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The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
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The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

by Thomas Pynchon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8,722150530 (3.72)1 / 379
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English (141)  Spanish (2)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (149)
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The place is California. The time is the 1960s. Oedipa Maas is named co-executrix of the estate of the late Pierce Inverarity, a real estate mogul who has left behind a tangled web of an estate that needs serious sorting out. Not only is Oedipa reluctant to do this job for her former lover, but she also feels highly incapable of doing it. Luckily, the other executor of the estate is a lawyer, Metzger. Luckily? That remains to be seen. When Oedipa tells her husband Mucho, a former car salesman turned radio DJ, that she is going to leave for San Narciso to deal with her task, their relationship seems to be somewhat tense. Both seem to have their problems and Oedipa sees a psychiatrist, Dr Hilarious, on a regular basis. Metzger and Oedipa meet in a motel room where they have a lot of alcohol and eventually sleep together. As soon as they set out to do research about Inverarity's estate, Oedipa is confronted with a series of 'coincidences' involving an underground postal delivery system called the Tristero. She starts a quest to find out what lies behind the Tristero and soon seems to be getting closer to the truth. Or is she?

The question of what is true, of what or who is credible and trustworthy, is one of the central themes in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. As soon as Oedipa stumbles upon 'evidence' of the Tristero (or Trystero) mail system, that is clues on counterfeit stamps, such as a misprint in the sentence to report suspicious mail to "your potsmaster" or a muted horn watermark on those stamps, she tries to find out more and more about this system. In the course of her quest she meets with an expert on stamps, watches a play where the Trystero is mentioned, talks to the director of the play and a professor who is an expert on the script and even meets people who send their mail by the Tristero system. However, neither Oedipa nor the reader knows whether everything she is told is speculation or whether it is evidence of a postal conspiracy that seems to span the whole globe. It is this characteristically postmodern questioning of truth and reality - the story involves the use and abuse of large quantities of alcohol and LSD with some characters - that made the novel an interesting read for me. I found myself following the advice of a character in the book to sort out what Oedipa actually knows for a fact and what she has simply been told without further proof in order to figure out whether what she encountered might be true or not.

One obvious thing you will note as a reader is that Pynchon clearly plays with the names in the novel. There are many references to psychology and psychoanalysis, for instance. Oedipa and San Narciso are only two of many of those references. San Narciso as the place of Pierce's estate when a narcissist seems to have a strong personality on the outside, but lacks a core self on the inside? A band called 'The Paranoids'? Pierce Inverarity, who might have uncovered a global conspiracy ('pierced' it?). A pychiatrist giving out LSD to his patients to make them happier called Dr Hilarious. With a closer reading you could probably concentrate only on the names and access another level of Pynchon's novel. However, I was so focused on the truth issue and getting a grasp on what I was reading, that I did not particularly try to analyze the names. This might, however, be something to pay attention to when re-reading the novel.

In our modern times where the line of news and fake news becomes ever harder to draw, Pynchon's novel is probably a very fitting read. While I would recommend the novel, I would also do so with a word of caution. Pynchon's prose, while beautiful, is not always easy to follow. His sentence structure often varies from what you would expect in order to emphasize certain parts of the narrative. Once you get accustomed to that, the novel is not that hard to read. The metaphorical language is actually one of the novel's strong suits ("What the road really was, she fancied, was this hypodermic needle, inserted somewhere ahead into the vein of a freeway, a vein nourishing the mainliner L.A., keeping it happy, coherent, protected from pain, or whatever passes, with a city, for pain. But were Oedipa some single melted crystal of urban horse, L.A., really, would be no less turned on for her absence." (p.15)). To my mind The Crying of Lot 49 is a good introduction to the works of Pynchon because the plot seems to be relatively straightforward and the novel is rater short. Personally, as this was my first Pynchon, I am now inclined to attack another of his works. 4 stars for a really good and thought-provoking novel. ( )
  OscarWilde87 | Aug 17, 2018 |
The first time I read this novel, I was 18, a very naive and, frankly, stupid freshman. Stupid because I didn't take the time to think things through and would spout my opinion based on nothing substantial. I hated, no -- that's too strong a word, I was annoyed by this book, and I can't even remember why, even though there were scenes from the book that stuck in my head: the scene where Oedipa puts on every piece of clothing she has before she plays strip poker with the probate lawyer, the scene at the Deaf convention where everyone is dancing, but to different music, unheard by anybody and the final scene that instantly came to mind when I got to the end of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, where a the protagonist is similarly sitting and awaiting an answer. By the end of the quarter I became aware of how truly prescient this book was to my own life. I've reread the book now, 40 years later, and have reassessed my first impressions. This is not so much of a review as much as it is an anecdote of how a book, read at the right time, can change your perspective on the world. There may be a spoiler or two, so be warned.

In my freshman English class, at the University of Riverside (a place I never wanted to be, but turned out to have many advantages for someone like me) we read various contemporary works from the 60-70s. The professor [or maybe he was a TA, he was probably under 30] was a thin, British man with a wispy beard, thinning hair and steel-rimmed glasses. The discussion one day was on "The Crying of Lot 49" and Oedipa Maas' dilemma. After listening to the discussion for a while, I gave my opinion that I thought she was ridiculous, and why was she obsessing about a supposed secret parallel mail system called 'Trystero'. Students and the teacher tried to make me see this as something mysterious, dangerous and subversive, but I insisted it was silly. One student whom I did not know, actually I didn't know anyone in the class, then asked me what I would think if I discovered somehow that everyone in this classroom were only pretending to be in this class just to make me think it were a real class, wouldn't that freak me out? I paused a half second and answered that it wouldn't bother me, it wasn't doing me any harm so, no I would not be 'freaked out.' The discussion of the book pretty much ended there.

That quarter I was also taking a Soviet History class because of my interest in Russia and all things Russian. The class was a bore. I knew no one in this class either, except for one guy whom I recognized from my Russian language class. He was a odd guy, as so many of my classmates in Russian class were, and I certainly never spoke with him or could remember his name. My roommate and I called him "Nanook of the North" for reasons that escape me now. Anyway, this class was torture, it was all lectures and dry readings about the Bolsheviks versus the Mensheviks versus the SRs and the Kadets. I could barely stay awake. I remember working on a required paper for this class and thinking how bad a grade I'd get on the paper, but, no worries, I would make it up on the final.

Finals week finally came, I had 3 finals on Monday and the last final, Soviet History, was on Thursday. Most people were done with all their finals by Wednesday night, so the dorm was almost empty, as was the campus. I had nothing to do but study for that final. It was supposed to start at 8am. I show up in the designated room and ... nothing. No one was there. I picked a seat and waited ... and waited. Time seemed to go so slowly. When the clock pointed to 8:15 I started to feel uneasy. Where was everyone? Am I in the wrong room? There was no one in any of the rooms in that hallway. I walked rather hurriedly to the history department. I asked the woman at the front desk if there had been a change of rooms for the Soviet history final. She said she didn't think so, and that I was probably just early. I should go back and wait for people to show up. I did so. No one was there, no one had been there. After about 10 minutes I went back to the history department. The secretary looked up and could see my concern. She said, that if the professor changed the time or the room for the final, he would have to inform the dean's office (or some such official office) of the change. She made a phone call. Then she said that no, the professor made no changes, just go back -- he may have told everyone to come a half hour to an hour later. So back I go, but feeling bewildered and slightly scared. I sat there for 20 minutes and thought about that Soviet class. I had been to every lecture, not missing a single one. How could the professor have announced a change in the time of the final and I not know about it? True, I hadn't been the most alert person in that class, but still... How could everyone know but me!?

I remembered that student's question in English class about how I would feel if everyone was just pretending to be in class just to fool me and my heart sunk. Is that even possible? How could that be organized? and why?! I began to sweat. Did that student do this just to prove to me how inane my opinion was? But how? There was no crossover between the students in the English class and the students in Soviet History, how would they organize something like this? The only person that I recognized from either class was "Nanook" from Russian class, but he never seemed to notice me at all, certainly never spoke to me and why? why? why? I began to think everything I ever thought was true, was merely conjecture; that I was not living life, but was merely part of some vast experiment. I began to panic. I ran to the History Department. By this time, the other secretary had arrived. The first woman took a look at my face, and explained how I'd been to the office 3 times now looking for the final classroom. The second secretary looked at me and said, "They've already had their final." My face blanched. "Did you miss some of the sessions?" "No! I was at all the lectures!" (I was almost crying by then.) "Well, it was last week." "How is that possible?!" "Did you turn in your paper?" "Yes!" "Well, that WAS the final." My jaw dropped. I was utterly stunned. I walked back to the dorm in a daze. I looked through my notebook and found the syllabus for the class, and there it was at the bottom of the sheet. --NO Final Exam. The term paper is the final.--

I always felt that I needed to apologize to that student in English class, to the entire class and the teacher for being so sure of myself, of being such an ass, of not being open to the possibility of multiple worlds all around us. For that realization I thank "The Crying of Lot 49". I don't know why I waited so long to reread this book, it is not long. I enjoyed every bit of it this time and recommend you approach with an open mind. ( )
2 vote Marse | Jul 30, 2018 |
Absurdly amusing. Had the continuous sensation that maybe I had gotten distracted and stopped paying attention because I didn’t know exactly what was happening or it seemed things had escalated too suddenly. But nope, that’s just the book. Intricately crafted satire for sure. ( )
  nheredia05 | Jun 12, 2018 |
A strange and confusing book. Intentionally, I guess. It is all part of the paranoia factor which haunts this story. However, compared with Nabokov's Pale Fire, I couldn't help but feel as though Pynchon was trying too hard; there was nothing subtle about this puzzle of a novel, from the names to the humor to the mystery. Everything is out there, in plain sight yet inexplicable, somehow intertwined with everything else, for the sole purpose of dazzling the reader into utter confusion. ( )
  UDT | May 1, 2018 |
My first Pynchon. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 141 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Pynchonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Albahari, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Albahari, DavidAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Angell, OlavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bocchiola, MassimoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chalupský, RudolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doury, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jeffs, NikolaiForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkers, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kim, Sang-guTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundgren, CajTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moya, Antonio-PrometeoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Penberthy, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petersen, Arne HerløvTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potokar, JureTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shimura, MasaoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shorer, ʻIditTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siemion, PiotrTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teichmann, WulfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valkonen, TeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One summer afternoon Mrs Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary.
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The author of "The Crying of Lot 29" is Thomas Pynchon, not Kurt Vonnegut. If this is your copy, please correct the author.
https://www.librarything.com/work/4918...
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To manage a will, Oedipa follows the horn, while Trystero waits. (johnxlibris)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006091307X, Paperback)

The highly original satire about Oedipa Maas, a woman who finds herself enmeshed in a worldwide conspiracy, meets some extremely interesting characters, and attains a not inconsiderable amount of self knowledge.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:26 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Oedipa Maas is named as the executor of her late lover's will, she discovers that his estate is mysteriously connected with an underground organization.

» see all 7 descriptions

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