Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Crying of Lot 49

Lot 49The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon


I expect that I’m not the only person who decided to read this book after hearing about the decoding of the message at the top of the Adobe corporate tower (look here).  I also expect that I’m not the only one who may have missed the whole message of the book, too….

I mean, I get it.  It’s a novel that’s clearly the product of its time, satirizing the California culture that was prevalent during the era that the novel was written, but if the satire is so dependent on its time, how successful is it, then, as a novel?  I never really enjoyed Animal Farm because I didn’t ever fully understand what represented what in the real world, and I think that same barrier kept me from truly understanding this book, as well.  The only things that kept me reading The Crying of Lot 49 was:

a. it’s short; and

b. the controversy kept me interested.

There was a huge undercurrent to the novel, of a conspiracy that may or may not have been true, but it was more like a historical conspiracy, and less a Dan-Brown-let-loose-in-Europe conspiracy.  That central mystery kept me more or less engaged (I never really found myself thinking, “Ooh, I get to return to The Crying of Lot 49!”; it was more a “Aw, man, I really want to read The Last Days, but I suppose I should finish The Crying of Lot 49 first…”), but the rest of it was just too confusing for me.  I found myself reading a few pages, and realizing that I hadn’t really read any of the last few pages, and dreading having to go back and re-read those pages over again.

So, it comes back to function over form, for me.  I want a story that’s interesting, a premise that’s gripping, and characters that are easy to believe in and root for.  If you want to add some thematic or symbolic imagery, fine, go ahead, but make sure that you give me a darn good reason to want to read into all that before you get all high-falutin’, artsy-fartsy on me.  So, forgive me if I don’t go into tremendous detail over the plot, because, really, it’s not the central core of this novel.  It’s more like that piece of parsley that restaurants stick on the edge of your dinner plate — it’s there, but it’s really not that important.

Am I denying myself good literature by thinking this way?  Perhaps.  But I was a literature major in college, and while I liked some of what I read, most of it went right over my head.  I guess I’m just too simplistic of a reader to appreciate fiction that delivers more style than content.  Oh, and poetry?  I never could figure that stuff out.

I’m comfortable with the fact that I will likely never read Joyce’s Ulysses, but I’m always looking forward to the next Stephen King novel.  I wonder what my English professors would think of that?


September 17, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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