Friday, July 31, 2009

LOL @ (or with) Thomas Pynchon

Let me preface this by saying I'm not a Thomas Pynchon fan - I mean, I read Crying of Lot 49 and would like to read more Pynchon some time but I'm not among his faithful followers. Anyway, The Wall Street Journal today reports that Pynchon has released a piece of, gasp, genre fiction that has got the literary blogosphere baffled. Why, everyone wonders, is this literary giant dabbling in such a shallow art form? Is he being clever? Satirical? Just having fun? Just following his heart?

Or, are some of the distinctions we make in literature artificial? Are genre labels and the assumptions that come with them boxes that we try to squeeze things in. Is Pynchon writing a detective novel simply because it's what he's creating?

I've a lot more to say on this - it's an idea close to my heart and interests and has been for years - but I won't get into it now. You can probably imagine where I come in this: if I haven't made myself clear (or if you're just finding this blog) I think the way we analyze and divide literature is frequently but not always artificial. My personal preferences in fiction have always been either to capital-L Literature that is as entertaining as genre fiction or to so-called genre fiction that is as powerful or dynamic as capital-L Literature. This blog's old favorites - Maugham, Trevanian, Orwell - come to mind.

I'm less interested in Pynchon and more interested in the topic but my gut is anyone as reclusive as Salinger but who appears on The Simpsons has probably got a sense of humor and lives by his own rules. I mean, the reason for distinctions and analysis are clear and sometimes necessary but most of what interests us in fiction does or should transcend categories. More later; this is an old discussion with me.

1 comment:

melanie said...

I read The Crying of as well, but mainly because it was the only Pynchon book one can get through in under 6 months :)