The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon (1966)

by Chingiz Ismailov

Everyone has woken up feeling like the heroine of this uncharacteristically short novel from that master of illusion, the talented Mr. Pynchon. Oedipa Maas wakes up one Californian morning to find her self the executor of her wealthy ex-lover’s estate. From here, she and of course, the reader are given a little tour of Pynchon’s world, a place which has gained self-awareness and exists only to laugh at itself and its inhabitants.

The characters are all part of some kind of dusty conspiracy involving ancient European postal services that continue into the present day. Arcane symbols point to evidence of their existence, and Oedipa is buffeted around past an unbelievable cast, including her ex-Nazi therapist, Dr. Hilarius; Mike Fallopian, a member of an organisation to the right of the John Birch Society; her own LSD addled husband, Mucho, a DJ for KCUF; the list goes on. The novel is described as a great triumph of postmodernism, in that it is a perfect parody of the style. I hope this gives you readers an idea of what you’re working with if you decide to give The Crying of Lot 49 a whirl.

I remember how I felt when I finished reading this book. Bewildered, taken aback, yet, nothing seemed to resolve itself by the end of the story. After I finished reading, the alternate California in the novel seemed to go ticking on, somewhere, somehow. Maybe Oedipa was only imagining things, hallucinating, and poisoned with paranoid thoughts. And right there is why I read Pynchon. You never know for sure, and nobody would ever believe you anyway.

“High above the LA freeways

And the Traffic’s whine

Stands the well-known Galactronics

Branch of Yoyodyne.”