In December 1965 the American magazine Holiday carried an article entitled ‘A Gift of Books’ where distinguished writers and critics suggested books which in their opinion had failed to receive the public recognition that they merited. The contributors included Joseph Heller, Alfred Kazin and Thomas Pynchon. Pynchon’s nomination went to Warlock (1958), a Western by Oakley Hall which is set in the 1880s. The eponymous town has no law and order so the citizens’ committee offers the office of marshall to one Clay Blaisedell who already has a reputation as a feared gun-figure. Although he immediately reduces the number of hold-ups and lynchings a new anxiety immediately springs up that Blaisedell is arrogating the law to himself, an anxiety that even touches Blaisedell too so that he submits himself for trial in a neighbouring town. One of the central issues of the novel is the precarious and problematic nature of legality in a place where no creditable legal institutions exist. The town embodies this precariousness in physical terms:

Warlock lay on a flat, white alkali step, half encircled by the Bucksaw Mountains to the east, beneath a metallic sky, with the afternoon sun slanting down on it from over the distant peaks of the Dinosaurs, the adobe and weathered plank-and-batten, false-fronted buildings were smoothly glazed with yellow light, and sharp-cut black shadows lay like pits in the angles of the sun.


Short Story Neighbouring Town Mass Society Distant Peak Nazi Concentration Camp 
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  1. 1.
    Oakley Hall, Warlock (University of Nebraska Press, 1980) pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967) p. vi.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Irving Howe, ‘Mass society and post-modern fiction’ in Marcus Klein (ed.), The American Novel Since World War II (New York: Fawcett, 1970) p. 130.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    John Clellon Holmes, Nothing More to Declare (London: André Deutsch, 1968) p. 217.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Lawrence Lipton, The Holy Barbarians (New York: Grove Press, 1962) p. 48.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    The most reliable account of Pynchon’s known biographical details is Mathew Winston’s ‘The Quest for Pynchon’ in George Levine and David Leverenz (eds), Mindful Pleasures. Essays on Thomas Pynchon (Boston: Little, Brown, 1976).Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Details of the award and the text of Pynchon’s letter can be found in ‘Presentation to Thomas Pynchon of the Howells Medal for Fiction of the Academy by William Styron’, Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2nd series 26 (1976) pp. 43–6.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin, 1954) p. 186.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    Richard Farina, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983) p. 128.Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    R. C. Goolrick, ‘Pieces of Pynchon’, New Times 11 (16 Oct. 1978) pp. 65, 67; Lewis Nichols, ‘In and Out of Books’, New York Times Book Review (28 Apr. 1963) p. 8.Google Scholar
  11. 25.
    Jules Siegel, ‘Who is Thomas Pynchon…. and why did he take off with my wife?’, Playboy, 24, iii (Mar. 1977) p. 170.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    Bill Roeder, ‘After the Rainbow’, Newsweek, 92 (7 Aug. 1978) p. 7. The information came from Pynchon’s then agent Candida Donadio.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Seed 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LiverpoolUK

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