On the George Washington Bridge Project: Special Thomas Pynchon Edition


In which The Gay Recluse considers the dark ages.


So today we were reading about the new Thomas Pynchon novel, which is going to be released next year.


Like so many adolescent boys we’ve known, we went through a serious Pynchon phase.


His maddeningly complex yet (somehow) crystalline prose managed to resonate with the best of 1960s counterculture while nevertheless steering completely clear of the empty ideals of the hippies (or better yet, mocking them!).


He wrote about sex and drugs and punkish rock (although music was never a strength, because his prose was too frigid and aloof to describe anything with true emotion, as good music-writing must), and his obvious mastery of high-minded science (omg physics!) seemed to predict our cultural obsession with the titans of Silicon Valley. He made paranoia and conspiracy — particularly as these forces manifest in corporate America — seem fun! Also: his characters had “hilarious” names (our favorite was always Helga Blamm). We drifted through many classes in college making up Pynchonesque character names for all the Pynchonesque novels we planned to write at some point.


Yet as much as we once loved him, we’re almost never inclined to revisit the works we read (V, Gravity’s Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49, Vineland). Perhaps our memory is cloudy, but we’re struck by a certain disdain Pynchon seems to hold for his characters, and by extension, his readers. His unrelenting emotional distance seems emblematic of a society we’ve come to think of as srsly fucked up; true, he’s deconstructing this same society, but not in (the psychological) ways that ultimately interest us.


There’s also the fact that nothing/nobody he ever described resonated with anything we would describe as gay in any good sense of the word. In a way, we think this explains in part his popularity among boys of all ages in our obsessively homophobic culture: he’s a relentlessly straight literary writer who it’s quite “safe” to admit to liking — much like (huge asshole) David Mamet in the theatrical context — without calling into question your own sexual orientation. Which is very important for guys who want to express some creativity or emotion without seeming gay!


In short, Thomas Pynchon might be a recluse.


But he’ll never be a gay recluse, which places him — like so many others from his generation — firmly inside the fortress walls we are still dreaming to tear down.

2 Responses to “On the George Washington Bridge Project: Special Thomas Pynchon Edition”

  1. 1 Jeff

    The eponymous pair in Mason & Dixon are treated with more emotion and depth than other characters in Pynchon’s corpus and it is the only novel by Mr. P that I recommend to folks who have not read any of his works. So I recommend it here as well. Also keep up the good work I like this blog!

  1. 1 brendan patrick hughes » seven days a week

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