Wednesday, 13 June 2018


When I was planning to come out to Bucharest the biggest headache I had was scything through my book collection. I was determined nothing would go into storage, I wanted this move to be real and final.  I cut down the collection to about 1/5 of what it had been and I still have 3 bookcases worth with me.  One book that didn't make it was Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. This was a shame, my copy had a really cool cover, but I decided I'd grown out of Pynchon.

How wrong I was.  It has found its way onto my e-reader and it is better than I ever remember it to be.

I am not going to recommend this book to you as such.  I am a good Catholic girl (sic).  Pynchon's world is amoral and postmodern.  Nothing is sacred. His characters are utterly unaware of sin and never have an epiphany, there is nothing redemptive in his work. However Pynchon does tap into something quite deep in the human psyche.  This novel is about the nature of reality and doing things you don't believe in.

His writing is full of the humour of the absurd. There is a club that caters for electronics assembly workers who go wild for Stockhausen on the sound system.  There is a spoof Jacobean Revenge tragedy. There is an underground postal service in competition with Thurn und Taxis. They may or may not have the symbol of the muted post horn.  They may not exist.  That is the central crux of the book. Pynchon's prose style is compact, visually dense and effective and the book is full of Physics in-jokes.  It could have been written for me.

And all the time the characters do things they don't believe in.  Nothing seems real.  There may be some faint whisper just out of earshot that will lead to the truth, but they are too dissipated to follow it.  They let the absurd wash over them and sink into disappointment.

The post modern world seems very much like Pynchon's fiction.  We hunger for something rebellious, something beneath the surface that actually means something, we are fully aware that reality is probably far more terrifying and brilliant that we can hope for and yet we are still too dissipated to do anything than be passive recipients of the surreal, illogical, fantasy that calls itself everyday life.

One image Pynchon throws at us very early on in the book is that of the heroine in a tower, like Rapunzel. She is waiting for some prince to rescue her from the tower, the man disappoints and all that happens is that the tower extends outwards. She goes to Mexico with her lover and yet it is still the tower.  She never gets out.  What appears to be the world outside is just that which has been crafted in the tower.

It is not my life, don't think for a moment that it is.  However, in those moments when the screaming unreality of the world pins you down with its full force and tries to prevent you from breathing-in all that is good, beautiful and true..... then Pynchon's world seems so very real.

Not sure why I'm sharing this with you, other than the fact that I think I'd prefer to be stuck, Rapunzel like in a tower, in a reality of my own creation, than passively accept much of what passes for Catholicism (liberal and conservative) as being part of the beauty of the Bride of Christ. The Church is breaking my heart like no man ever could. But all I can do is scream like a muted posthorn.

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