The Crying of Lot 49



Although published only three years after V., The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) makes a staggering contrast with the earlier novel.1 It is less than a quarter its length, it appears to possess a simple linear plot, and it covers both a short time-span and a very specific local area — Southern California. The novel’s perspective throughout stays close to that of its protagonist Mrs. Oedipa Maas although, as we shall see, this method presents Pynchon with certain formal difficulties. Oedipa is named as co-executor for a dead real-estate tycoon and former lover — Pierce Inverarity — and during her investigations into his estate stumbles across an underground postal network whose roots lie in Renaissance Europe. Whereas in V. Stencil personified an absurdly blinkered activity, Oedipa is much closer to a conventional fictional character because Pynchon grants her more awareness. Stencil’s quest is absurd from the beginning; Oedipa’s moves from normality into strangeness and, unlike Stencil, she realizes how a plethora of information constantly sidetracks her from a simple search. Although both novels use a quest pattern Oedipa reacts much more than Stencil and discovers one of the central paradoxes of the novel, a paradox pointed out by Norbert Wiener: that although the United States has the most highly developed communications media in the world, information is nevertheless guarded with the utmost secrecy by small groups.2


Railroad Track Paperback Edition Marshall McLuhan Conventional Fictional Character Quest Pattern 
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Copyright information

© David Seed 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LiverpoolUK

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