Thomas Pynchon and Writing

I just returned from a wonderful weekend at the Pennwriter’s conference.  My thoughts are whirling with writing rules and editing advice. Since this piece is about writers, I decided to post it just for fun.  It’s the first thing I ever wrote.

Evicting Thomas Pynchon

 Dear Mr. Pynchon,

I regret to inform you that I am evicting you from my brain.  I also plan to forget that day, in 1983, we drew up your lease.  It was after a sadistic literature professor assigned the reading of The Crying of Lot 49.  That night, I opened the book, shut the book and said to my roommate, “I need a drink.”  That should have been my clue to grab some Hemingway.  Instead, I let you in and measured my intelligence against your work.

As a young college student, I dreamed of a Doctorate in Literature. But what English program would admit a student who did not grasp Sir Thomas Pynchon?  Okay, so you haven’t been knighted, but you did play a major part in my decision not to apply to graduate school.

Copies of your books line my bookshelf, except for Vineland.  You released it in the 1990s, my having babies and chasing toddlers decade.  My literary appetite leaned toward reading People magazine while standing in the supermarket checkout line.

When my oldest child entered elementary school, I set out to achieve Pynchon enlightenment.  The quest quickly morphed into a bona fide obsession that included a neurotic fixation on the mystery surrounding your whereabouts.

Luckily for me, locating you was easy.  You appeared on my porch every day at nine o’clock dressed as a mailman.  I concocted reasons to be outside when you arrived and pumped you for personal information.  Your answers were always vague, yet intelligent.  A strange combination, but it worked.  Unfortunately, the mailman theory collapsed when he died, and you published Mason Dixon. This fascination disappeared when my youngest child entered kindergarten, and I started working full-time.

On my forty-fifth birthday, convinced that I had reached an age of wisdom, I bought a used copy of Mason Dixon.  That night, curled up in my bed, I began to read.  The print was very small.  The next day, I stopped at the dollar store and bought a pair of “cheaters.”  They didn’t help.  After page two, I turned to my husband.  “I need a drink,” and popped open a bottle of Merlot.  My taste in booze had improved since college, my intellectual capacity had not.

So, good-bye Mr. Pynchon.  The dream of being an intellectual has lost its shine.  I accept that I’ll never understand what you are trying to say in Gravity’s Rainbow.  But at my age, understanding gravity is no longer abstract.  A glance in the mirror holds scientific proof that gravity is a marketing ploy for plastic surgeons.

Please, don’t feel bad, I’m also evicting Faulkner and Melville.  I thought about giving Ayn Rand the boot, but I’m not ready to let go of that steamy John Galt.


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