Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

That was just awesome. It's all a conspiracy! At the post office! And that was the oddest sex scene ever, followed by the odd idea of sex in a closet on occasion. That was such a fun romp - though I suppose I don't really have much idea through what exactly.

However back in 2009 I wrote a blog entry all about buying this book and here it is:

How I buy books always strikes me as quite bizarre. More so lately, as I seem to go in when a bit buzzed - post-hashing or post-Cinco de Mayo. Since, for whatever reason, I haven't been in the mood to blog about books I've read, instead I'm going to blog about books I've bought.

Post-hashing I went in and spontaneously bought four used Kathy Reichs books. Fair enough, I've read one of her Brennan books and very much liked it, but I decided to spend that $20 in about ten seconds. I grabbed a couple of chick lit books for when I want pure escapism and two Olivia Manning books ($2 each, very old Penguins) since I liked the first part of the Balkan Trilogy so much. I grabbed a used copy of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (I've heard about it, though I'm not sure where) - which turns out to be the next book club pick, so that's handy. Amalee by Dar Williams I bought simply because I like her music (and yes, I too wonder if that means that she can write). Then I grabbed three books that are by authors I know and have liked: Stars of the New Curfew by Ben Okri (as a bonus, it was only $3), American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, and The Sopranos by Alan Warner.

Post-Cinco de Mayo I ordered the rest of Kathy Reichs' books, having become quickly addicted, and picked up one book based on its cover and another on its spine. First the cover - personally, I think that judging a book by its cover is often fairly effective. After all, a fair amount of money is spent on choosing covers and sending particular messages. Though I suppose it wasn't the cover that caused me to buy it, so much as the fact that it's an old Penguin Modern Classics book. There's something about the 1950s Penguin look that I like - in fact, I've sort of pondered getting the penguin tattooed on me somewhere (I really want a tattoo, but I really want it to be the right tattoo, so it's taking me ages to decide.) Anyway, basically I now own a copy of Voss by Patrick White. I've never heard of this book, but according to the blurb on the back, it's about crossing the Australian continent for the first time - which dovetails nicely with all the explorers I'm learning about while teaching social studies. Then there was the book that I bought because of its spine. I recently read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and my copy is an Olive Edition with a very distinctive, striped red-and-white spine. I saw a blue version while I was browsing and I was curious. When it turned out to be a Michael Chabon novel with nothing on the back but a review from Playboy, I couldn't resist. After all, how odd is that? Hopefully The Mysteries of Pittsburgh will be worth the $14.

The one thing that both trips have resulted in is books that I read about in two other books I've read recently: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster and The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby. Both of the books were great - Foster starts his off by stating that when lecturing his students "a moment occurs in this exchange between professor and student when each of us adopts a look. My look says, 'What, you don't get it?' Theirs says, 'We don't get it. And we think you are making it up.'" That is exactly what I though while sitting through endlessly boring English classes back in high school - though when left to my own devices, I could sometimes find symbolism or patterns. Possibly I was just being my normal resistant-to-authority self. In more recent years, I've often been struck by just how much novels resemble each other or play off of each other. Even random connections, like the fact that the same painting (The Raft of Medusa, Theodore Gericault) was mentioned in The Optimists by Andrew Miller and Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs, strike me as fairly fascinating. Hornby's book wasn't just a great book about reading; it was also hilarious. I think if I met him in the pub for a pint I'd very much like him. He reads a lot of stuff that I do, aside from all the football reading, granted. And I don't quite share his lack of love for literary novels. However, who else would write, "So tell your kids not to smoke, but it's only fair to warn them of the downside, too: that they will therefore never get the chance to offer the greatest living writer in America [Kurt Vonnegat] a light."

These two books have led to several more books. Nick Hornby read a biography of Richard Yates and that combined with my recent viewing of Revolutionary Road convinced me to buy The Easter Parade. Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant apparently was the book that inspired Hornby to write and I managed to find a $3 copy. Hornby described Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson as an "extraordinary, yearning mystical work about the dead and how they haunt the living" and combined with numerous recommendations, I could no longer resist. As a result of Foster's book, I've acquired a copy of Nabakov's Lolita, which I really ought to have read by now, and The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, which I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of before.

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1 comment:

Sandi said...

Happy Holidays and thank you for the card. I think of you frequently and peek in to see how you're doing. Have a wonderful New Year.