Tag Archives: Slow Learner

Errant Reader: “Low-Lands” – Thomas Pynchon (1960)

“Low-Lands” is an early artifact of Pynchon’s work where you’re immediately aware of that signature sense of revelation waiting just beyond the horizon of the text. Sadly this sense ultimately gets lost amongst all the mixed signals permeating the text. Rather than hinting at greater revelations upon multiple readings, its pat conclusion destroys the sense of wonder that the earlier portion of the text builds.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say pat. There’s very little in Pynchon’s work that the word pat could be used as a description. Maybe I’m just reacting to the let down after reading the story. Coming back to “Low-Lands” made me long for the works that I’ll be getting to further down the line. There’s good reason for this reaction though. “Low-Lands” gives all the signals of early Pynchon at his esoteric best: long passages exploring the mysteries of ennui, the inexplicable nature of life, hijinks and humorous asides, our interconnected existence, psychology and the unhinged doctors who occasionally practice it, dream-like journeys through unlikely settings, and (though the list could go on) Pig Bodine.

While all the pieces are set for the game, the reader is likely to be left wondering if this is the game she or he thought it was. Sadly, this question doesn’t come up in the usual way it does with Pynchon either. Rather than realizing that you’re in three-dimensional chess, you realize that you’re playing checkers. Again, I’m being too harsh. Prior to V., and Gravity’s Rainbow, “Low-Lands” really does have a good deal going for it. Read more of this post

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Errant Reader: “The Small Rain” – Thomas Pynchon (1959)

This post marks the restart of an experiment I gave up on ages ago in the midst of graduate school. Back then any attempt at a regular series of posts about what I was reading was a bit of a wasted effort. It was, after all, a continuation of my “day job” and I didn’t see a lot of point in talking about books online when I could do it in real life with my fellow grad students every day. Given that I’m now a bit removed from my usual debating partners about literature, I thought it might be nice to revisit the idea. Oh, and give the series a better title (Textual Detritus…what the hell was I thinking?)

Given that I’m hitting the restart button I should point out some of the ground rules I’ve decided to use: first, I have some overarching goals, but there’s no set list of what I have to read for a given post. I want to keep this fun, spontaneous, and keeping with the “errant” title. I do want to do one post in the series every week. I guarantee that I will eventually miss this goal. So it goes.

What about those overarching goals? Well, this post is the start of goal number 1. For the last few years I’ve wanted to go back and read all of Pynchon’s work from start to finish. My dissertation work focused on his more recent novels and Gravity’s Rainbow. I read his work out of order though and I’ve been dying to go back and revisit everything in order of publication (or as near as I can manage). I’m starting out with the stories in Slow Learner (but crucially I’m not reading Pynchon’s Introduction to the book. I’ll get to that between Gravity’s Rainbow and Vineland.) I’ve always been drawn to Pynchon’s work, and I can’t think of a better way to start out this particular series. As they say: Go big or go home.

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