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Thomas Pynchon (1937 - )
Lifespan: 1937 -
Related: experimental literature - American literature - postmodern literature
Gravity's Rainbow (1973) - Thomas Pynchon
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Frequently digressive, Gravity's Rainbow subverts many of the traditional elements of plot and character development, traverses detailed, specialist knowledge drawn from a wide range of disciplines, and has earned a reputation as a "difficult" book.
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. Born in Glen Cove, New York (on Long Island), Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known today: V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity's Rainbow (1973), Vineland (1990), and Mason & Dixon (1997). A new novel, entitled Against the Day, is to be published in November 2006.
Pynchon is regarded by many readers and critics as one of the finest contemporary authors. He is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the National Book Award, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Both his fiction and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, styles and themes, including (but not limited to) the fields of history, science and mathematics. Pynchon is also known for his avoidance of personal publicity: very few photographs of him have ever been published, and rumors about his location and identity have been circulated since the 1960s.
In terms of literary influences and affinity, an eclectic catalogue of Pynchonian precursors has been proposed by readers and critics. Beside overt references in the novels to writers as disparate as Henry Adams, Giorgio de Chirico, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jorge Luis Borges, Ishmael Reed, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Patrick O'Brian, and Umberto Eco, and to an eclectic mix of iconic religious and philosophical sources, credible comparisons with works by Rabelais, Cervantes, Laurence Sterne, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Mann, William Burroughs, Ralph Ellison, Patrick White, and Toni Morrison have also been made. Some commentators have detected similarities with those writers in the Modernist tradition who wrote extremely long novels dealing with large metaphysical or political issues. Examples of such works might include Ulysses by James Joyce, A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, The Apes of God by Wyndham Lewis, The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, or The Castle by Franz Kafka. In his 'Introduction' to Slow Learner, Pynchon explicitly acknowledges his debt to Beat Generation writers, and expresses his admiration for Jack Kerouac's On the Road in particular; he also reveals his familiarity with literary works by T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Saul Bellow, Herbert Gold, Philip Roth and Norman Mailer, and non-fiction works by Helen Waddell, Norbert Wiener and Isaac Asimov. Other contemporary American authors whose fiction is often categorised alongside Pynchon's include John Hawkes, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Donald Barthelme, John Barth, William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, and Joseph McElroy. Younger contemporary writers who have been touted as heirs apparent to Pynchon include David Foster Wallace, William Vollmann, Richard Powers, David Mitchell, Neal Stephenson, Dave Eggers, and Christopher Wunderlee. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pynchon [Aug 2006]
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