Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist noted for his complex, labyrinthine, and critically acclaimed works, including V., Gravity's Rainbow, and The Crying of Lot 49. He is also notoriously secretive and few photographs of him have been published.
Pynchon graduated from Oyster Bay High School in 1953. He attended the Engineering Physics division at Cornell University, but left at the end of his second year to join the US Navy. He returned to Cornell in 1957 to pursue a degree in English. His first short story, A Small Rain, was published in the Cornell Writer in May, 1959. He received his BA in June, 1959.
After graduation he began work on his first novel. During this time, from February 1960 to September 1962, he worked as an engineering aide at Boeing, writing technical documents for the Bomarc Service Information Unit and the Field Support Unit for the Minuteman missile project, both nuclear missile projects. V. was published in 1963 and won a William Faulkner Foundation Award for best first novel of the year.
Pynchon's second novel, The Crying of Lot 49, is short, witty and relatively accessible—but, even so, the plot is too elaborate and absurd to fit into a brief summary. It features an ancient, underground mail service known as the "Trystero".
His most famous novel is his third, Gravity's Rainbow, published in 1973 to widespread critical acclaim and winning the 1974 National Book award. Set in Europe at the end of the Second World War, Gravity's Rainbow combined and elaborated on many of the themes of his earlier work, including paranoia, conspiracy, synchronicity, and entropy. It is an incredibly dense and allusive novel that requires considerable erudition simply to follow the plot, something that many of the characters seem to have difficulty with. Knowledge of psychology, mathematics and German literature all help.
Around this time, Pynchon became notorious for his avoidance of public view, and many rumors circulated about his identity. Only a few photos of him are known to exist. In 1975, Pynchon declined the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters .
Shortly before the publication of Mason & Dixon in 1997, he was tracked down and filmed by CNN. Angered by this invasion of his privacy, he agreed to give CNN an interview in exchange for not revealing his photographs. When asked about his reclusive nature, he replied, "My belief is that 'recluse' is a code word generated by journalists... meaning, 'doesn't like to talk to reporters.'"
Relatively little is known about Thomas Pynchon as a private person, however in the March 1977 issue of Playboy Magazine a Cornell University friend, writer Jules Siegel published a lengthy article entitled Who is Thomas Pynchon, and why did he take off with my wife? about his relation to Pynchon, including such tidbits as the fact that Pynchon had a complex for his teeth, was nicknamed Tom at Cornell, and that he had an affair with Siegel's wife.
Pynchon lives in New York City, with his wife and agent, Melanie Jackson , and their son, Jackson Pynchon .
- It has been suggested that Pynchon and one Wanda Tinasky are the same person. Several letters authored under the name Wanda Tinasky in the late 1980s were published in the Anderson Valley Advertiser in Anderson Valley, California. The style and content of these letters closely resemble Pynchon's, and Pynchon's Vineland, which was written at that time, also takes place in Anderson Valley. Pynchon may have been in the area, conducting research. A collection of these letters has been printed as a paperback book entitled The Letters of Wanda Tinasky; however, Pynchon himself denies having written the letters.
- It has been rumored that Pynchon's next book will be about the life and love stories of Sofia Kovalevskaya, whom he allegedly studied in Germany. The former German minister of culture has claimed that he assisted Pynchon in his research. It has been noted that Kovalevsky's nom de plume "Tanya Raevsky" is suspiciously similar to "Wanda Tinasky".
- In an essay entitled "One Writer's Big Innings," novelist Robert Clark Young gives a humorous account of persuading his father, a Department of Motor Vehicles employee, to use the DMV computers in the 1980s to track Pynchon to his home in Aptos, California. The plan was to draw a large muted post horn on Pynchon's front door in order to teach him a lesson for "writing books that make people paranoid."
- Pynchon's reclusive nature led to some suspicions in the 1970s that "Thomas Pynchon" was actually a pen name of J.D. Salinger, another notoriously reclusive author. No evidence was ever presented to support this rumour.
- Thomas Pynchon made an appearance (of sorts) in an episode of The Simpsons, "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife". He played himself, with a paper bag over his head: "Hey, over here, have your picture taken with a reclusive author! Today only, we'll throw in a free autograph. But, wait! There’s more!" He made an appearance in a second episode, "All's Fair in Oven War" (episode #1520), which was the sixteenth-season premiere. In this cameo, his dialogue consisted entirely of puns on his novel titles, e.g., "the frying of latke 49".
- He is known to be a fan of Roky Erickson.
- He wrote the liner notes for "Nobody's Cool", the second album of indy-rock band Lotion. He wrote, "...rock and roll remains one of the last honourable callings, and a working band is a miracle of everyday life. Which is basically what these guys do."
- Wrote the liner notes for Spiked, a collection of Spike Jones' music.
- Pynchon was a good friend of Richard Fariņa 's at Cornell University, where both briefly led what Pynchon has called a "micro cult" around Oakley Hall's novel Warlock (1958).
- The first draft of Gravity's Rainbow was written in longhand on engineer's graph paper in Mexico City and California.
- V. (1963), winner of William Faulkner Foundation Award
- The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), winner of Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Foundation Award
- Gravity's Rainbow (1973), 1974 National Book Award for fiction, judges' unanimous selection for Pulitzer Prize overruled by advisory board, awarded William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1975 (award declined)
- Slow Learner (1984), collection of early short stories
- Vineland (1990)
- Mason & Dixon (1997)
As well as fictional works, Pynchon has written essays on subjects as diverse as the Watts Riots and missile security. He has written articles for the New York Times Book Review and The New York Review of Books and blurbs for books and records.
- HyperArts Pynchon Pages
- Spermatikos Logos
- Pynchon Index
- Pynchon Notes
- The Pynchon-L mailing list
- San Narciso Pynchon Page
- CNN Interview
- March 1977 Playboy article by college classmate Jules Siegel, "Who Is Thomas Pynchon... And Why Did He Take Off With My Wife?", part 1 and part 2
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details