On this week’s podcast, Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times joins us to discuss Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel, “Bleeding Edge.” All three of us are Pynchon fans, and all three of us really like this latest book. Although, as we talk about, the fact that we experienced a lot of the cultural items Pynchon references makes this a bit odd . . . Like, Pynchon’s watched “Office Space”? He is aware of Pokemon and Beanie Babies?Read More...
Ryan Chapman (who totally rocked this podcast about the Pynchon ebooks and whatnot) just emailed me about “The Davids,” an annual competition among Penguin imprints to win a small plastic trophy . . . Here, I’ll let them explain:
Every year Penguin selects the best book videos for The Davids, named after our CEO David Shanks. And in 2013, we’re opening the voting to the public.
So head here to cast your vote. Note that you don’t have to vote in every category.
Of course we strongly, strongly recommend you choose our Thomas Pynchon entry for Best Animated Video. (You would not believe the amount of trash-talking in the offices this week between the imprints.)
Since I’m trying to sweet talk Ryan into doing another podcast this fall wherein we can talk about the new Pynchon novel, Bleeding Edge, I really want him and his Pynchon video to win. So vote!
And keep in mind, that a vote for Pynchon is a vote against Riverhead—which is, um, important, because Riverhead is . . . a bunch of loud-mouthed jerks? (I’ve got nothing. I just want Ryan to win.)
This week’s podcast (which was actually recorded weeks ago) features Ryan Chapman of The Penguin Press, who came on with us to discuss the fun marketing campaign Penguin put on to celebrate the release of the ebook versions of all of Thomas Pynchon’s books. As usual the conversation swerves from that to discussing American literature in general, the Euro Cup (SPAIN!) and sundry odds and ends, such as making up blurbs for catalogs . . . like this and thisRead More...
Begins tonight with the season six premiere of Lost. And of course, since I lost the TV in my divorce (grr!) and have my kids tonight (yah! except for the no going over to someone’s house to watch Lost aspect), I’ll have to wait until tomorrow or Thursday to actually see tonight’s episode . . . So if anyone reading this is a fan, please, please don’t call/text/e-mail me any details. Begging.
Anyway, to celebrate the launch of the sixth and final season, the Wall Street Journal asked me to write a piece for their Speakeasy blog about the literary references, etc. I kind of went in a different direction, hoping for no clear resolution to all of the mysteries of Lost and pulling in one of my other non-translation based obsessions—The Crying of Lot 49.
The way “Lost” has set up opposing ideas and provided equal evidence for both arguments brings to mind “The Crying of Lot 49″ by Thomas Pynchon, a book that has yet to appear in the show but nevertheless might provide the perfect lens for understanding it and for predicting what the final scene of the finale might hold.
“The Crying of Lot 49,” published in 1966, is the story of Oedipa Maas, a young woman who becomes co-executor of an old lover’s estate. As she sorts through his life, she starts seeing a symbol — a drawing of a horn — everywhere (kind of like Lost’s numbers —4 8 15 16 23 42 — which appear time and again). Through a concerted investigation and pure chance, she figures out that this symbol is either a) part of a vast conspiracy for delivering messages among members of the underground or b) one big joke. As a corollary, Oedipa herself is either a) on the brink of comprehending something monumental or b) completely insane.
Yeah, I know I’m probably the only fan in the country who would be happier if the series ended with a lot of loose ends, but I have my reasons . . . Anyway, you can read the entire post here.
This summer the National Book Foundation has been posting reader reactions to each of the 77 fiction winners from its 60-year history. Along with Casey Hicks (whose overview is great—Byron the Bulb!), I wrote a short bit about Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, which went online today. (Perfect timing with Inherent Vice releasing yesterday.) I can’t say for certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my piece is the first time both The O.C. and Paris Hilton are mentioned on the National Book Foundation blog . . . Here’s the opening:
“A screaming comes across the sky.”
This is arguably one of twentieth-century literature’s most recognizable opening lines. A “Call me Ishmael” for the paranoids, the pot smokers, the conspiracy theorists who see patterns in everything. “No, this is not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into . . .”
I first read Gravity’s Rainbow the summer after graduating from college and was instantly convinced that this was THE BOOK OF ALL BOOKS. Everything is here—high level musings on philosophy, physics, chemistry, psychology, séances and the beyond; outrageous names (lots of outrageous names: Pig Bodine, Teddy Bloat, Pirate Prentice, Captain Dominus Blicero), songs, and a surreal trip down a toilet; information about “Them,” V-2 rockets, and absolute fear. High culture and pop references. History and trivia. And out of all that comes a the obsessive feeling that all these pieces might add up to something of Monumental Importance, or might just be a fun way to kill a few months . . .
It’s almost impossible to even summarize this novel, which features more than 400 different characters and dozens of plot threads. I mean, this is a novel that starts with a top-secret military group studying data on how each of Tyrone Slothrop’s sexual encounters takes place at a location that is hit by a V-2 rocket days later. Is this just coincidence? Or is it a result of experiments done on Baby Tyrone by Laszlo Jamf involving a mysterious substance called Imipolex G? And what the hell is the significance of the “00000” rocket and the S-Gerät component?
Here’s a message from Monica Carter of Salonica and Skylight Books—our featured indie store of the month—about some interesting upcoming events.
One of the trademarks of Skylight Books is the ability to recognize and promote the literary greats of our time. Ten years ago, Skylight Books not only participated in the Harry Potter phenomenon with a midnight release party, but was the originator of the Thomas Pynchon Against the Day midnight release party. The tradition continues at Skylight Books with our dedication to celebrating the literary talents of today with our second Thomas Pynchon Midnight Release Party for his new novel, Inherent Vice, on August 4. Along with Pynchon, we will be hosting not one but two parties for Infinite Summer (not a footnote of a party, a PARTY!), the effort of bibliophiles from around the world to read Infinite Jest over the summer of 2009. William T. Vollman has been a perennial bestseller at our store and also a staff favorite which is why we are the only independent bookstore in Los Angeles to host an event for his new book of photographs, Imperial. These events are indicative of Skylight Books’ commitment to fostering cultural vivacity in our own community as well as the global literary community.
From the San Jose Mercury News:
Bob Mayo and Mark Snesrud, solved the San Jose semaphore – a communication mode that uses moving flags or lights to send messages. That’s the public art mystery message being flashed in a series of four changing symbols from atop the Adobe tower on Almaden Boulevard.
The four glowing amber disks started beaming the code last August as part of the ZeroOne digital art festival. When it was launched, we were told it was some sort of code and that the pattern could be figured out. Tuesday, the answer was revealed: It’s the entire text – about 800 paragraphs – of Thomas Pynchon’s 1966 novel The Crying of Lot 49.
No word on whether either Bob or Mark have a post horn tattoo, or if either are involved in an underground mail company.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .