Pynchon’s Critical Take On The Crying Of Lot 49
Every now and then, you’ll come across an author who isn’t that crazy about a popular book he wrote later in life.
Anthony Burgess criticized A Clockwork Orange as a novel that he quickly wrote for money and a novel that could be easily misunderstood, as evident by Stanley Kubrick’s screenplay treatment of the book.
And as I’m wrapping up The Crying of Lot 49, I came across this quote from Thomas Pynchon about the book.
“As is clear from the up-and-down shape of my learning curve, however, it was too much to expect that I’d keep on for long in this positive or professional direction. The next story I wrote was The Crying of Lot 49, which was marketed as a ‘novel,’ and in which I seem to have forgotten most of what I thought I’d learned up until then.”
That quote, which I got from Wikipedia, originally appeared in Pynchon’s introduction to Slow Learner–a compilation of six short stories he wrote.
Something about that quote is both disappointing and refreshing.
In my mind, or the reader’s mind, a story is always fresh and new. So for him to say that he “forgot” everything he learned before writing that novel is an eye-opener. What must have seemed so important then, the influences and themes that drove the novel, matter much less now.
But Pynchon is the creator of the story and knows its strength and weaknesses better than anyone. So it’s refreshing to hear him so openly critique the novel, or at least the younger version of himself who wrote the novel, especially considering our natural tendency to defend our own art.
Granted, this is just two sentences from a much longer introduction to an unrelated series of short stories, but I still believe it’s revealing.
So, lovers of The Crying of Lot 49, what is your take on Pynchon’s quote?