Pynchon 2.0 (and the Web)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2009 by basileios

To be sure, there were already plenty of computers around then, but they were not quite so connected together as they were shortly to become. Data available these days to anybody were accessible then only to the Authorized, who didn’t always know what they had or what to do with it. There was still room to wiggle — the Web was primitive country, inhabited only by a few rugged pioneers, half loco and wise to the smallest details of their terrain. Honor prevailed, laws were unwritten, outlaws, as yet undefinable, were few. The question had only begun to arise of how to avoid, or, preferably, escape altogether, the threat, indeed promise, of control without mercy that lay in wait down the comely vistas of freedom that computer-folk were imagining then — a question we are still asking. Where can you jump in the rig and head for any more — who’s out there to grant us asylum? If we stay put, what is left to us that is not in some way tainted, coopted, and colonized, by the forces of Control, usually digital in nature?

I have always considered Pynchon’s introduction to Jim Dodge’s Stone Junction a masterpiece (and I must say I am more than envious of Jim Dodge for the honour to have such an essay like this in his first pages of his book). It appears that Pynchon not only read and enjoyed Stone Junction but actually went into a depth on commenting about its story and structure which reveals in a sense his own analytical mind, and I like to think the process of his own research for preparing for a book.

The passage I included above from this introduction is also quite revealing of the sentiments that Pynchon has about ‘networked computers’, the collection of data, the internet. It appears that if not entirely negative it is cautious of the consequences of this networked world which is about to flourish. Pynchon writes this introduction on 1997. He has just published the rather melancholic Mason & Dixon, and the internet is a mass of computers and servers linked with random information with very few organization points and its more chaotic – and uncontrollable – than it is today.

Someday – he figured Sparky would confirm it – there ‘d be phones as standard equipment in every car, maybe even dashboard computers. People would exchange names and addresses and life stories and form alumni associations to gather once a year at some bar off a different freeway exit each time, to remember the night they set up a temporary commune to help each other home through the fog.

Yet twelve years later the above passage from the last pages of Inherent Vice shows a glimpse of a rather different view of networking and the web. In the same sense as Web 2.0 is not simply the data and the networked computers Pynchon talks about the people, the relationships between them, the prosaic (like annual alumni meetings) and the important (like making communes to make it through the fog). I find that this is probably a rather remarkable change in Pynchon’s feelings about the world today.

I ve always considered Against the Day a rather optimistic book. And Inherent Vice is certainly a very optimistic book (for many reasons). Both of the also seem to talk about the ‘power of the commune’ compared to the innefectual acts of a single individual, contrary to what I believe is apparent in all his previous books.

These two books are also the two most personal books that Pynchon has ever written and just for these reasons they mark a rather strong difference with all his other works. This is the mature, open minded, community-believing, Pynchon. Different than the Pynchon of Gravity’s Rainbow, different than the Pynchon of Mason & Dixon. This is Pynchon 2.0.



Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2009 by basileios

I am half way through Inherent Vice… (meaningful pause). I am in a rather weird situation as although I was conditioned from page 1 to seek the old TRP in the book, I somehow don’t find him there. Not that I find the book per se as bad. I just do not find this book comparable to anything that Pynchon has written in the past. Mainly because my impression is that the book is too fake… too full of segments that do not come out naturally, but are forced inside its pages.

So what do I do? Well, I give this the benefit of the doubt due to my heavy program, and I am going to restart the book with a clearer head.

Let’s see how this goes.

Lists in Inherent Vice and Against the Day

Posted in Uncategorized on August 24, 2009 by basileios

I remember when Against the Day came out one of the first reviews mocked Pynchon by calling him just a listmaker. It is strange that Against the Day was nothing like that. That is compared to Inherent Vice which does seem to follow a text expansion technique that uses lists. I wonder why no review mentioned this so far, while they were happy to slag off a masterpiece like Against the Day?

Aunt Reet

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 24, 2009 by basileios

Aunt Reet’s computer memory of real estate reminds me of a story I read once about an old woman with a photographic memory working in Scotland Yard(?) in charge of finger print filing. The organization she worked for had to go computerized only after she retired when they realized that the whole department was based on her unique skill. Sadly I read this about 15 years ago so I have no reference to this and googling didn’t offer something worthwhile.

Tonight She Was

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2009 by basileios

…all in flatland gear, hair a lot shorter than he remembered, looking just like she swore she’d never look.

(page 1)

What does the tense of the novel reveal about it? I am thinking that maybe the most impressive element of Gravity’s Raibow is the fact that is taking place in present tense. If I am not mistaken no other Pynchon book has this characteristic, since the others are narrated in the past tense.

Yet Inherent Vice – almost – starts by associating the word ‘Tonight’ – a word denoting a near present – with the past tense. For a man who is so ‘addicted’ to detail I find that this is definitely not a coincidence. Inherent Vice is supposed to take place in the early 70ies, but I feel that there is a lot more here than meets the eye. It feels as if its a book about today, about LA on 2009 as much as it is about 1970.

But there are 368 more pages to go…

One Day Before Starting Inherent Vice

Posted in Uncategorized on August 19, 2009 by basileios

I ‘ve been to Los Angeles only once, yet I always wanted to live there. When i was a teen back in the eighties I took a look at the map of Los Angeles and chose a location: Torrance. This was going to be the place where I would live in the future.

Life plays strange games with us. When I met my – future – wife I eventually found out that her uncle is a permanent resident of (yes, you guessed it) Torrance, so part of our honeymoon was based on Torrance, my teen dream location.

In the fifteen days I spent there I realized that I was close to where Pynchon lived back in the seventies so I took quite some time around Manhattan beach and Redondo beach.

Inherent Vice apparently is taking place in Gordita Beach which is supposed to be Manhattan beach, so I think somehow that this will be a very personal book for me. Simply because it bridges the gap between the textual Pynchon and my actual presence to the area in which he lived and he chose to use as a theatre for Inherent Vice.

Under this detail, the comments that will be expressed in this blog will probably be a lot more personal than the ones that appeared in, so any readers of this blog feel free to argue with me at any stage of this reading.

A reading that will start tomorrow… Single up all lines so we can fly into grace 😉

Can’t Wait…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 25, 2008 by basileios

Well, OK I know the blog is empty at the moment, but as soon as I get my hands on Inherent Vice it will start getting entries in similar fashion with my older blog about Against the Day on

However, this time I decide to add some new technology to things. I will also use twitter to post small things as I read Inherent Vice, and maybe link bigger posts in this blog with my twitter account. If that interests you then you can follow me on

Another journey begins… can’t wait.