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Who Is Thomas Pynchon?

How am I supposed to know?

I’m just a second-rate book blogger with no budget. How am I supposed to track down one of the literary world’s most elusive authors?

That’s why I’ve turned to my friends at The Atlantic Wire—who put together this informative article a few weeks ago. The piece highlights how much, or how little, the public really knows about Thomas Pynchon, who makes Jonathan Franzen look like a media whore and a Facebook junkie.

Here’s what I’ve gathered from the article.

  • Pynchon lives in Manhattan.
  • He attended Cornell for two years before joining the Navy. After his time in service, Pynchon went back to Cornell and finished his degree.
  • After publishing his first book, V, in 1963, Pynchon became somewhat of a nomad, with The New York Times reporting that he lived at an “undisclosed location” in Mexico. Perhaps Jack Bauer also lived with him.
  • In the 1960s, he edited technical manuals for Boeing in San Francisco. Kind of strange thinking of Pynchon editing technical documents. It sounds a little like a David Foster Wallace novel.
  • One crazy theory in the 70s proposed that Pynchon was actually an elaborate alter-ego developed by J.D. Salinger.
  • Another theory from the 80s proposed that Pynchon had written a series of short letters to a small California newspaper, using the alias “Wanda Tinasky.”
  • My favorite tidbit: The rock band Lotion tricked a New Yorker writer into believing that Pynchon had become one of their groupies. Hilarious.
  • In related news, Pynchon ACTUALLY DID author the liner notes for the band’s 1996 album, “Nobody’s Cool.” WHAT?
  • His wife, Melanie Jackson, manages a literary agency in Manhattan but she refused to be interviewed by reporters at The Atlantic Wire.
  • He appeared in a Simpsons episode in which he provided the voice acting. It’s one of the few times the public has heard his voice.
  • Only four photos of Pynchon are known to exist. According to The Atlantic Wire:

Excluding his youth, when he appeared in several school yearbooks and an official military portrait, the adult Pynchon, or parts of his body, has appeared in publicly available photographs on just four occasions: in the Los Angeles Times, with only his arm and hand (giving the peace sign) visible; in New York magazine, from behind; on CNN, walking past a television crew in a red baseball cap; and in Britain’s Sunday Times, facing a photographer stationed 100 feet away. The bulk of these photographs appeared in the late 1990s, on the occasion of Pynchon’s 1997 novel Mason & Dixon, his first significant book after Gravity’s Rainbow in 1973.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Like I said, Pynchon is almost a myth. He’s like Big Foot of the literary world.

My review of Lot 49 is coming tomorrow.

Screenshot: (The Simpsons)

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. At this point, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it were revealed that J.K. Rowling has been Thomas Pynchon all along.

    Like

    July 16, 2013
  2. Oh, or what if JK Rowling is just an actress who portrays JK Rowling and Pynchon actually wrote all the Potter books?

    Like

    July 16, 2013
    • Or perhaps, as I saw someone amusingly suggest on Twitter a couple of days ago, ALL books were secretly written by J.K. Rowling. Imagine that!

      Like

      July 17, 2013
  3. Marc Hutchison #

    You’re not second-rate.

    Like

    July 16, 2013
  4. The myth of Pynchon has a DFW feel to it. The authors themselves are as compelling as their books.

    Like

    July 16, 2013

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