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Vineland by Thomas Pynchon

Vineland (original 1990; edition 1990)

by Thomas Pynchon

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3,053211,857 (3.56)122
Authors:Thomas Pynchon
Info:Boston: Little, Brown, c1990. 385 p. ; 24 cm. 1st ed
Collections:Literature, Your library, Books
Tags:literature, american_literature, 20th_century

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Vineland by Thomas Pynchon (1990)

Recently added byJohnOSawyer, jjryan, Eumenides, thomax, mkjones, wabashbdw, dehowell, scotloth, belmbooks, private library



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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I read about half of this many years ago, getting sidetracked when some life event intervened in my serious reading schedule. Finally picked it up and re-read it from scratch. It's a pretty amazing book: easier to follow that Gravity's Rainbow, of course, but in many ways nearly as effective in its sarcastic and zany subversiveness.

That it's a scathing look at the underbelly of the Reagan-driven 80s (as seen through the lens of the degenerate remains of the California counter-culture) makes it interesting to me, since my own political coming-of-age and disillusionment at the shallowness of mainstream conservatism and popular culture took place during that time as well (though on the right coast rather than the left).

Fun and surreal narrative roller-coaster ride. I also can't help but think Jason Lee's "Earl" character is somehow derived from Zoyd Wheeler, and despite myself I keep seeing Robert Downey, Jr. (or a younger version of him anyhow), as evil War on Drugs genius Brock Vond.

Not that anyone would ever be so insane as to try to make a movie out of a Pynchon novel. ( )
1 vote ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
I'm not really big on post-modern writers, so I'm not likely to be Pynchon's target audience or a natural loyal fan. I dipped my toe in (as many do) with the short, but still baffling, The Crying of Lot 49. Despite a playfulness to that text I didn't get much out of it or feel compelled to keep going with Pynchon. However, recently I've been dabbling in later authors fond of Pynchon, so thought the time was right to give him another go and to check out another of the "safer" options from his bibliography.

The result? A mixed bag. There's some wonderful characterization in Vineland that is especially touching, moments both big and small, that makes a real impression. Then there are gaping holes in the story - like why Frenesi acts in quite the way she does. Pynchon makes no bones about the fact she's a cold character, but it feels a little weak to be told Frenesi sold everyone out because she doesn't really care that much and she has a thing for authority figures.

Probably the best thing in Vineland is the sense of loss that exudes from the novel. There's a palpable feeling that events took a wrong turn in American history starting in the Nixon era, and there's no way back at all. The events that unfold in Frenesi's past are really quite bleak to read as the optimism and good intentions of the 60s are blasted away by a ruthless government machine and undermined from within - a purge that continued in to the 80s and the Reagan years. Reading all this from another era, 2013, debilitated by the excesses of neo-liberalism made for quite depressing reading (at least for someone like me, left of centre).

Of course, there are the wacky elements to this story that mustn't be forgotten. The ninjas, the Godzilla monster, the Star Trek references, the man who has sex with his car... These are all quite funny, and there is a lot of humour in the book, but it's all very post-modern and not all of it hangs together well. The ending with Brock is particularly "WTF-inducing" and feels a bit like a cop-out.

Still, if there are ropy sections to this novel, I'm willing to forgive them for the general heartfelt feeling the novel is written with and it's many other amusing sections. Vineland hasn't exactly made me a convert, but it has at least convinced me it might not be such a bad thing to go read Inherent Vice, though Gravity's Rainbow might have to wait a little longer still. ( )
2 vote DRFP | Jun 11, 2013 |
A big thick rambling Pynchon. It isn't really very bad, but it's not as illuminating or dense or rambling as his other works. It has some criticisms of the animalistic pleasures of the 60s, the tyranny of the Nixon era, and television, but that isn't really extraordinary at all. It just is. I have no feelings either way about this.

Eeeeehhhhhhhhhh. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
There is a great deal to say about this book, but here I'll just say I think it is Pynchon's greatest and most central novel. It is not his most dazzling, brilliant, sprawling, outwardly ambitious, and all those other things professional reviewers like to say. But I think it has the most heart and is his best effort to express what has gone wrong with this country of ours. And, it is beautifully, carefully written, in a sustained, consistent way. ( )
2 vote owenino | Dec 13, 2012 |
OK, others have reviewed this in a more documentary/empirical sense. Let me do what I generally avoid, namely give a personal reaction to what has, as I said, been well-enough described by others. Pynchon's immediate predecessor-book, the much-idolized GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, showed me a writer who had definitley gotten, as we say in the country "above his raisin'", meaning, for those who don't get it, that he had become literarily smug, flabby, and self-involved. Now this book VINELAND shows worse: clear evidence of a literary mind out of control. This book was heavy-handed, a yawner from base to apex. ( )
  HarryMacDonald | Nov 15, 2012 |
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Every dog has his day,
and a good dog
just might have two days.
—Johnny Copeland
For my mother and father
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Later than usual one summer morning in 1984, Zoyd Wheeler drifted awake in sunlight through a creeping fig that hung in the window, with a squadron of blue jays stomping around on the roof.
Downtown, in the Greyhound station, Zoyd put Prairie on top of a pinball machine with a psychedelic motif, called Hip Trip, and was able to keep winning free games till the Vineland bus got in from L.A. This baby was a great fan of the game, liked to lie face down on the glass, kick her feet, and squeal at the full sensuous effect, especially when bumpers got into prolonged cycling or when her father got manic with the flippers, plus the gongs and lights and colors always going off. "Enjoy it while you can," he muttered at his innocent child, "while you're light enough for that glass to support you."
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Follows the orbits of old acquaintances headed for a less than harmonic convergence in Northern California in 1984.

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