Bryan's Reviews > The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
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Jan 02, 2014

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bookshelves: 100-all-time-novels
Read from August 03 to 07, 2011

The Crying of Lot 49 could best be described as a cryptic and mysterious read filled with intrigue, confusion, and comedy. I'd classify it as postmodernist, but I only use that word because of Moe's description on "The Simpsons," where he describes 'po-mo' as "weird for the sake of weird." This book fits that definition perfectly.

Oedipa Mass has just been named co-executor to the estate of her late boyfriend, the mega-wealthy Pierce Inverarity. Through Oedipa's travels in Southern California, in her attempt to piece together some of his life, she first stumbles upon the acronym W.A.S.T.E on a restroom stall. In her attempt to find out more, she finds herself immersed into a bizarre world of underground post offices, and a world-wide conspiracy for domination of the mail system. Or at least I think that's what it was about. It might have been about rare stamps or LSD or pop music. I think part of the appeal of this book may be the reader's ability to interpret it so many different ways. Oedipa's travels, and the characters she meets, while loosely connected, really act as a series of vignettes; and at times don't seem connected. One begins to wonder if this whole 'conspiracy' is a set up. But if it is, the reasons for the set up are unknown and I had to wonder if it was Oedipa or me, the reader, being had.

The other appeal of this book is the style in which it was written. Pynchon seems to be a fan of word play, with every character, every setting, basically everything in this book seemingly named for some humorous purpose. It's as if the entire novel is one continuous string of puns and allusions. There's the Confederate Ship named the "Disgruntled," or Oedipa's contact at a bar named Mike Fallopian. There's the pop band 'The Paranoids,' the play within a play, 'The Courier's Tragedy', and the fictional town of San Narciso. It's a book I'd have to read again, or perhaps a few more times to even begin to grasp the many puzzles and riddles Pynchon uses.

My first impression was this book wasn't my style; I'm just not a fan 'weird for the sake of weird.' But as I contemplate it, I appreciate what I was able to take from it. The word play is clever, funny even, and allowed for me to enjoy the book, even when I was finding the story confusing and hard to follow. And I think in the end, that's the best part of this book.

You can read my other reviews here.

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08/04/2011 page 12
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