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20090406 Pynchon day 2

Page history last edited by Jae Sim 11 years, 9 months ago


     Pynchon uses the pastiche technique in The Crying Lot of 49 (1966) to portray the pervasive sense of cultural chaos in 1960s America. The tension between order and disorder is expressed through the novel's emphasis on communication (and miscommunication). Pynchon's own reclusiveness and absence from discussion about his own works forces his readers to make their own interpretations and as a result, actively participate in the cultural dialogue between order and chaos that was prevalent in the 1960s. As a Postmodernist writer, Pynchon refuses to embrace the idea of interpretation through a single lens, refuses to inform his readers of his personal ideas, and refuses to be present to even divulge any information. Therefore, there is a guarantee for multiple interpretations of his works and “keeps the ball bouncing”. By removing himself completely -- being a total recluse -- Pynchon epitomizes the idea of the "death of the author" as he undermines his role and responsibilities as an author. 
     In addition to Pierce Inverarity's will as a major driving force in the novel, the opening lines of Chapter 3 introduce another important piece of the puzzle: The Tristero.  We discussed how Oedipa's adventure involves trying to figure out what exactly The Tristero is, and how the readers are forced to do the same.  This essentially makes the novel a detective story, in which people try to put order into a set of facts.  In connection to The Tristero and WASTE, we talked about the depiction of mass media in the novel including television, letters, phones, and even computers, and how Oedipa's last name 'Maas' can be a reference to it.  The ideas of indeterminancy and paranoia were also explored, consistent with the themes of Postmodernism.


Word count: 285



"Things then did not delay in turning curious.  If one object behind her discovery of what she was to label the Tristero System or often only The Tristero (as if it might be something's secret title) were to bring to an end her encapsulation in her tower, then that night's infidelity with Metzger would logically be the starting point for it; logically.  That's what would come to haunt her most, perhaps: the way it fitted, logically, together.  As if (as she'd guessed that first minute in San Narciso) there were revelation in progress all around her."  (p. 31)
  • This is the first time that The Tristero is mentioned in the novel, which dictates Oedipa's journey and task to give order, life, and meaning to the world around her. Similar to how Oedipa first encounters information about WASTE in the restroom, the readers are exposed to the same experience as we are first introduced to The Tristero in the paragraph, and we must also try to give order and meaning to the information we gather throughout the novel.  This makes the novel a detective story.



"Rumors were abroad that winter that the Reb cruisers "Alabama" and "Sumter" were indeed on the point of attacking the city, and the Russian admiral had, on his own reponsibility, issued his Pacific squadron standing orders to put on steam and clear for action should any such attempt develop.  The cruisers, however, seemed to prefer cruising and nothing more.  This did not keep Popov from periodic reconnoitering.  What happened on the 9th March, 1864, a day now held sacred by all Peter Pinguid Society members, is not too clear.  Popov did send out a ship, either the corvette "Bogatir" or the clipper "Gaidamak," to see what it could see.  Off the coast of either what is now Carmel-by-the-Sea, or what is now Pismo Beach, around noon or possibly toward dusk, the two ships sighted each other.  One of them may have fired, if it did then the other responded; but both were out of range so neither showed a scar afterward to prove anything." (p. 35-36) 
  • As discussed in class, this passage is a reference to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which has led to the Vietnam War. This passage highlights the problems of (governmental) monopoly on the communication systems, which can easily result in the manipulation of information.  In addition, the idea of indeterminancy is present in the passage because the exact course of the event remains unknowable, leading to paranoia in a way.


Key Terms:

pastiche- a work that is derived from a wide range of texts in different media and/or cultures.


W.A.S.T.E.- acronym for an alternative mail system; an example of failed communication that requires people to write each eather even if they have nothing to say


indeterminancy- The state of being not definitely or precisely determined or fixed, or of having an infinite number of solutions.


Lecture Slides

Comments (1)

Brian Croxall said

at 11:07 pm on Apr 16, 2009

You’ve done a fine job with the notes for Monday’s class. Your summary captures well the point that I wanted to make of Pynchon’s biography being related to the postmodern skepticism concerning authoritative interpretation. The definitions you chose are well done, although I don’t know that you needed to define WASTE.

You picked two important passages for the novel. The one that I wish you had also included was Oedipa’s question to herself as to whether she should “project a world” (64). The decision that she makes, following her conversation with Driblette, to begin ordering the information from the will as well as that she is learning about Tristero is what motivates the narrative. The importance of this line becomes even more clear after the discussion about the two types of entropy.

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