Review: The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been maybe ten years since my first trip through The Crying of Lot 49 and I think this time around, I got a lot more out of it. My first time I thought it was just a silly book with a typical quest structure and lots and lots of allusions and silly names. Although I can see how some readers might be turned off by the absurd names, I found them hilarious–Genghis Cohen and Koteks are probably my favorite. Oedipa Maas is pretty funny too. I love The Courier’s Tragedy play-within-the-play nod to Hamlet, full of blood and incest, as well as the Beatles references. A guy who couldn’t drive his car because he couldn’t see through his hair? Too funny.

This time around, though, I detected more notes of sadness and existential angst– echoes of the entropy reference in John Nefastis’s perpetual motion machine. The desire to stop entropy seemed loaded with more desperation than when I initially read it: Oedipa looks in the mirror a couple of times and either can’t find her reflection or sees a distortion of what she thinks she should see–she is losing herself. “Someday she might replace whatever of her had gone away by some prosthetic device, a dress of a certain color, a phrase in a letter, another lover.” Also, some of her thoughts and reflections about Pierce verge on poignancy: “She remembered his head, floating in the shower, saying, you could fall in love with me.” And Tristero/Trystero carried a lot of echoes for me this time around as well: Tristram Shandy–probably one of the silliest books every written–and Tristan and Isolde–the super-depressing Wagner opera based on one sad-ass love story that’s been handed down forever….Triste (sad in Spanish) and tryst (a secret romantic rendezvous); not to say Pynchon intended any of this–it’s just where my brain went.

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