Summoned to serve as executor for the will of her ultra-rich former lover, Oedipa Maas is led into the mystery of Trystero, a shadowy band of, of — of what exactly? They have operated for centuries, connecting the dispossesed, the discontented and the strung out by way of their secret underground postal system, a network that may also serve other ends. As she wanders through California in the mid-1960’s, trying to unravel their secret, Oedipa senses for the first time a larger, weirder universe of the disinherited, a scampering, fugitive reality just beneath the placid surface of what she thinks she knows. With its slapstick paranoia and its heartbreaking metaphysical soliloquies, Lot 49 takes place in the tragicomic universe that is instantly recognizable as Pynchon-land. Is it also a mystery novel? Absolutely, so long as you remember that the mystery here is the one at the heart of everything. (Source) (more…)
Rafe Bartholomew (Grantland) talks to the American writer about the prologue of Underworld, and the influence of ‘the shot heard round the world’ to his landmark novel
In honor of the 60th anniversary of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” National Book Award-winning author Don DeLillo answered some of Grantland’s questions about writing, baseball, and the historic 1951 New York Giants-Brooklyn Dodgers Game 3 that ended with Thomson’s home run. The prologue to DeLillo’s novel Underworld is set at Game 3.
Can you explain how Underworld came together? The prologue was first published as a novella, “Pafko at the Wall,” in Harper’s Magazine in 1992, but Underworld wasn’t released until 1997. When you wrote Pafko were you already planning to use that scene as the beginning of a long novel?
One day in October 1991, I learned from a newspaper story that this day marked the fortieth anniversary of a famous baseball game played in New York, in the old Polo Grounds, Giants vs. Dodgers. The event was located somewhere at the far reaches of memory, mine and many other people’s. But some lingering aura persisted and finally sent me to the library, where I discovered news that startled me: on that same October day, the U.S. government announced that the Soviet Union had recently exploded an atomic bomb. The two events seemed oddly matched, at least to me, two kinds of conflict, local and global rivalries. In time I went to work on what I believed would be a long story and at some point well into the enterprise I began to suspect that the narrative of the ballgame and the atomic test wanted to be extended — well into the last decades of the Twentieth Century. I was eager to make the leap. (more…)
Dwight Garner (The New York Times) on the cultural legacy of Bret Easton Ellis’ most controversial novel
When Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho” was about to be published in 1991, word of its portrait of a monster — an amoral young Wall Street serial killer named Patrick Bateman, who nail-gunned women to the floor before doing vastly worse to them — was met with outrage.
There were death threats. A book tour was scuttled. The Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women proposed a boycott of the novel’s publisher. An advance review of “American Psycho” in The New York Times Book Review was titled “Snuff This Book!” Some stores refused to stock the novel.
I didn’t read “American Psycho” at the time. I was two years out of college in 1991, and while I’d eagerly ingested the stylish mid-80s debuts of the so-called “brat pack” writers, of which Mr. Ellis’s novel “Less Than Zero” (1985) is a crucial artifact, I’d moved on.
Yet it disturbed me that, in the moral panic over “American Psycho,” so many smart people made a rookie mistake: They’d confused author with character. Bret Easton Ellis and Patrick Bateman were pariahs. (more…)
Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within… By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.
From Paul Auster’s City of Glass, part of the The New York Trilogy.