Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Vineland by Thomas Pynchon

Vineland (original 1990; edition 1990)

by Thomas Pynchon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,223251,720 (3.58)128
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

Work details

Vineland by Thomas Pynchon (1990)



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 128 mentions

English (24)  Spanish (1)  All (25)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
60. Vineland by Thomas Pynchon
Published: 1990
format: 385 page paperback
acquired: 2007 from the annual Houston Public Library book sale
read: Sep 9-23
rating: 3 stars

Back when I bought this I had only a vague idea of who Pynchon was. I was excited to get this book, then disappointed to learn that no one actually likes it. (That's an exaggeration. There is a nice review here) But, I'm reading all of Pynchon (maybe) and this was next. And, I was intrigued that this was Pynchon's first new work in 17 years, even if it takes place in 1984, only 6 years before publication. Mason & Dixon was in progress and Vineland was maybe something extra Pynchon did as he worked through that. In any case, I never did get into it.

In a lot of ways this is a sequel to The Crying of Lot 49. Like TCoL49, it takes place in California, and is a somewhat unclear emotional response to US political realities. TCoL49 was about the JFK assassination (not that I could have told you that from reading the book). Vineland is about the revolutionary spirit of the sixties and it's reactionary counter under Nixon...and about the fallout of all that years later.

There are universal Pynchon characteristics - there is the low-key Pynchon alter-ego non-hero. Here it's a unemployed, hapless musician Zoid Wheeler. And there is Pynchon wackiness, here a bit forced in the form of a rush-trained and somewhat flawed ninja, and a whole community of generally charming un-dead, the thanatoids.

The novel begins with Zoid, who lives cooped up in the forests of northern California, supported by government checks for a faked mental instability the requires him to annually jump through a window. He raises his 14-yr-old daughter Prairie in a self-built home, and continually mourns for her mother, Frenesi Gates. Frenesi (Spanish for frenzy) lived him for maybe two years, had sexual flings of some intensity, then divorced him and then disappeared. And Zoid is ever enraptured.

Frenesi is the novel's centerpiece and captivates everyone, maybe a variation on V. She crossed the divide of late 1960's between left-wing revolutionaries and the Nixonian conservative governmental crackdown. She was deeply involved with a revolutionary group whose colorful characters may or may not make up for the fact that I never understood what their aims were, while becoming a traitor in cooperation with a rogue FBI agent, mock unstoppable stud-hero Brock Vond. She had a lot of sex with Vond and a key revolutionary, falling hard for Vond. The fallout of her actions leads to Zoid and then to a witness protection program (and another partner and another child). Unfortunately for her and Vond, Reagan cuts funding and sets the events of 1984 in motion. Zoid's jealousy hurts, but he's such a small extra in Frenesi's story, that it really comes to nothing. But Prairie, the girl longing for her mother, provides a more human emotional source that we readers can sympathize with.

My take on Pynchon is that he wants to find a human element while maintaining a satirical distance and an underlying seriousness. This is something he managed in V. and Gravity's Rainbow. Unlike those novels, this one is pretty straight-forward and actually an easy read. I could name a few apparent flaws - the rushed, dull, hundred pages filling up on the background of secondary characters, and the general lack of narrative drive. At the end of the book the writing wanders more on the sentence level, and the book slows down and actually gets way more interesting. Pynchon seems to do best when incorporating so much vast complexities and details, that he obscures other problems with the narrative. ( )
3 vote dchaikin | Sep 25, 2016 |
My first Pynchon and I loved it. It takes about 100 pages to really get into the rhythm because the sentences are pages long and sometimes hard to remember how they started. Also the bookend plot is the least interesting. But I loved the genre-melding pieces about DL, ninjas, the Yakuza and the 60s sets were great too. Mostly, I appreciate Pynchon's complex, imperfect but very real female characters. He writes great women and understands the choices women make and why they may or may not choose to sacrifice what they do. ( )
1 vote ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
Crass language is a big turn off for me. ( )
  MahanaU | Feb 26, 2016 |
Pynchon's books are difficult to describe as plot takes a back seat to the actual unfolding. In this book he takes us back to a very much Pynchon-imbued 70s-era California that acts as something of microcosm for what he thought was going on back then. His ode to Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs set in Humboldt County..."a fractal halo of complications that might go on forever." ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Every dog has his day,
and a good dog
just might have two days.
—Johnny Copeland
For my mother and father
First words
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."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

Follows the orbits of old acquaintances headed for a less than harmonic convergence in Northern California in 1984.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
7 avail.
78 wanted
1 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.58)
0.5 1
1 13
1.5 3
2 41
2.5 14
3 132
3.5 36
4 155
4.5 26
5 79

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 116,170,748 books! | Top bar: Always visible