The Crying of Lot 49 (Perennial Fiction Library) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1989/10/1
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Thomas Pynchon's classic post-modern satire, which tells the wonderfully unusual story of Oedipa Maas, first published in 1965.
When her ex-lover, wealthy real-estate tycoon Pierce Inverarity dies and designates her the co-executor of his estate, California housewife Oedipa Mass is thrust into a paranoid mystery of metaphors, symbols, and the United States Postal Service. Traveling across Southern California, she meets some extremely interesting characters, and attains a not-inconsiderable amount of self-knowledge.
Thomas Pynchon was born in 1937. His books include V, Gravity's Rainbow, Vineland, Mason & Dixon, Against the Day, Inherent Vice, and Bleeding Edge.
Pynchon reveals anti-heroine Oedipa Maas as an adulteress on the novel's first pages, executor of the wealthy estate of a recently deceased ex-lover, Pierce Inverarity (How great are these names, by the way? All of Pynchon's choices for character names in this book are hysterically funny). Her journey from there is hilarious, surprising at every turn, chock full of conspiracy theory and peppered with meaningless sex and sexual advances. Oedipa's obsession with the mystery she believes Inverarity left behind for her to solve, that of an underground mail service called the Trystero, speaks to the boredom Pynchon assumes for the American upper class of his day, the longing for a purpose and constant uncertainty as to whether that purpose really means anything at all.
Here are three quotes where I feel Pynchon writes very directly with regard to American life:
"`I came,' [Oedipa] said, `hoping you could talk me out of a fantasy.'
`Cherish it!' cried Hilarius, fiercely. `What else do any of you have? Hold it tightly by its little tentacle, don't let the Freudians coax it away or the pharmacists poison it out of you. Whatever it is, hold it dear, for when you lose it you go over by that much to the others. You begin to cease to be.'" (page 113)
"You're chicken, she told herself, snapping her seat belt. This is America, you live in it, you let it happen." (page 123)
". . . maybe even [stumbled] onto a real alternative to the exitlessness, to the absence of surprise to life, that harrows the head of everybody American you know, and you too, sweetie." (page 141)
The Hilarius (another fantastic name, of course) quote from page 113 says to me that Pynchon feels we Americans need our fantasies, need an element of craziness in our lives because the easy life here isn't necessarily what people expect it to be. It's set up beautifully by Oedipa's desire at that moment to give up her search.
The quote from page 123, Oedipa talking to herself about what she should be able to do, how she should be able to affect outcomes and events, delineates an expectation so many Americans have that's, unfortunately, not always met with success.
The most powerful quote of the three, in my opinion, is the one from page 141. Whether Oedipa's mission was real or contrived, worthy or a waste of time, here she describes "everybody American" she knows as living with "exitlessness" and an "absence of surprise to life," and includes herself in that group. Through Oedipa and her adventure and her own conflicting opinions about it, Pynchon conveys a strong desire to break from quotidian life in the leisure class, a yearning for any sort of struggle but an uncertainty about that very yearning.
Part of what Pynchon writes in The Crying of Lot 49, in my opinion, presents random sex and infidelity as one answer attempted by people in Oedipa's shoes, the bored housewives and their working husband counterparts, and this purported solution comes up empty time and time again. Oedipa herself seems to realize this as the novel progresses, succumbing to seduction early on but then rejecting it and feeling disgusted by its perpetrators later. Surely a long essay could be written just about Pynchon's treatment of sex in this book, but this review is getting long, so I'll cut it off here.
I loved this book for all of its complexity, this review is just a few thoughts on one theme that stuck with me.