Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Crying of Lot 49

Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 is another book that is part of the big 1001 books to read before you die list that I am plodding my way through. I have never read Pynchon before and my only impression of his writing was that Gravity's Rainbow seemed like a very difficult book. But The Crying of Lot 49 is a slim paperback so I thought I could handle it.

Oedipa Maas is our main character, a young married woman who finds herself in charge of executing the estate of a deceased friend, Pierce Inverarity. Unsure about what exactly to do, Oedipa meets up with Metzger, Inverarity's lawyer. Oedipa begins to see a strange symbol everywhere and thinks it has something to do with Inverarity and an underground postal system.

"each death, up till the moment of our own, is miraculous."

The plot is difficult for me to describe because it was difficult for me to follow at times. There is a very long detailed retelling of a play that Oedipa and Metzger see. At times it seems like Oedipa is going crazy over all of these clues without any end in sight. And once I read this:

 "Oedipa wondered whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end), she too might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself."

I had a feeling that Pynchon had summed up the book for me so I just buckled in and enjoyed the ride. For a small book it was very dense but really interesting. Oedipa is constantly picking up on communication patterns and draws them into a web that gets bigger and bigger without getting anywhere. We never get the "central truth itself" but that isn't what this book or life in general is about. It's just the patterns we find in an attempt to make sense of things.

"This is America, you live in it, you let it happen. Let it unfurl."

While trying to describe this book to my husband, all I could come back to was this scene from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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