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Spätzünder. Frühe Erzählungen.

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,171 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews
Thomas Pynchon's literary career was launched not with the release of his widely acclaimed first novel, V., but with the publication in literary magazines of the five stories collected here. In his introduction to Slow Learner the author reviews his early work with disarming candor and recalls the American cultural landscape of the early post-Beat era in which the stories ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Rowohlt Tb. (first published 1984)
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Jul 06, 2009 Bram rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pynchon-loving young writers in need of a confidence boost
Shelves: 2009
My first reaction, rereading these stories, was oh my God, accompanied by physical symptoms we shouldn't dwell upon.

This, from the opening paragraph of Thomas Pynchon's introduction to his earliest published stories, appears at first to be a self-conscious oversell of false modesty. Even after watching him pick apart the stories for the first 25 pages, one by one and with an assiduous efficiency, you still don't believe they are going to be bad. But then you read the first story, and you start t
The last story, "The Secret Integration", remains beautiful and moving. If you've never read Pynchon, sit down in a bookstore and just read it---it's already got much of his style and it definitely has all of his heart. If you didn't think Pynchon had a heart, this recommendation becomes a requirement.
Mar 02, 2007 erock rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hate their sad, sad lives
Any book that starts out in the preface saying that what you are about to read sucks and then makes a series of apologies about how bad it is and how much he learned and how smart he actually is and on and on with the pretentious 'I really am one of the greatest writers in the 20th century, you just won't be able to tell from the shit you are about to read' litany.
That is just self indulgent and embarassing.

But, he was right, it all pretty much didn't do a lot except bore.

I bought an Elvis Co
Daniel Chaikin
Jun 15, 2016 Daniel Chaikin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
31. Slow Learner : Early Stories by Thomas Pynchon
published: 1984 - stories originally published 1959, 1960, 1961 & 1964
format: 193 page paperback
acquired: March 13
read: May 30 - Jun 4
rating: 4 stars

A much nicer reading experience than I expected. The self-deprecating introduction really sets the tone, downplaying expectations and welcoming the reader to just relax a bit and enjoy the flawed stories. These five stories include the first four stories Pynchon published. They were apparently
May 27, 2013 Tosh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-bought
The most interesting aspect of this volume of short stories is the introduction by its author Thomas Pynchon. He's very funny and there is a certain amount of charm in how he looks at his work when he was young... and before he became the icon that he is now. The only book I have read all the way through is his last novel "Inherent Vice" which I loved, because it reminded me of my youth in Southern California and all the references both culturally and actual stores in actual locations are just p ...more

Not an ideal Pynchon introduction, so stalled for now. I need a screaming across the sky I guess.
Sep 29, 2013 sologdin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
Borderline juvenilia. Introduction by author dismisses the collection ab initio as “illustrative of typical problems in entry-level fiction” (4). Explains that “when we speak of ‘seriousness’ in fiction ultimately we are talking about an attitude toward death” (5) which I regard as probably philistine. Nevertheless, author suggests “one of the reasons that fantasy and science fiction appeal so much to younger readers is that, when the space and time have been altered to allow characters to trave ...more
Jan 15, 2009 Jimmy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I recently felt motivated to actually read this thing cover to cover. It sort of confirmed my opinion that Pynchon's ideal format is the novel. While they aren't poorly written, these stories will probably disappoint anyone who has read one of his more epic novels. Most of the endings seem abrupt, and Pynchon has always seemed like an elaborate architect when it comes to storytelling, so I often felt like the pace was too fast and the length insufficient.

His rather self-deprecatory introduction
Insomma, io ce l'ho messa tutta. L'ho letto fino alla fine, sperando sempre in un riscatto, che però... niente, non c'è stato!
Non sono riuscita ad entrare in risonanza con la frequenza di Pynchon. Non mi ha preso. La lettura mi sfuggiva di mano. Leggevo, ma i personaggi non mi trattenevano. Mi giravano intorno e non si fermavano.
Sembra che P. sia un grande della letteratura americana. Ma io non l'ho capito.
E così le stelline si sono spente un po' alla volta...
Al racconto 'Entropia', che ho lett
Vittorio Ducoli
Dec 05, 2015 Vittorio Ducoli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
L'apprendistato di un grande narratore del caos

Dopo la lettura di un'opera come V., la cui complessità e vastità sorprende e per certi versi sconcerta, leggere i cinque racconti contenuti in questo ottimo volume delle edizioni e/o porta a conoscere un Pynchon sostanzialmente diverso, più convenzionale (se mi si passa il termine, da intendersi comunque compreso entro più serie di virgolette). I motivi di questa convenzionalità sono a mio avviso essenzialmente due. Il primo è che si tratta di racc
Review #7 of "Year of the Review All Read Books"

The following is a recently recovered collection of notes and feedback given to Thomas Ruggles Pynchon from his writing workshop classmate [redacted] at Cornell University. In the case of "The Secret Integration" the story was completed after his undergraduate years and the response is actually mailed ~1962-1963.

The Small Rain
I was liking the Hemingway tone of it until you ruined it with the self-referential dig at him. Also felt like the charact
I read Pynchon's intro weeks ago on a sample. That's pretty much the best thing in this book; still it's interesting to watch development in style and motifs through these stories, which were first published 1960-1964.

The Small Rain A lot of this is a pretty conventional short story, not a bad one though, about an army battalion sent to clear up after a natural disaster. Presumably a semi-autobiographical element: some of the main characters are rank & file soldiers their comrades think are
Jack Waters
May 14, 2013 Jack Waters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
Worth the read for Pynchon's introduction to the book and the story "Entropy." I think the best introduction to Pynchon is "The Crying of Lot 49" followed by "V." I'd say read this if you are a completionist. As for a starting point, it could work, but I still think his novels outpace any of his stories.

I read this because Gravity's Rainbow has claimed me as a victim five times now. I've yet to get past page 250. One day.
Dec 09, 2015 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, pomo
The introduction is definitely an important part of the Pynchon canon, and the stories themselves, though Pynchon discounts them as juvenilia, are pretty good in their own right. "The Small Rain" is the weakest of the lot, and oddly the most fascinating part is the one Pynchon is most ashamed of; the sex scene between Levine and the country girl may reek of the sort of flowery prose belonging to many an amateur author, but it hints at the greatest to come in V. and GR. "Low-lands" is good as a f ...more
Nov 23, 2014 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
This might change later, but right now, I'm less interested in What Pynchon Has To Tell Me than I am in How Pynchon Became Pynchon. I'm sure I'll eventually get around to the Boners & Bombs book, but I'm burningly curious about how one wills oneself into the person that writes that sort of book. The issue is all the more curious when reading "Slow Learner," a collection of five of Pynchon's earliest short stories, four of them written while still in college, and annotated in the present day ...more
Feb 07, 2011 §-- rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Very interesting stuff. I'm a bit surprised Pynchon even published this; one would think that if he were really as embarrassed as he professes to be in the preface, that he wouldn't collect them--perhaps (perhaps!) this modesty is false?

As for the stories, they are very rough and I found myself getting distracted and falling asleep while reading them. They required a real force of will to finish them, something I didn't have on most attempts. There are, however, flashes of brilliance scattered t
‘Un lento aprendizaje’ recoge los primeros relatos de Thomas Pynchon, que escribió entre 1958 y 1964, y en ellos se aprecia esa esencia pynchoniana tan típica. Ya en la larga introducción, Pynchon nos comenta los errores que contienen estos cuentos, típicos en un autor nobel, y de su manía a la hora de documentarse con la lectura de otros libros antes que con la experiencia. En esta introducción, Pynchon también nos habla de las tramas y sus personajes, del humor inherente en ambos, del germen d ...more
I love Pynchon. However, I think the greatest satisfaction I got from this story collection was two-fold:

1) the introduction, by the man himself! In a way, he lost a little of the glamorous sheen of anonymity he heretofore possessed, but otherwise, it was kind of thrilling to catch a glimpse of the man behind the curtain. It hasn't ruined the magic of any of his previous works, though being able to hold tenable the hypothesis that he is just as human as any other meatbag with a keyboard is excit
Jul 06, 2011 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So as not to reiterate what many reviewers said already, I will just give some very brief notes on Slow Learner.

Most critical is that one read the introduction after (it should absolutely be an afterword). Beyond that, most of the stories feel like test runs with ideas and genres and characters that Pynchon later brought to captivating life later in his career. My favorite, by a long shot, has to be "The Secret Integration," in which we discover that Thomas Pynchon has feelings.

Other fun facts
Lisa gave me this collection of short stories for my birthday a few years ago. I feel badly that it took me so long to get around to reading it, but it just didn't look like it'd be my sort of thing. It kind of wasn't. I've never read any Pynchon before. These were his early stories, all published in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They felt... thicker... than the sorts of stories I usually read. I did like the bit of a flair of fantasy that runs through a few of the otherwise perfectly ordinary ...more
Sean McBride
So I picked up this book because I've never read Pynchon and everyone says he's the greatest. I'm torn between starting with this book because the meaning of the title didn't dawn on me until I started it. Slow Learner (Early Stories).

The essay at the beginning of the book was probably the best part about it. He describes the struggles of what it means to be a writer and what it meant to be a writer in the wake of the beats.

You can see glimpses of greatness inbetween poor form and pretension (
Only actually good story the last one ("Secret Integration"). I actually got this because I wanted to see if I got Pynchon early enough whether I could understand him. Have decided it really doesn't matter. His stuff all sounds the same: plodding, pointless and dull. Like so much of that fatuous picaresque '60's crap. Not helped any either by a smirking, posturing intro--wherein he criticizes himself for all sorts of inane trivial egghead reasons. And how can somebody who gets their stuff publis ...more
Andreas Veie-Rosvoll
2/5 av disse er mer enn gode historier, den andre er på grensen til ræva, den siste er på grensen til fantastisk. Slow Learner er Pynchons eneste novellesamling, ment til å vise fram de 5 novellene han hadde på trykk før han slo gjennom med romanen V. De er i kronologisk rekkefølge, så det blir mye bedre lesning halvveis inn, logisk nok.
I want to like T. Pynchon. I really do. So I keep reading his books. Gravity's Rainbow is next. I enjoyed these stories, especially The Secret Integration, which I find to be very much not how Pynchon writes, in general. So I don't know what that says about me liking Pynchon, the fact that I like it when he writes stuff that doesn't sound like him. But come on, how awesome is it that the only picture that Google can come up with is his Navy mugshot from the 1950's? Google can see my apartment fr ...more
Thomas Pynchon's short story "Entropy" is what kick started my interest in modern (well, post-modern) literature and it's a little odd to see it again, not quite as good as I remembered it (though still good) and ripped to shreds by the author in the preface.

So what is there to say? Some of these stories are just good, some are pretty darned good and some are outright wonderful. It is a collection of short stories that I would recommend for those too tentative to dive right into V. or are not qu
Matthew Simmons
The introduction to Slow Learner offers a rare glimpse into the writing process and analytical mind of Thomas Pynchon. It sets out on the masochistic task of revisiting his first five published short stories, while dissecting their flaws and shortcomings.

There are five stories in this collection. Three are good, enjoyable, reads; two are lackluster - with tinges of innovation. I enjoyed "A Small Rain" somewhat, but in the end it's just a story of a disaster and a lazy main character. "Low Lands
Aug 13, 2015 Mika rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
From the author's introduction:

"My first reaction, rereading these stories, was oh my God, accompanied by physical symptoms we shouldn't dwell upon. My second thought was about some kind of a wall-to-wall rewrite. These two impulses have given way to one of those episodes of middle-aged tranquility, in which I now pretend to have reached a level of clarity about the young writer I was back then." p. 3

"I was operating on the motto "Make it literary", a piece of bad advice I made up all by myself
Vincente Gutierrez
"The Secret Integration" is a really moving story. While the other ones are sort of good if you want to see Pynchon's development as a writer. I couldn't get through "Under the Rose" after trying a good couple times for some reason--maybe it had to do with how faraway and muted everything read or maybe a fault on the reader's (my) part? Anyway, the introduction is good (it's nice to have Pynchon speaking to us directly), and the last story is a must-read.
Mar 23, 2007 Oriana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is totally cool because it's a collection of Pynchon's early writings, which are neat. What's really great though is that the introduction to the book was written by Pynchon years and years later, and it's just him saying how shitty of a writer he used to be. Yes yes, Thomas Pynchon, one of the literary geniuses of our time, discussing how he used to suck. Incredible.
Let's just say I'm really happy he was able to fine tune his writing ability.

I don't regret reading this, but some of these stories were really a drag to get through. If anything, read this for the preface. Charming as all hell, as Pynchon admits that these stories are mostly not terribly good. We do see quite a few of Pynchon's trademarks in these stories, however.
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Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. is an American writer based in New York City, noted for his dense and complex works of fiction. Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known today: V. (1963 ...more
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“Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that at the earlier stages of life we think we know everything- or to put it more usefully, we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance.” 146 likes
“It is simply wrong to begin with a theme, symbol or other abstract unifying agent, and then try to force characters and events to conform to it.” 28 likes
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