Tag Archives: Thomas Pynchon

First Edition: ‘The Crying of Lot 49’ by Thomas Pynchon #oldbooks

I admit here that I read Thomas Pynchon’s post-modern novella The Crying of Lot 49 at university and enjoyed it without really understanding it. First published in 1966, it tells the story of Oedipa Maas and what happens after her ex-partner dies. Pynchon had fun creating wonderful character names, so unusual and clever they reminded me of Charles Dickens – Oedipa’s partner is Pierce Inverarity, her husband is Wendell “Mucho” Maas, Oedipa’s lawyer Metzger works for Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus, and in a bar she meets Mike Fallopian. The plot is labyrinthine, it is a Marmite book, love it or hate it, and I suspects features on many people’s lists of unfinished books. It does, however, have some interesting cover design.

Thomas Pynchon

US 1st ed JB Lippincott & Co 1966

The first edition in the USA was published by JB Lippincott & Co [above]. The current Vintage Classics edition [below] was published in 1996. Buy here

Thomas Pynchon

Vintage 1996 current ed

The story
In brief, Oedipa’s ex partner Pierce has died and she is named as co-executor of his will. The catalyst to the story is her discovery of a set of stamps which may, or may not, have been used by a secret underground postal delivery system called the Trystero. As she travels around California meeting a host of eccentric characters, Oedipa discovers that the Trystero was defeated in the eighteenth century by a real postal system, Thurn and Taxis. However Trystero went underground and survived into the 1960s by using secret mailboxes disguised as regular waste bins displaying its slogan W.A.S.T.E [We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire] and its symbol, a muted post horn. Without proof, Oedipa fluctuates between believing, and not believing, in the Trystero. Is she imagining it, or is it a practical joke?

Other editions 
My copy, bought for university, is still on my shelf today. It’s the Picador 1979 edition.

If you like old books, check out these:-
‘An Ice Cream War’ by William Boyd
‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte
‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
First Edition: THE CRYING OF LOT 49 by Thomas Pynchon #oldbooks https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Gt via @SandraDanby

Great Opening Paragraph… 43

thomas pynchon - the crying of lot 49 10-6-13“One summer afternoon Mrs Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed, executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary. Oedipa stood in the living-room, stared at by the greenish dead eye of the TV tube, spoke the name of God, tried to feel as drunk as possible. But this did not work. She thought of a hotel room in Mazatlán whose door had just been slammed, it seemed forever, waking up two hundred birds down in the lobby, a sunrise over the library slope at Cornell University that nobody out on it had seen because the slope faces west; a dry, disconsolate tune from the fourth movement of the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra; a whitewashed bust of Jay Gould that Pierce kept over the bed on a shelf so narrow for it she’d always had the hovering fear it would someday topple on them. Was that how he’d died, she wondered, among dreams, crushed by the only icon in the house? That only made her laugh, out loud and helpless: You’re so sick, Oedipa, she told herself, or the room, which knew.”

‘The Crying of Lot 49’ by Thomas Pynchon