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