I bought this book the same day that I bought my violin. January 30, 2009. My superstitious self tells me that I shouldn’t have bought this book with Karl Johan, my violin; I should have seen it as a portent.
A portent of what? That I would not be able to make Karl Johan sing. That I would abandon my classical music pursuit. For the time being, at least. And why am I talking about my violin here?
It’s because I don’t know how to start writing about this book.
Thomas Pynchon, as one of my bookish friends pointed out, is an elusive writer. Is he even a real person? We don’t know, but we would like to believe that he is, given the acclaim that he is being regarded with, along with other American literary giants like Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, and Philip Roth.
This book is probably his shortest work, and just like the elusive trait of its author, it eluded my understanding. I do not know what this book is really about.
There is Oedipa Maas who is assigned to execute the last will of someone. This someone, I think, is Oedipa’s former lover. While doing her duties, Oedipa is entangled in a mysterious organization, the Trystero. Or is it Tristero?
Trystero has something to do with the postal system. We are not sure if it’s a real company or if it’s just a conspiracy, a sort of urban legend. That’s what Oedipa does throughout the novel: find clues to prove whether Trystero did really exist or not.
The clues have something to do with the horn symbol. This is drawn inside the novel, and it is that symbol on the cover of every edition of this book. If you know that toddler show Blue’s Clues, you get the drill.
Maybe I am just not into mystery/thriller reads. But I can still say that the writing is good. I have a vague remembrance of the novel’s opening line, something about Oedipa attending a Tupperware party. Just what is a Tupperware party?
And the characters in the novel have funny names that usually allude to something. Oedipa Maas to Oedipus Rex, anyone? Genghis Cohen to Genghis Kahn. And a whole lot more. And oh, I don’t remember what role this Genghis Cohen played. I just remember the name.
The only thing that I like about this novel is that part where there is a deliciously violent play that Oedipa watched. Something to do about the history of Trystero, although this is not given out matter-of-factly.
And the rest was just blah, ho-hum, uh-huh, okay? Nothing to redeem itself from all the muddle of scattered clues. If you want to know whatever happened to Oedipa’s little detective story, read it at your own risk.
The other works of Thomas Pynchon are significantly longer than this. I have other books of Pynchon that are in my to-read-in-the-not-so-distant-future list, but I don’t think I’ll read them as enthusiastically as other books. But maybe they would be better, at least for me?
This is such a bad experience. I always try to look for something good in every book that I read. What’s the point of reading if one is just going to find loopholes in the book and point them out victoriously? We read to entertain ourselves, right? I don’t think it’s healthy entertaining yourself with such an intention.
I even read this aloud at some parts in the hopes of letting the book grow in me through my sense of hearing. It did make some sense. It’s just that I didn’t like it.
One of my bookish friends attempted to read this in the hopes of contradicting my verdict. I think he does that intentionally so that we could have something to rant about. And what do you know? I have something to agree with this friend.