The Crying of Lot 49 is An Allegory of… Something

Author Thomas Pynchon finds a way to create a book with absolute meaning and no meaning at all.

Ezra James

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Two months into my Thomas Pynchon iceberg has finally led me to The Crying of Lot 49. Arguably his most famous book, Pynchon was three years fresh off his debut novel V. when it was published. With little known about his modus operandi, we are left to assume he wanted to mellow out as best he could with this second book. Its very short length is the only evidence we have of this pursuit, for when one looks at its content, it is pretty much the standard cluster fuck prevalent in V. and the rest of his work.

The novel follows the movements of Oedipa Maas in her quest to uncover the mystery of the post horn and its apparent associations. As the story progresses, she begins to suspect there’s a centuries-old organization behind the many mysterious occurrences surrounding her current pursuit. It operates under the same guise as the marvelous cat-and-mouse trope, except on this occasion the mouse is on LSD while the cat is on Adderall. Any more information will ruin the labyrinth Pynchon purposefully set up for his own amusement.

There’s a quote on the book’s back-cover grinding my gears for its failed comparison. While it accurately compares Pynchon to Joyce, it uses Ulysses as the basis of it instead of Portrait of the Artist, which I find to be a more apt comparison to the way this book operates. Much like Portrait, it’s hard to really describe what it all means. It is an amalgamation of ideas about love, life, death, growing up, and metaphors. Too many metaphors to count. When it all begins to unravel at the end, Pynchon use of language starts to carry symbolic implications, like a prose poem where every word means something different, such as T. S. Eliot's Waste Land. Almost as if telling us “hey you dingbat, these words means something else and you kinda missed the point because you were following the plot”. Thank you sir for noticing my lack of foresight.

The biggest hint he gives us is in the third chapter, where he indulges us on this very weird play that is later revealed to be some kind of ritual for the members of Tristero (or Trystero). From the very little I’ve managed to retain due to the…

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Ezra James

Absurd journalist and essayist from the outskirts of Shambhala.