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Slow Learner

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  2,940 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Long before Thomas Pynchon published his famous novel V. and radically changed the shape of literature in our century, he was writing stories—inventive, wonderfully imagined short fiction that startled and delighted readers fortunate enough to find them among the pages of Kenyon Review or The Noble Savage. Now, for the first time, five of these stories have been collected ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 1990 by Bantam Windstone Book (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bram
Jul 06, 2009 Bram rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Mark
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.
erock
Mar 02, 2007 erock rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Garima

Not an ideal Pynchon introduction, so stalled for now. I need a screaming across the sky I guess.
Tosh
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
Nate
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
...more
sologdin
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
Jimmy
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
...more
arcobaleno
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
...more
Antonomasia
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
...more
Jack Waters
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.
Chris
Nov 23, 2014 Chris rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
§--
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
...more
Oscar
‘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
Vivienne
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
...more
Ben
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
...more
Roxanne
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 (
...more
TrumanCoyote
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
Schuyler
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
Jason
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
...more
Mika
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
...more
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.
Oriana
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.
Mike
By Pynchon's own admission, most of these early short stories aren't very good (in fact, only the last one is any good), but what makes this collection indispensable is Pynchon's wonderfully funny and honest 20-page introduction. It's astonishing to see this very private (to put it mildly) author speak so openly and disarmingly about his influences and writing process. He acutely explains what's wrong with all these journeyman stories and uses their re-publication as a warning to budding authors ...more
Justin Liew
This collection of short stories is a great look into where Pynchon came from, and how his writing developed from his early published stories to the juggernaut novels he was creating at the time this collection was published. The stories have hints of his complexity, humour and trademark style, but, as he mentions numerous times in the intro, a lot of those elements are underdeveloped or overused. The intro, really is where the gem of this book lies, as it is likely the reclusive author's most o ...more
Kiof
Five stars for the intro, and three for the stories.
Steven
A nice quick collection with a few true gems inside. I would think fans of Pynchon’s other books would love this. Everything I’ve come to enjoy in his books was in here – humor, word play, beautiful prose, speculative technology, conspiracy, strangeness and magical realism, funny names, and so much more. It clearly records Pynchon’s quick progression of skill and maturity – more of a Fast Learner - from the beginning to the end of the collection.

-The Small Rain – my least favorite story, but not
...more
Tony Go
As I laid upon my near perfectly made bed, the blood fading from the leg I had hanging off its foot, I looked over to see her long black hair pooled into a tangled freeway of locks and underpasses over a contrasting white sheet. She had fallen asleep from my silence. I didn't turn any more pages of Slow Learner as if doing so would break the silent ITO layer that caused her capacitive membrane to register motionless . Without another action I began reading Harry Potter to illicit a boredom indu ...more
Matthew
I was always afraid to start this collection. Thomas Pynchon, himself, doesn't make it sound like a good time. I've had the book on my library shelf for a few years now, from where I'd occasionally take it down, start reading the intro, that first page where he partly disowns the writing therein, and I'd get scared off.

But I did it. I must have been drinking heavily, that old Dutch courage (sorry, Dutch folks reading this, no offense intended). Maybe I was reaching for another book and grabbed t
...more
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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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The Crying of Lot 49 Gravity's Rainbow Inherent Vice V. Mason and Dixon

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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.” 139 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.” 26 likes
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