The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon

This was a hard read. My reading time has often ended up with me falling asleep so it is tough to know how much of it is my own tiredness. There were more similarities between this book and what I have read of John Irving. I think it would be interesting to read all of Pynchon and Irving chronologically to see how many connections there are. But that is the job of a grad student in american lit., not me. maybe someday i will do it, but not now.

The book itself is quite dense. I think i would have to read it a few times to really get it. and if you want answers to the questions a book raises this will leave you frustrated. it ends by saying that there are only two possible solutions to the basic question of the book and never tells you which one. maybe an answer can be divined, but like i said, you would have to read it closely and a couple of times. (or be more gifted than I am at literary interpretation).


Interesting Connection

The next book that I am going to read is The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. Before reading it though, i wanted to check out the author a bit. i read what i could on him and one thing jumped out. in one of his letters to his agent he talks about working on three or four novels at the same time and that if they come out at all like what they are in his head, it will be the literary event of the millenium. This jumped out at me because a nearly identical conversation takes place in Joh Irving's The World According to Garp. That book is about an author who discusses with his publisher the next three books he will work on simultaneously and that if he finishes them like he imagines them it will be quite the literary event. I am paraphrasing here because i dont have garp with me. This isnt a subtle reference either, Garp was published in 1978. Pynchon's letter, while written well before 1978, was not made public until well after that. I don't know if there is a connection between Pynchon and Irving that this exchange would help prove, but it is an ineresting little theory, at least to me.

The Old Wives' Tale - Arnold Bennett

This book is about two sister who represent sophistication (sophia) and consistency (Constance).

Bennett evidently saw an old lady in a restaurant and the fact that she was old and ugly made him think that all old women are ugly, and so women who were once beautiful and are now ugly must be depressed. His purpose of showing the sad story every old woman has because she is now old, and used to be beautiful is contradicted by the story he tells. It is an exemplary work for sexism and ageism.

The sisters live very different lives and then they die. I have no idea what bennett was trying to say with this book, mostly but what i got from it was that no matter how different you are and what kind of life you lead, you end up the same in the end. with this kind of book that follows someone through their life, the end of the life is supposed to be the most poignant and instructional. in this book it appears to be that old people are fragile, pathetic, and die ignoble deaths. Sophia has a point in the book where she wishes that she was dead but doesn't want to die. This conundrum would be a good plot for exploration, but instead bennett puts her into a coma and kills her in the next page.

I could see it on a list of the best 100 books of any given year, but of the 20th century, that is a joke.


A Prayer for Owen Meany

This is the second John Irving book I have read in the last few months. I have decided that i really like his style of writing. there are books that feel like the author is finding out what happens as it is written, without plan or knowledge of what will happen next. Irving has a way of forshadowing exactly what is important, making your recognize the foreshadowing, and still leaving you surprised at how it ends. That was the case with Owen Meany. Everything was in place for the climax of the book. If you were paying attention, you had to know what was coming, but I was still surprised. the book is really about God, and I dont know if Irving was trying to say that people who believe in God are silly or that people who dont believe in God are silly, and frankly it doesnt matter. I have a feeling that regardless of what you actually believe, you will feel that Irving agrees with you.