Tag Archives: Thomas Pynchon

Friday finds

The Top 29 chalkboard gags from The Simpsons, thoughtfully compiled with images. Funny stuff, but what happened to “It’s ‘potato,’ not ‘potatoe,'” the show’s tribute to the administration that early on provided it with so much material.

Lance Mannion reads Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel and finds . . . something like his past.

When I heard that Nicolas Sarkozy wants to award Albert Camus a posthumous honor, my first thought was, “And George W. Bush wants to give Noam Chomsky the Medal of Freedom.” But whatever.

The oldest book in Scotland gets dusted off. Take a look.

Peter Jackson’s film version of The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold’s novel about a rape-murder victim watching events unfold from the afterlife, is lacking in backbone, according to some critics.

“‘Richard Dawkins points out that he could with equal validity, though with less impact, have called his famous first book not The Selfish Gene but The Cooperative Gene.'” Well, that’s nice to know after all these years, now that three decades of popular-science enthusiasts have convinced themselves that Nature herself speaks in the language of Ayn Rand. One hopes the word will get around.”

A fond tribute to Rick Danko, underrated bassist and songwriter for The Band, on the tenth anniversary of his passing. And a tribute to folk icon Lead Belly on the 60th anniversary of his passing.

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Friday finds


Apparently quite a few artificial limbs have been left behind at Travelodge and Swallow Hotels over the years.

Aravind Adiga, author of the Man Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger and the new story collection Between the Assassinations, gets the full literary Monty from the Daily Beast, with articles, reviews and essays.

The Don DeLillo novel that Don DeLillo won’t allow to be republished.

What you have to give up to be a writer.

Obey the fungus.

Editing, unediting and dis-editing the stories of Raymond Carver.

“While Apollo was on its way to the moon, I was on a Russian ocean liner with my husband and three kids on our way home to America. The Captain came on the ship’s sound system one morning and told us (in Russian and English) that Americans had walked on the moon, and ruefully but politely congratulated us. The kids, not really knowing what a blow it was to the Russians, put up a little cheer — and the Russian passengers on deck were kind or unprejudiced enough to cheer with them.”

SF writers and their work spaces.

Getting a look at Thomas Pynchon.

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Friday finds


A Journey Round My Skull showcases a really interesting post about William Mortensen, a photographer whose penchant for retouching and manipulating his negatives the way a painter reworks his canvasses led Ansel Adams, an apostle of the straight print, to call him “the devil.” The writer, Cary Loren, describes Mortensen’s singular books Monsters and Madonnas and The Command to Look, and the post has a generous selection from Mortensen’s prints, such as the one above.

Doctor Evil and King Siggeir, Austin Powers and The Saga of the Volsungs. Only Professor Nokes dares to compare.

Sit yourself down and watch the sky go by. This video is a tonic.

A Movie A Day completes its run after 215 posts. Quint’s last entry is a look at the 1977 war epic A Bridge Too Far. The best thing about this series is the way it reminded me about not-quite-classic films I need to catch up on, and Quint’s choices have considerably bulked up my Netflix queue.

Now this is what I call a Dead Poets Society.

By general disacclaim, the wingnut comedy An American Carol was about as much fun as getting poked in the eye with a flaming stick. This DVD commentary track sounds like a wake without mourners.

For budding philosophers and Chinese scholars: A line-by-line comparison of 29 different translations of the Tao Te Ching.

Three Scottish universities, with the help of a bankroll from the Carnegie Trust, are setting up a massive Web site and digital research station dedicated to the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, a native son whose literary reputation has faded under the twin assaults of dwindling readership and bad Hollywood adaptations.  Once rl-stevenson1established, the site will allow browsers and scholars to savor Stevenson’s advice in “An Apology for Idlers”: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world, which remain unknown even to ourselves, or when they are disclosed, surprise nobody so much as the benefactor. The other day, a ragged, barefoot boy ran down the street after a marble, with so jolly an air that he set every one he passed into a good humour; one of these persons, who had been delivered from more than usually black thoughts, stopped the little fellow and gave him some money with this remark: ‘You see what sometimes comes of looking pleased.’ If he had looked pleased before, he had now to look both pleased and mystified. For my part, I justify this encouragement of smiling rather than tearful children; I do not wish to pay for tears anywhere but upon the stage; but I am prepared to deal largely in the opposite commodity. A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a five-pound note. He or she is a radiating focus of goodwill; and their entrance into a room is as though another candle had been lighted.”

Ephemeral New York describes the time that the Bronz Zoo once exhibited a human being.

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The Professor and Pynchon

Today’s literary history nugget is a mini-documentary about the year Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow shared the National Book Award for fiction with A Crown of Feathers, a story collection by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Since the reclusive Pynchon was not going to speak, he was instead represented by . . .

. . . a comedian, Professor Irwin Corey, who delivered the acceptance speech  in his trademark free-associated rambling style.

Man, that clip takes me back. In the early Seventies, authors were still allowed to appear on popular television shows, Saturday Review was still in the throes of trying to be four separately themed weekly magazines instead of a single monthly, and bookstores had piles of the orange-jacketed Gravity’s Rainbow hardcover edition. The split award from the NBA committee reflected the controversy over whether Pynchon’s novel was a postmodern masterpiece or an unreadable mess. I lean toward the latter judgment: after several attempts to finish the book (I usually zone out by the scatophagy scene), I decided life was too short. When it comes to Pynchon, I prefer The Crying of Lot 49 and V.

Since then, Gravity’s Rainbow has come to rival Moby-Dick as the least-read and most-referenced novel in pop culture history. The Simpsons has name-checked the book so often that Pynchon has appeared on the show as himself, wearing a bag over his head to preserve his famous anonymity. Being famous for being anonymous — now there’s a postmodern concept for you.

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