Monday, February 14, 2011

Reading Thomas Pynchon

Reading Thomas Pynchon is a pretty unique experience and can be quite unnerving too. Particularly, the beginning can be intimidating and can put of quite a few. However, once you get past those initial hiccups, you are in for a heck of a ride. From the limited experience I have based on reading only 3 of his novels, I will try to distill my reading experience, which I believe would be common for most others and as such act as a pointer to new readers wanting to get into him. This is not a post on any of his works, only about the experience of reading him.
His novels are pretty large running into 300 pages at the least and running up to and more than 700 pages. For the first 50-100 pages or even more it would feel like you have been transported to the tower of Babel, just at the moment when the people there started speaking different languages. Such a polyphony of voices assault you in the first 50-100 pages. Characters keep getting introduced in passing and seemingly left hanging. Some (seemingly) random events occur. It's like throwing down most of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle in a completely random manner. But just persist through this and read the initial parts quite carefully since it has a bearing on what comes further.
Once you get over the initial pages, things start to become slightly more clear. You can start piecing together the pieces of the puzzle as it were. But it does not mean that everything gets clear. Pynchon still has a lot of tricks up his sleeve and throws even more pieces of the puzzle and introduces new characters too, but by and large, at this point you should have some idea of the novel.
The last phase is when the story ends or is about to end. You would have formed a image based on the puzzles, but you never are sure if this image is what the author intended or whether you have pieced together an altogether completely different image of your understanding of the novel. But don't lose heart on this. Lets leave the in-depth study and analysis of Pynchon to academics and professional critics whose livelihood it is. As a reader, just enjoy the ride Pynchon provides you through the 3 phases I have mentioned above. You can anyway, comeback to the novel again and read it and piece together again your understanding. As they say in the cliche, it's the journey that matters,not the destination, so it is with Pynchon. So, fasten your seat belts and get ready for a psychedelic trip.

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