Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (born May 8, 1937) is an American writer based in New York City. He is noted for his dense and complex works of fiction. Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree f
History and its discontents figure as prominently in Thomas Pynchon's formidably brainy novels as do most of the sciences and pseudo-sciences. He entered our consciousness as a learned hipster almost immediately, in the early story "Entropy," a phlegmatic consideration of the heat death of the universe, and in the ironic epic V (1963), a tale of parallel searches for a mysterious woman whose despairing momentum is mitigated by the stoical mantra "Keep cool, but care."
The combination of a rationalist's fatalism with a romantic's reverence for human creativity and resilience took brilliant form in a trim fable of conspiracy and disinformation linked to an "underground" postal system (The Crying of Lot 49, 1965); the massive Melvillean Gravity's Rainbow (1973), in which the science of modem warfare walks arm in arm with Armageddon; and the fetching fictional contrast between two legendary surveyors' efforts to map a new world and the redirection of scientific and technical innovations to serve agendas of conquest and exploitation (Mason & Dixon, 1997).
Pynchon now blends the yeasty period style of his most recent novel with the encyclopedic chutzpah of Gravity's Rainbow as he reaches back to the late-19th century and the origins of the first global götterdämmerung to be designated a World War. Its array of parallel plots begins in the air, aboard a "hydrogen skyship" carrying an aeronautics club, the Chums of Chance (whose adventures inspire a series of dime novels), toward Chicago and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The image of adventurous progress thus created is then systematically dismantled by a series of ventures into increasingly dangerous territories. Colorado miner Weeb Traverse opposes perceived injustice with acts of anarchy (which soon looms as the very Spirit of the Age), initiating a pattern of exile and antagonism that will engulf all his loved ones. Weeb's son Kit, Yale-educated and severed from his roots, travels compulsively, moving across continents and through successive zones of conflict, into the heart of his deepest longings and fears.
Dozens of other characters - adventurers, spies, research scientists, disoriented celebrities and dedicated agents of the 20th century's culture of death - meet, recombine and redefine themselves. Read full book review >
Ever since Gravity's Rainbow (1973), which shared a National Book Award and was given, then denied a Pulitzer Prize (on account of its "obscenity"), it's been obvious, even to much of the so-called literary establishment, that Thomas Pynchon is one of our contemporary classics: a true polymath, formidably learned and technically unparalleled, who understands as few of his readers can the essential symbiosis between C.P. Snow's "two cultures" of science and technology. Read full book review >
The last time we looked, there were only seven of them — at least, that's how many Aquinas enumerated in Summa Theologica, and Ian Fleming included the same number in a 1962 Sunday Times of London series that featured seven English writers discussing their preferred sins. Read full book review >