaining that the future
of historical novel writing was threatened if they could not copy or
borrow details from eyewitnesses to history.

Other novelists backing the author include John Updike, Martin Amis,
Margaret Atwood, Thomas Keneally and Zadie Smith.

They recite their experiences of taking others' material for their
books exclusively in the Daily Telegraph.

Friday, December 01, 2006

climbing the mountain

Learning that the strange and mysterious, potentially mystical, foreign writing on the cover "seal" of Against the Day translates as "Tibetan Government Chamber of Commerce" (as reported on Pynchon-l) reminds me of one of those cartoons where the guy exhausts himself climbing up the mountain to get to the guru who then gives him some useless advice.

I recall the street comedian, used to perform at Venice Beach down south and on Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley, called himself the X-Swami X, "the answer to the perennial question, Why Swami why? No, X-Swami X!"

Savage with hecklers, sometimes he'd have a rocking chair and sit with a big handmade book of jokes and read them, sometimes he was buzzing on something, up and moving around, entertaining the students and others sitting on the steps of the Student Union building, , he was also very adept with hecklers, especially one particular blister-faced psycho who used to stand out there where Telegraph meets Bancroft Way and preach the Gospel, X-Swami X could get that guy wound up pretty tight with his rap about wanting to get "eating pussy on skateboards" adopted as an Olympic sport.

He was already up in his 60s then - at least 20 years since I saw him - so perhaps he's knocking them dead in another dimension by now, out there in the multiverse...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Random House Against the Day web site & contest

...Attention Pynchon readers:
Random House Against the Day minisite offers a competition to win
a rare advance reading copy proof of Against the Day, one of only 77 produced. Be there or be square!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Moe's on Telegraph Ave. ATD geekfest

All you really need to know is that pynchonoid, that's right,
won the Pynchon triva contest, just barely edging out
fellow traveler Tim Ware, and the two of us left with
the trivia contest prizes, a copy of Against the Day
each. Then we fucked their girlfriends and stole
their lunch money and blew that pop stand, into the
Berkeley night.

Favorite attendee: the woman with the conceptual V.

Silliest sight: 4, count 'em, 4 Pynchon lookalikes
with paper bags on their heads a la TRP's The Simpsons

Biggest surprise: very few people, outside of
Pynchon-l, know that TRP niece, Tristan Taormino is
known for her movie about anal sex.

Most frequent web site mention: The Modern Word

2d most frequent web site mention:


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Against the Day extract in Spanish

...from a friend overseas, notice of "an extract of Against the Day as translated in Spanish. This was posted on the website of Christophe Claro, French translator of Pynch, Gaddis, Vollmann, etc.

The extract comes from here:"

The French translation of Against the Day is expected in 2007.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

AP re Pynchon fans

Fans Still Passionate About Publicity-Shy Thomas Pynchon

Nov. 8 - Zak Smith is a painter, a rebel and an Ivy
Leaguer, a Yale University graduate with a green
mohawk, an apartment of wall-to-wall illustrations and
a passion for comics, classic novels -- and Thomas

About 10 years ago, Smith had a feeling that he should
try Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," an instinct
consummated from the very first page. Smith didn't
just read the book, he reread it, marked it up and
went back to it so many times that his paperback copy
is held together by duct tape.

He also began seeing the book in pictures, eventually
drawing hundreds of mostly expressionist sketches --
one for every page of Pynchon's 700-page World War II
novel -- that were exhibited at the Whitney Museum in
2004, now hang in the permanent collection at the
Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and will come out as
a book this fall.

"A lot of the ideas that were in Pynchon were hovering
around in my head -- technology and the future and the
present, true things and science fiction, and making
them into pictures was almost a way to exorcise these
ideas," says the 30-year-old Smith, a resident of

Thomas Pynchon doesn't have the readership of Mitch
Albom or Danielle Steel, but he is the rare writer who
inspires such obsession by words alone. For more than
40 years, he has built and sustained a legend through
such encyclopedic novels as "V." and "Gravity's
Rainbow," avoiding all media contact or even publicity
photos. For his new book, the 1,000-page "Against the
Day," publisher Penguin Press didn't even issue a
formal announcement, but assumed, correctly, that
simply including it in the fall catalog would take
care of the job.

"Pynchon fans tend to take his work seriously I think
because, beyond the intrinsically interesting subject
matter and intriguing stories, his books are so rich
and complex, touching on so many topics," says Pynchon
fan Doug Millison, a writer, editor and Web design
consultant based in El Cerrito, Calif.

Pynchon is now 69, but time, and the Internet, have
advanced in his favor. It's been nine years since his
previous novel, "Mason & Dixon," came out, and fans
have fully digitized their passion, building an online
community worthy of an author who as much as anyone
brought a high-tech sensibility to literary fiction.

Numerous Web sites and a "Pynchon News Service" have
been launched, and a team of experts is busy
assembling a Wikipedia-like page for "Against the

"It will, I predict, quickly become a focus of the
several hundred reader-researchers worldwide who read
Pynchon and write about his works in academic and
popular media," Millison says.

"The Internet has made it easy for Pynchon's academic
critics and lay readers to find each other and sustain
an online discussion that's continued now for over a

Smith believes that Pynchon readers share a handful of
characteristics, presumably not unlike the author's --
liberal politics, an interest in technology and a
broad and unpredictable range of interests.

Fans, who have gathered to talk Pynchon in London,
Malta and elsewhere, all have their stories of
conversion. Tim Ware, who runs the Web site from Oakland, Calif., recalls
having a hard time getting through "Gravity's
Rainbow," at least the first time around.

"I went back and looked again at the first page and
everything just sort of snapped into view, and I
thought, `This guy is a genius,' like those who walked
the Earth in the 19th century," says Ware.

"And I got rather messianic about it, and I wanted my
wife to read it. I started creating an index of all
the characters, because there were so many and it was
so hard to keep track of them."

Millison also was turned on by "Gravity's Rainbow." He
was an Army private -- a company clerk "just like
Radar O'Reilly" -- in Korea in the summer of 1973,
when he read the novel, which came out that year and
won the National Book Award.

"`Gravity's Rainbow' hit me hard, especially the parts
set in Europe during and just after World War II. I'd
never read a writer whose voice on the page came so
close to echoing the sound and feel of the Cold War
'50s and '60s, hip and angry and complex," he says.

"I've read each of the novels at least twice, studying
the text closely both times. I also collect first
editions of Pynchon's novels, and first editions of
the novels for which Pynchon has written endorsements,
cover blurbs or support quotes that have been used in

Charles Hollander, a Baltimore-based "independent
scholar" of Pynchon, first read him as an
undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University. It was
1963, the year Pynchon debuted with "V." Joseph
Heller's "Catch-22" was becoming a counterculture
classic, but Hollander believes that "Catch-22" was
more about the veterans of World War II.

"Pynchon was the guy who wrote for my generation, so
much so I heard people joke at parties that he had a
receiver by which he could read others' late-night
falling asleep thoughts," he says.

"The reason ... (Pynchon) is important to me and his
`fans' is he seems a bit ahead of the curve in seeing
what is important, and what will become the important
issues we are faced with."

He is as remote from the general public as J.D.
Salinger, but Pynchon experts say they care more about
his work than about the man himself, who reportedly
lives in New York with his wife and agent, Melanie
Jackson. Both Hollander and Ware say they know people
friendly with Pynchon who insist he is not "some guy
squirreling away in his attic," according to

"My sources tell me he is pretty social, in his style.
I think he avoids the media because he sees the media
as an arm of the establishment, a means of social
control that he won't be a party to," Hollander says.

"I've stayed away from the cult of personality. I
don't play in that zone," Ware says.

"His reluctance to speak with the press or have his
photograph taken kind of plays into the style of the
novels. There's a lot of mystery and ambiguity in
them, and a lot of mystery and ambiguity about the
author. When you know things about the author, you
begin to insert those feelings into the books. Not
having any information makes the reading experience a
little purer."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten, or redistributed.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

that Book Description

From: "Mike Beiderb"
To: "trp"
Subject: A-and
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2006 09:09:08 -0600

the blurb on Amazon might have been a tad, just a tad, disengenuous.

Further regards,


Just Browsing?

another good report re Against the Day

From: "Mike Beiderbecke"
To: "trp"
Subject: Re: Non-spoilerish first impression of AtD on Modern Word site
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2006 09:01:20 -0600


I have read slightly more than twenty-five pages.

All the hallmarks of what we (or at least I) have come to love
about TRP are there. Weird names, strange songs, frustrating allusions (fact or
fiction?), long paragraphs, ellipsis, long shaggy-doggish things that lead to horrible puns, et cetera.

Closer in style to GR than his other novels, but at the same time incorporating elements that have appeared in his writing both pre- and post-GR.

Perhaps best summed up, IMHO, as a progressive knotting into.....



Friday, November 03, 2006

"the Pynchon we love to read"

Apparently you don't have to read much of Against the Day - this guy writes after having read 25 pages - to realize it's good:

...sez The Modern Word:

Publisher’s Weekly wrote that the novel “glows,” and I know what they mean: like the cover, the book is just white. Pure writing, pure Pynchon. As Pynchonoid wrote, this is “the Pynchon we love to read.” And it is.

Hope they know I was echoing a Salman Rushdie statement re Mason & Dixon.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thanks for Dave Monroe for posting this to Pynchon-l:
Surveillance, by Jonathan Raban
Clueless in Seattle as the age of paranoia dawns
By Pat Kane
Published: 27 October 2006

In an era where we can access any current affair from
a thousand different viewpoints - the blog comment,
backed up by the YouTube clip, discovered in the
e-mail newsletter that makes it to SkyNews - one feels
like cheering wildly for an old-fashioned "social
novel" like Surveillance. To sit with an artful,
humane narrator like Jonathan Raban, and share his
concerned gaze at an America gone nearly mad with
paranoia, is time well spent. This is the second in
his trilogy of Seattle novels, the first being the
dot-boom threnody Waxwings. By now it's clear how
Raban wants to filter the maelstrom of this United
States of Insecurity.


... Remember all those paranoid postmodern conspiracy
fictions: Pynchon, Ballard, DeLillo? Now, all it takes
is a classical realist in Seattle to walk the streets,
watch the news, listen to the conversations, and you
get the same effect. Surveillance is as useful and
eloquent a meditation on the extremism of the present
as you would wish to curl up with on a long weekend.

Friday, October 27, 2006

the dragon and the eagle

That's the title of a book just received, of interest perhaps to Mason & Dixon readers, although China is likely to have some place in Against the Day. The author, A.Owen Aldridge, argues that, contrary to previous assumptions that "the image of China did not penetrate North America until after the inauguration of the trade between Canton and the East Coast shortly after the War for Independence came to an end....a lively curiosity about non-Western culture existed in America before the middle of the eighteenth century and that a good deal of accurate information about it was available during the American Revolution aklong with an almost equal amount of myth and legend....The following pages will reveal some extraordinary instances of this relationship: Franklin at the age of thirty-two publishing in his Philadelphia newspaper an analysis of the thought of Confucious, brother-in-law Thomas Paine comparing Confucious and Christ as great moral teachers...."

The Dragon and the Eagle: The Presence of China in the American Enlightenment
by A. Owen Aldridge. Wayne State University Press. Detroit, Michigan. 1993.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

under the pynfluence: Nina Marie Martinez

...sez today's San Francisco Comical, in an article about three SF Bay Area novelists who received the Whiting Writer's Award:

Nina Marie Martinez was born in San Jose, the daughter of a first-generation Mexican American prune-picker-turned-building contractor and a German American stay-at-home mother. A high school dropout, she was a single mom at 20, supporting herself and her daughter by reselling flea-market finds. Soon, she was a vintage-clothing maven and decided to go back to school to study business.

"All I knew was that I needed money, and if you needed money, you studied business," she says. But taking general education classes reminded her of one of her first loves, literature. (The other was the Giants.)

So she went to UC Santa Cruz to study literature. That's when she started hearing voices.

"They weren't trying to make me do bad things or anything," she says, laughing. "These women were having a conversation in my head, and I started writing it down." That conversation was the spark for her debut novel, "Caramba!: A Tale Told in Turns of the Cards," published in 2004 by Knopf.

"When I wrote 'Caramba!' I felt like I was writing the great American novel," she says. "Not too long ago, this was Mexico. My ancestors roamed these lands for hundreds of centuries."

The book takes traditional Mexican Loteria cards as pivot points -- and illustrations -- for the assemblage of a high-energy plot. Publishers Weekly described the novel as "an effervescent, luminous debut."

She cites Thomas Pynchon and Vladimir Nabokov as two of her literary influences, particularly while writing "Caramba!" "The funny thing is, my favorite writers are white males and most of them are dead," she says, noting that Latina authors are too often stereotyped. "They think we're all sitting in the corner reading 'One Hundred Years of Solitude.' "

Martinez lives near the Santa Cruz boardwalk with her 16-year-old daughter and two Chihuahuas and says she will never forget the professor who said that the most interesting fiction is written by people who speak more than one language.

"My girlfriends and I have always switched back and forth from Spanish to English," Martinez says. "When these two languages intermingle, they're both changed. Language is pliant. It can move and shift without breaking."

Her next novel, coming out in 2008 from Knopf, is the story of a girl who survives a difficult childhood and becomes the queen of the flea market. "When you write a book, there are books that you hold close to your heart," she says. Just now, she is reading "Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller and "Down and Out in Paris and London" by George Orwell.

"What does it mean to be down and out, but living artistically?" she asks. "My new book is dedicated to the discarded, people who've been thrown away. I am drawn to things and people whose peculiarness or beauty goes unappreciated by the vast majority of society."

Caramba!: A Tale Told in Turns of the Cards

the Pynchon we love to read... the Pynchon of Against the Day. At a party this evening in the Oakland HIlls, I had a chance to spend some quality time up close and personal with the host's ARC, by the time I was 10 pages in my skull was tingling, another 25 and I had lost all sense of the passage of time, only the intense bouquet of artisanal pizza managed to bring me back. Reluctantly, I tore myself away from Pynchon, glad I only have to wait a few weeks at most to get my own copy and finish reading it. We're in for a treat, my friends.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

the white city by alec michod

One of Against the Day's best prepared advance readers is Alec Michod, author of The White City, a novel set at the 1893 Chicago Fair that Pynchon features in his new book. Michod claims a significant Pynchon influence. First published in 2004, The White City has been reissued in a new paperback version.

Publisher's Weekly reviews Against the Day

Pynchon’s ‘Against the Day’ Glows

Penguin Press will release Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, his first novel since Mason & Dixon, early next month. Below is PW’s review which calls the work “knotty, paunchy, nutty, raunchy.”

Against the Day
Thomas Pynchon. Penguin Press, $35 (1,120p) ISBN 978-1-59420-120-2

"....that rushing you hear is the sound of the world, every banana peel and dynamite stick of it, trying to crowd its way in, and succeeding."

Knotty, paunchy, nutty, raunchy, Pynchon’s first novel since Mason & Dixon (1997) reads like half a dozen books duking it out for his, and the reader’s, attention. Most of them shine with a surreal incandescence, but even Pynchon fans may find their fealty tested now and again. Yet just when his recurring themes threaten to become tics, this perennial Nobel bridesmaid engineers another never-before-seen phrase, or effect, and all but the most churlish resistance collapses.

It all begins in 1893, with an intrepid crew of young balloonists whose storybook adventures will bookend, interrupt and sometimes even be read by, scores of at least somewhat more realistic characters over the next 30 years. Chief among these figures are Colorado anarchist Webb Traverse and his children: Kit, a Yale- and Göttingen-educated mathematician; Frank, an engineer who joins the Mexican revolution; Reef, a cardsharp turned outlaw bomber who lands in a perversely tender ménage à trois; and daughter Lake, another Pynchon heroine with a weakness for the absolute wrong man.

Psychological truth keeps pace with phantasmagorical invention throughout. In a Belgian interlude recalling Pynchon’s incomparable Gravity’s Rainbow, a refugee from the future conjures a horrific vision of the trench warfare to come: “League on league of filth, corpses by the uncounted thousands.” This, scant pages after Kit nearly drowns in mayonnaise at the Regional Mayonnaise Works in West Flanders. Behind it all, linking these tonally divergent subplots and the book’s cavalcade of characters, is a shared premonition of the blood-drenched doomsday just about to break above their heads.

Ever sympathetic to the weak over the strong, the comradely over the combine (and ever wary of false dichotomies), Pynchon’s own aesthetic sometimes works against him. Despite himself, he’ll reach for the portentous dream sequence, the exquisitely stage-managed weather, some perhaps not entirely digested historical research, the “invisible,” the “unmappable”—when just as often it’s the overlooked detail, the “scrawl of scarlet creeper on a bone-white wall,” a bed partner’s “full rangy nakedness and glow” that leaves a reader gutshot with wonder.

Now pushing 70, Pynchon remains the archpoet of death from above, comedy from below and sex from all sides. His new book will be bought and unread by the easily discouraged, read and reread by the cult of the difficult. True, beneath the book’s jacket lurks the clamor of several novels clawing to get out. But that rushing you hear is the sound of the world, every banana peel and dynamite stick of it, trying to crowd its way in, and succeeding. (Nov.)

This article originally appeared in the October 24, 2006 issue of PW Daily.

ATD-related: tesla coil fun

"Take one CD, Microwave at full power for 5 seconds,
and place on top of tesla coil. Enjoy!"

the glowing reports keep rolling in

"Best book I've ever read," says one battle-toughened novelist who is half-way into Against the Day.

Yes, Bodine's in there. launches to support Against the Day readers

At his Hyperarts Pynchon Pages ( Tim Ware has announced his project, which sounds very cool - just the sort of Web 2.0, fan-generated content-creation process that will draw hard-core Pynchon readers to build a site that will
support the far larger audience of Against the Day readers as they read the book in the coming months and years. I'll have a chance to find out more about the
project later this week, I expect.

Against the Day details!

...from: The Literary Saloon :
We didn't get a personalized proof of Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (as others did), but yesterday -- a month before the 21 November on-sale date -- a beautiful hardcover finished copy was delivered:

Local barkeep M.A.Orthofer with his copy of Against the Day

Not quite the drop-everything event for us that it is for some others, but certainly something we look forward to spending much of the next month with.
It weighs in at 1085 pages, and around 410,000 words. The opening scene is aboard: "the hydrogen skyship Inconvenience, its gondola draped with patriotic bunting", as some members of the Chums of Chance are on their way to Chicago .....
It's divided into five sections:
  1. The Light Over the Ranges
  2. Iceland Spar
  3. Bilocations
  4. Against the Day
  5. Rue du Départ
The epigraph is from Thelonious Monk.
And the first impression is that the Pynchon book it most resembles is, indeed, Gravity's Rainbow. But that's just a very quick first impression: this is definitely a text it's going to take a while to deal with.

Pre-order your copy at or (the Penguin Press publicity page is -- so far -- useless).
In Time Jeffrey Ressner wondered about the difficulties of Promoting Pynchon; it certainly looks like there will be extensive and intensive Internet cove

Monday, October 23, 2006

advance reviewers say: Against the Day is killer

I've heard that now from a couple of folks lucky enough to have review copies of the novel. "M&D meets GR" is the way it sounds after listening to one Pynchon devotee and reviewer rhapsodize.

Amazing how some folks on Pynchon-l keep complaining about the lack of a traditional marketing campaign, I guess they just can't see what's happening. No substitute for word-of-mouth, which is what the publisher has generated in spades with Pynchon's Book Description, with ARCs in reviewer hands now the buzz is getting bigger. Pre-publication orders at Articles now appearing in top-tier pubs like the New York Times, and a place reserved on the bestseller list as soon as it's published. I don't know what more a publishing executive or author could expect from a marketing campaign that eschews the usual canned promotional crap, respecting readers enough to let them pass along word of a killer new book on the way, instead of clubbing them with paid advertising and promotional stunts (any defenestration plans out there?).

I was told today to expect a call from an Associated Press reporter who's looking for pynchonoids to interview for a feature - I'm not holding my breath, but if it's true, this is a "viral" campaign that appears to be taking hold in a serious way. Add in the various fan-built sites that are bound to emerge in the next few weeks, it's a viral (hate that metaphor, but it's what they say) campaign with legs, too.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

calling all novelists influenced by Pynchon

We're interested in reading and reviewing novelists who have been influenced by Thomas Pynchon or whose books somehow share a special affinity with Pynchon's. Contact pynchonoid at for details.

Jokerman 8

That's the title of this intriguing new novel just received, from Richard Melo, a novelist influenced by Thomas Pynchon. We'll review it as soon as possible. Info @ Soft Skull Press

Monday, October 02, 2006

a gnostic urge drives desire for digital liberation

[...] Even the individual self, so long trapped in the human body, would finally be free to step outside its fleshy confines [...]
From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
by Fred Turner

Friday, September 29, 2006


[...] Kratom's main active ingredient, mitragynine, binds to the same opiate receptor (mu) as opium, heroin and cocaine. [...]

[...]Question,-- whether a Dog hath the nature of the divine Buddha. A reply given by a certain very wise Master is, "Mu!"[...]

M&D, 22

Thursday, September 28, 2006


September 28, 2006 -- THOMAS Pynchon, the legendarily reclusive author of such celebrated novels as "V," "Gravity's Rainbow" and "The Crying of Lot 49," has a XXX-rated skeleton in the family closet - his brainy niece stars in and directs hard-core porn flicks.

Village Voice sex columnist Tristan Taormino, who had a privileged upbringing on Long Island and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University, went on to star in "The Ultimate Guide to Anal" Vols. 1 and 2, and then directed "House of A - - ." This week, the dark-haired beauty is set to release her first Vivid Video effort, "Chemistry," in which seven porn stars are "left to their own devices for two days and told nothing is off limits" and use "perv cams" to film each other performing sex acts.

Few know that Pynchon is the brother of Taormino's mom. For years, Taormino has tried to get him involved in - or even just acknowledge - her carnally charged career. But the interview-averse author, who lives in seclusion on Long Island and refuses to be photographed, has refused.

But Taormino is giving it one more shot. She wants Pynchon to show up for the party for her new film at 49 Grove next Thursday, and is inviting him to take part in her next movie - although not as a performer.

"I think it would be fascinating for him do commentary on the next one," Taormino told Page Six. She said Pynchon would get a bang out of what she does if he only took a closer look at her films and books, which include an anthology, "Best Lesbian Erotica."

"We're more alike than different. We're both writers and I think he's intrigued in general by pop culture," she said, adding she doesn't know if Pynchon has watched her movies. "He hasn't asked me for any and I haven't sent him any. I haven't given any of them to my mother, either." He's probably not aware of her online store, which features sex toys, lubricants and all the latest latex and rubber gear.

Not surprisingly, Pynchon's literary agent didn't return our call. And Taormino, who wistfully remembers when her uncle attended her college graduation, admitted: "I'm not holding my breath."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

pynchonoid blog makes the college grade, yo

This blog is linked as a resource for

ENGL636, S II '04, M-F 1330-1445, ARM 119 :: Studies in an Author / Thomas Pynchon :: WVU Department of English

And "pynchonoid" moves out of the realm of this blog and my screen name in Pynchon-l. One requirement for the course:
"Join Pynchon-L, the list for pynchonoids"

Ambitious reading list, too, although not quite as much as the absurd suggestion I once heard, that you have to read Finnegan's Wake in order to fully appreciate Gravity's Rainbow; it puts in nice company, that's for sure, warranted or not:

Partial List of Recommended Texts

(all at WVU Library; *=also at WVU Bookstore)
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, especially Chapters XXI, XXXI, XXXII, XXXIII, XXXIV, XXXV.
Aleida Assmann, "Texts, Traces, Trash: The Changing Media of Cultural Memory," Representations #56, link (JSTOR)
Hanjo Berressem, Pynchon's Poetics: Interfacing Theory and Text
Leo Bersani, "Pynchon, Paranoia, and Literature," Representation #25, link (JSTOR)
Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History
Charles Clerc, Mason & Dixon & Pynchon
Peter Cooper, Signs and Symptoms: Thomas Pynchon and the Contemporary World
David Cowart, "The Luddite Vision,"American Literature Vol. 71 #2, link (JSTOR)
Walter Dornberger, V2
Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth
Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology
*Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire
Molly Hite, Ideas of Order in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon
*Chalmers Johnson, Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic
C. G. Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Vol 9 of the Collected Works
C. G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, Vol 12 of the Collected Works
J. Kerry Grant, Companion to the Crying of Lot 49
Kathryn Hume, Pynchon's Mythography: an approach to Gravity's Rainbow
Friedrich Kittler, "Media and Drugs in Pynchon's Second World War," in Reading Matters: Narratives in the New Media Ecology, ed. Tabbi and Wutz
Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film
Stefan Mattessich, Lines of Flight: discursive time and countercultural desire in the work of Thomas Pynchon
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
Mindful Pleasures: Essays on Thomas Pynchon, ed. Levine & Leverenz
Frank Palmieri, "Neither Literally nor as Metaphor: Pynchon's the Crying of Lot 49 and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions," ELH Vol 54 #4, link (JSTOR)
I. P. Pavlov, Conditioned Reflexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex
William H. Plater, Grim Phoenix: Reconstructing Thomas Pynchon
*Thomas Pynchon, V.
*Thomas Pynchon, Vineland
Pynchon: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Edward Mendelson
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus
Rchard Sasuly, IG Farben
Lance Schachterle, "Information Entropy in Pynchon's Fiction," Configurations Vol 4 #2, link (Muse)
Gershom Sholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, especially part III
*Stephen Weisenburger, A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel, (not in the library)
*Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, especially chapters I, II, V, XI
Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History
George Zipf, Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort: An Introduction to Human Ecology
...thanks to Dave Monroe for bringing this to the attention of Pynchon-l.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Against the Day

That's the title of the new book, according to Slate.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

curiouser & curiouser

The Pynchon Post
Did the master make an appearance on his Amazon page?
By Troy Patterson
Posted Wednesday, July 19, 2006, at 3:32 PM ET

Things did not delay in turning curious when the first beats of the drumroll began for Thomas Pynchon's forthcoming book. Last month, lit-bloggers and news-writers reported that Penguin Press would issue the author's sixth novel in December. This whetted the palates of those hard-core fans who have spent the years since 1997's Mason & Dixon speculating that Pynchon was at work on a doozy about lady mathematicians of the old school and also, uhm, Mothra. Last week, put up a page that listed Untitled Thomas Pynchon at a svelte 992 pages and bore a description purportedly written by the master himself. In fact, it purported quite well indeed and also rather charmingly, promising an archetypal Pynchonian buffet of settings, characters, and old tricks ("Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically.") Then the description just vanished from the page.

Was this a hoax? A jump-the-gun glitch? A hype? In any event, one Amazon customer must have gone through his Web browser's cache and reposted the thing on the customer discussion board, touching off an instant classic of that kind of chatter where M.F.A. meets LSD. The following comments are fairly typical: "I am saying that the blurb is Pynchon parroting Pynchon … viral-marketing or, more hopefully, a Swiftian self-parody and critique of Internet subcultures (a sort of new, updated Tale of a Tub.)" Whee!

(For the record, Penguin Press's publicity chief disavows all knowledge of the blurb, and Amazon hadn't sorted its story out by press time. Pynchon did not immediately return an answering-machine message left at what I reasonably assume to be his Manhattan apartment.)

To be sure, when Mason & Dixon came out nine years ago, the scholars and nuts who compulsively post to the pynchon-l mailing list were on the case in cyberspace. But the new book with the rather coyly withheld title will enter an Internet Age in bloom, which is just too perfect. Labyrinthine structures, shifting identities, abstruse interconnections, funky mail systems—in its delirious maximalism, Pynchon's work has more than a few affinities with all this fine new technology, and the technology enables Pynchon fans to interact in a wholly Pynchonian way. Ladies and germs, start your master's theses, your conspiracy theories, and your attributions of prophecy: Here's where hypertext meets literature.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.

Article URL:

Copyright 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

Saturday, July 15, 2006

book description

[UPDATE 16 July 2006: After appearing on the page, the Book Description disappeared. Maybe somebody pulled the trigger too soon, Amazon also announced a Book Description would be published this week. After thinking about it a bit, and re-reading the text, I believe the fact that it appears over Pynchon's name indicates that he either wrote (doubtful, it sounds a lot like marketing copy, I think he revised/approved it) or approved it, and thus it should be taken seriously as yet another rare instance of Pynchon writing about his fiction.]


Book Description
Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Gottingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.

With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.

The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics, and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses, and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx.

As an era of certainty comes crashing down around their ears and an unpredictable future commences, these folks are mostly just trying to pursue their lives. Sometimes they manage to catch up; sometimes it's their lives that pursue them.

Meanwhile, the author is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur. If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction.

Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck.

--Thomas Pynchon

About the Author
Thomas Pynchon is the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Slow Learner, a collection of short stories, Vineland and, most recently, Mason and Dixon. He received the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.

Product Details

Sunday, June 25, 2006


from the OED:

wahoo, int.
DRAFT ENTRY Sept. 2004
orig. and chiefly U.S.
Brit. /whu/, /whu/, U.S. /whu/ [Imitative. Cf. YAHOO int.]

An exclamation used to express excitement, enthusiasm, or delight, or to attract attention.

1904 Washington Post 24 June 3/5 The old stage coach long-drawn yell ‘Wahoo’ was echoed through the hall. 1951 in V. Randolph Pissing in Snow (1976) 118 She kept a-hollering ‘Wahoo! Wahoo!’ 1983 P. FUSSELL Class vii. 167 Noise and vociferation identify the proles, who shout ‘Wahoo!’ at triumphant moments in games. 2000 Red Herring Mar. 416/3 It's $150 million's worth of nothing right now... But if they get even one company to market, then wahoo!

Gravity's Rainbow, 452:
“1904 […] was the year the American Food and Drug people took the cocaine out of Coca-Cola, which gave us

Thursday, June 22, 2006

p-list sez it's set in Chicago, 1987

Pynchon novel out in December

by Josh Getlin, June 22, 2006, Los Angeles Times

Thomas Pynchon, the reclusive, award-winning author of "Gravity's Rainbow," "V," "Mason & Dixon" and "Vineland," is finishing up a new novel, and the book will go on sale in December, his publisher announced this week.

"There is not yet a title, and we're not releasing information about the subject matter at this point," said Tracy Locke, associate publisher for Penguin Press. "At this point, that's really all I can tell you."

Pynchon's new novel, his first since "Mason & Dixon" in 1997, is shrouded in mystery, as were many of his previous books before publication. The author, born in 1937 in Glen Cove, Long Island, N.Y., has long avoided publicity, and his books have acquired a cult-like status among many readers. — Josh Getlin

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

M&D illo'd

Francisco Munuera Wallhead

[link goes to must-read International Pynchon Week page]

a 'second generation' modernist

Washington College Senior Wins Nation's Largest Undergraduate Literary Prize

CHESTERTOWN, Md., May 21, 2006 — Most college seniors will look back on their graduation ceremony as a day of pomp and circumstance culminating in a handshake and a diploma. For Marshall Shord, 21, a Washington College English major from Berlin, Maryland, the ceremony brought another reward: a check for $55,907.

Shord's critical thesis on Thomas Pynchon, along with his portfolio of essays, stories, and poems, earned him the largest literary award in the country exclusively for undergraduates—the Sophie Kerr Prize—presented Sunday, May 21, 2006, during the College's 224th Commencement ceremonies.

The awarding of the Sophie Kerr Prize, given annually to the graduating senior who demonstrates the greatest "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor," has in recent decades been a highlight of the commencement ceremony at the 224-year-old liberal arts college. The Prize, worth $55,907 this year, is among the largest literary awards in the world. Washington College has awarded more than one million dollars in prize money since it was first given in 1968, most often to writers of poetry and fiction. Scholarly and journalistic works, though less often selected, are given equal consideration. Shord was one of 31 to submit a portfolio for consideration, but it was a critical thesis on novelist Thomas Pynchon that earned him departmental honors from the English department and caught the attention of the Sophie Kerr Committee. In making the award, they praised his "intellectually adventurous" thesis while also noting the quality of his poetry.

English Professor Richard Gillin, who presided over the committee's deliberations, stressed that the prize can be awarded for student writing outside the submitted portfolio—in this case, the critical thesis Shord submitted as a graduation requirement. But it was clear that the committee was also impressed with Shord's creative writing and especially his poetry. Gillin praised Shord's poems for their "stark imagery and slowly developing realizations that are often plangent and unsettling."

Professor Thomas Cousineau, Shord's thesis adviser, echoed Gillin's enthusiasm for this year's winner, calling Shord's examination of Pynchon's major novels one of the best theses he had ever seen.

"I was especially impressed by his complex reading of these novels as the work of a 'second generation' modernist writer who managed to find highly original ways of imitating the methods of his high-modernist master James Joyce," Cousineau said. "Marshall also offered intriguing applications to these novels of the reinterpretation of the Narcissus myth that Marshall McLuhan proposed in his landmark Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man."

Shord's professors expect him to continue on to graduate school. "In fact, we will insist on it," Cousineau said with a smile.

The Sophie Kerr Prize is the namesake of an Eastern Shore woman who made her fortune in New York, writing women's fiction during the 1930s and 1940s. In accordance with the terms of her will, one-half of the annual income from her bequest to the College is awarded each year to the graduating senior demonstrating the best potential for literary achievement. The other half funds scholarships, supports student publications and the purchase of books, and brings an array of visiting writers, editors, and publishers to campus to read, visit classes, and discuss student work. Her gift has provided the nucleus for an abundance of literary activity on the bucolic Eastern Shore campus.

Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in historic Chestertown on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, it is the first college chartered in the new nation.

Contact Information: John Buettner, Director of Media Relations
Sending Institution: Washington College
Story Date: May 20, 2006
Keywords: Marshall Shord, Sophie Kerr Prize, literature, award, Washington College

Monday, May 08, 2006


Happy Birthday, Thomas Pynchon!

(Read about his 38th surprise birthday party at Tim Ware's fine HyperArts Pynchon Pages site.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

bursting the limits of time: new book of interest to Mason & Dixon readers

Rudwick, Martin J. S. Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution. Published with the support of the Getty Grant Program. 840 p., 145 halftones, 34 line drawings. 7 x 10 2005 Cloth $45.00 spec 0-226-73111-1 Spring 2005

In 1650, Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh joined the long-running theological debate on the age of the earth by famously announcing that creation had occurred on October 23, 4004 B.C. Although widely challenged during the Enlightenment, this belief in a six-thousand-year-old planet was only laid to rest during a revolution of discovery in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In this relatively brief period, geologists reconstructed the immensely long history of the earth-and the relatively recent arrival of human life. Highlighting a discovery that radically altered existing perceptions of a human's place in the universe as much as the theories of Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud did, Bursting the Limits of Time is a herculean effort by one of the world's foremost experts on the history of geology and paleontology to sketch this historicization of the natural world in the age of revolution.

Addressing this intellectual revolution for the first time, Rudwick examines the ideas and practices of earth scientists throughout the Western world to show how the story of what we now call "deep time" was pieced together. He explores who was responsible for the discovery of the earth's history, refutes the concept of a rift between science and religion in dating the earth, and details how the study of the history of the earth helped define a new branch of science called geology. Rooting his analysis in a detailed study of primary sources, Rudwick emphasizes the lasting importance of field- and museum-based research of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Bursting the Limits of Time, the culmination of more than three decades of research, is the first detailed account of this monumental phase in the history of science.


List of illustrations
A note on footnotes
Time and geohistory—Historical parameters—Historicizing the earth—Text and illustrations—Maps of knowledge

Part one: Understanding the earth

1. Naturalists, philosophers, and others
1.1 A savant on top of the world
First ascents of Mont Blanc—Science on the summit—Return to civilization—Conclusion
1.2 The Republic of Letters and its supporters
Savants, professional and amateur—The Republic of Letters—A variety of supporters—Conclusion
1.3 Places of natural knowledge
Laboratories and museums—Savants in the field—The social life of savants—Scientific publication—Conclusion
1.4 Maps of natural knowledge
The literary and the philosophical—Natural history and natural philosophy—Philosophy and theology—Conclusion

2. Sciences of the earth
2.1 Mineralogy as a science of specimens
Minerals and other fossils—Identification and classification—Fossils of organic origin—Fossil localities—Prize specimens—Conclusion
2.2 Physical geography as a spatial science
Huge solid facts—The primacy of fieldwork—Proxy pictures—Maps as instruments—Conclusion
2.3 Geognosy as a structural science
-stops: -.5in 0in .5in"The mining context—Structures and sequences—Primaries and Secondaries—Sequences of Gebirge—Fossils in geognosy—Conclusion
2.4 Earth physics as a causal science
The “physics” of specimens—The “physics” of physical geography—The “physics” of geognostic structures—The “physics” of rock formations—Conclusion
2.5 The question of time
The short timescale versus eternalism—Volcanoes, valleys, and strata—Estimates of the timescale—Encounters with theologians—Conclusion

3. The theory of the earth
3.1 Geotheory as a scientific genre
The meaning of “geology”—The goals of geotheory—Conclusion
3.2 Buffon’s cooling globe
Buffon’s first geotheory—Nature’s epochs—The earth’s timescale—Conclusion
3.3 De Luc’s worlds ancient and modern
The “Christian philosophe”—De Luc’s binary system—Natural measures of time—Conclusion
3.4 Hutton’s eternal earth machine
A deistic geotheory—Cyclic processes—A theory confirmed by fieldwork—Time and eternity—Conclusion
3.5 The standard model of falling sea levels
The multiplicity of geotheories—Neptunist geotheory—Conclusion

4. Transposing history into the earth
4.1 The varieties of history
The diversification of history—Chronology and biblical history—Chorographers and antiquarians—Herculaneum and Pompeii—Conclusion
4.2 Fossils as nature’s documents
Human history and its natural records—The natural history of fossils—Fossils and the earth’s revolutions—Conclusion
4.3 Volcanoes and nature’s epochs
The making of a physical geographer—The volcanoes of Auvergne—Epochs of volcanic activity—A lake on the site of Paris—Conclusion
4.4 Rock formations as nature’s archives
The volcanoes of Vivarais—Nature’s erudite historian—Censors and critics—Exporting geohistory to Russia—Conclusion
4.5 Global geohistory
Causal processes and geotheories—The place of contingency—Saussure as a geotheorist—De Luc as a geohistorian—Conclusion

5. Problems with fossils

5.1 The ancient world of nature
The deep past as a foreign country?—Fossils and geohistory—Migration and transmutation—Conclusion
5.2 Relics of former seas
Vanished shellfish—Living fossils—Fossil fish and possible whales—Explaining the former world—Conclusion
5.3 Witnesses of former continents
Fossil plants—Large fossil bones—The “Ohio animal”—Giant elks and bears—Conclusion
5.4 The antiquity of man
Humans in geohistory—Texts and bones—History from artifacts—Conclusion

Interlude: From survey to narrative

Part two: Reconstructing geohistory

6. A new science of “geology”?
6.1 Revolutions in nature and society (1789–91)
Meanings of revolution—Blumenbach’s “total revolution”—Montlosier’s continuous revolution—Geotheory as a flourishing genre—Conclusion
6.2 Geotheory as geohistory (1790–93)
De Luc’s new system—A differentiated “former world”—The role of fossil evidence—A critique of Hutton—Conclusion
6.3 Theorizing in a time of trouble (1793–94)
Geotheories and focal problems—Dolomieu’s mega-tsunamis—Dolomieu on the Nile delta—The sciences under the Terror—Conclusion
6.4 Geotheory politicized (1793–95)
De Luc and Blumenbach—Cultured despisers of religion—The politics of Genesis—Conclusion
6.5 “Geology” redefined (1794–97)
The sciences after Thermidor—Desmarest’s survey of geotheories—La Métherie’s geotheory—Saussure’s Agenda—Dolomieu on “geology”—Conclusion

7. Denizens of a former world
7.1 A mushroom in the field of savants (1794–96)
Fossil bones as a focal problem—The young Cuvier—The megatherium—The mammoth—Conclusion
7.2 Cuvier opens his campaign (1797–99)
Cave bears and fossil rhinos—Dolomieu and de Luc as Cuvier’s allies—Cuvier’s research program—Hostile critics—Jefferson’s megalonix—Conclusion
7.3 The Napoleon of fossil bones (1798–1800)
Savants in wartime—Cuvier and the First Consul—Cuvier’s network of informants—Cuvier’s international appeal—Conclusion
7.4 Lamarck’s alternative (1800–1802)
The threat of transformism—The response to Cuvier’s appeal—Mummified animals from Egypt—Lamarck’s Parisian fossils—Conclusion
7.5 Enlarging a fossil menagerie (1802–4)
A peaceful interlude—A cumulative case for extinction—Earlier and stranger mammals—Conclusion

8. Geognosy enriched into geohistory

P chooses cover artist for new Gravity's Rainbow

From: "Erik T. Burns"
Subject: Miller/Pynchon in Variety Magazine
Date: Wed, 3 May 2006 14:52:20 +0100

Miller time; News Brief
Steven Zeitchik
30 April 2006
Daily Variety

A9 2006, Variety, Reed Business Information, a division of Reed
Elsevier, Inc
When he's not writing new graphic novels for Hollywood to snap up, "Sin
City" creator Frank Miller has an unusual sideline: drawing for Thomas

Penguin Classics was redesigning its line of influential novels and
asked Pynchon if he'd like a new jacket for his novel "Gravity's
Rainbow." At first Pynchon resisted, says publicist Caroline Farrington.
But he came back and said he'd allow it, on one condition: if Miller did
the design.

Miller, at work on the Weinstein Co.'s "Sin City 2," agreed. A new
edition of the tome will be released in October.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

she wouldn't use his name without his permission, would she?

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