- When Marilyn Monroe got out of the game, I wrote something like, "Southern California's special horror notwithstanding, if the world offered nothing, nowhere to support or make bearable whatever her private grief was, then it is that world, and not she, that is at fault."
I wrote that in the first few shook-up minutes after hearing the bulletin sandwiched in between Don and Phil Everly and surrounded by all manner of whoops and whistles coming out of an audio signal generator, like you are apt to hear on the provincial radio these days. But I don't think I'd take those words back.
The world is at fault, not because it is inherently good or bad or anything but what it is, but because it doesn't prepare us in anything but body to get along with.
Our souls it leaves to whatever obsolescences, bigotries, theories of education workable and un, parental wisdom or lack of it, happen to get in its more or less Brownian (your phrase) pilgrimage between the cord-cutting ceremony and the time they slide you down the chute into the oven, while the guy on the Wurlitzer plays Aba Daba Honeymoon because you had once told somebody it was the nadir of all American expression; only they didn't know what nadir meant but it must be good because of the vehemence with which you expressed yourself.
- Why should things be easy to understand?
- Pynchon's response to Jules Siegel about the complexity of V, as quoted in "Who Is Thomas Pynchon... And Why Did He Take Off With My Wife?", Playboy (March 1977)
- Let me be unambiguous. I prefer not to be photographed.
- Phone call to CNN as reported in a CNN article (5 June 1997)
- My belief is that "recluse" is a code word generated by journalists... meaning, "doesn't like to talk to reporters."
- Phone call to CNN (5 June 1997)
- I did not write those letters. This has been a hoax that I've had nothing to do with. I'm sorry it's gone on as long as it has.
- On the rumors that he had written a series of letters to a newspaper using the name Wanda Tinasky, in a phone call to CNN (5 June 1997)
- Here's your quote: "Thomas Pynchon loved this book, almost as much as he loves cameras!"
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!
- Christmas Eve, 1955, Benny Profane, wearing black levis, suede jacket, sneaker and big cowboy hat, happened to pass through Norfolk, Virginia.
- First lines
- Rachel was looking into the mirror at an angle of 45°, and so had a view of the face turned toward the room and the face on the other side, reflected in the mirror; here were time and reverse-time, co-existing, cancelling one another exactly out. Were there many such reference points, scattered throughout the world, perhaps only at nodes like this room which housed a transient population of the imperfect, the dissatisfied; did real time plus virtual or mirror-time equal zero and thus serve some half-understood moral purpose? Or was it only the mirror world that counted; only a promise of a kind that the inward bow of a nose-bridge or a promontory of extra cartilage at the chin meant a reversal of ill fortune such that the world of the altered would thenceforth run on mirror-time; work and love by mirror-light and be only, till death stopped the heart's ticking (metronome's music) quietly as light ceases to vibrate, an imp's dance under the century's own chandeliers....
- Chapter Two, Part I
- Perhaps history this century, thought Eigenvalue, is rippled with gathers in its fabric such that if we are situated, as Stencil seemed to be, at the bottom of a fold, it's impossible to determine warp, woof, or pattern anywhere else. By virtue, however, of existing in one gather it is assumed there are others, compartmented off into sinuous cycles each of which had come to assume greater importance than the weave itself and destroy any continuity. Thus it is that we are charmed by the funny-looking automobiles of the '30's, the curious fashions of the '20's, the particular moral habits of our grandparents. We produce and attend musical comedies about them and are conned into a false memory, a phony nostalgia about what they were. We are accordingly lost to any sense of continuous tradition. Perhaps if we lived on a crest, things would be different. We could at least see.
- Chapter Seven, Part I
- He had decided long ago that no Situation had any objective reality: it only existed in the minds of those who happened to be in on it at any specific moment. Since these several minds tended to form a sum total or complex more mongrel than homogeneous, The Situation must necessarily appear to a single observer much like a diagram in four dimensions to an eye conditioned to seeing the world in only three. Hence the success or failure of any diplomatic issue must vary directly with the degree of rapport achieved by the team confronting it. This had led to the near obsession with teamwork which had inspired his colleagues to dub him Soft-show Sydney, on the assumption that he was at his best working in front of a chorus line.
But it was a neat theory, and he was in love with it.The only consolation he drew from the present chaos was that his theory managed to explain it.
- Chapter Seven, Part VII
- "Dream tonight of peacock tails, / Diamond fields and spouter whales. / Ills are many, blessings few, / But dreams tonight will shelter you."
- Chapter Nine, Part II
- In the eighteenth century it was often convenient to regard man as a clockwork automaton. In the nineteenth century, with Newtonian physics pretty well assimilated and a lot of work in thermodynamics going on, man was looked on as a heat engine, about 40 per cent efficient. Now in the twentieth century, with nuclear and subatomic physics a going thing, man had become something which absorbs X-rays, gamma rays and neutrons.
- Chapter Ten, Part II
- Right and left; the hothouse and the street. The Right can only live and work hermetically, in the hothouse of the past, while outside the Left prosecute their affairs in the streets manipulated by mob violence. And cannot live but in the dreamscape of the future.
- For a boy not getting any he had more woman problems than anybody he knew.
The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
- A number of frail girls... prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world.
- Chapter 1
- "Run away with me," said Roseman when the coffee came.
"Where?" she asked. That shut him up.
- Chapter 1
- Having no apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic, to understand how it works, how to measure its field strength, count its lines of force, she may fall back on superstition, or take up a useful hobby like embroidery, or go mad, or marry a disc jockey. If the tower is everywhere and the knight of deliverance no proof against its magic, what else?
- Chapter 1
- "You one of those right wing nut outfits?" inquired the diplomatic Metzger.
Fallopian twinkled. "They accuse us of being paranoids."
"They?" inquired Metzger, twinkling also.
"Us?" asked Oedipa.
- Chapter 3
- The reality is in this head. Mine. I'm the projector at the planetarium, all the closed little universe visible in the circle of that stage is coming out of my mouth, eyes, and sometimes other orifices also.
- Chapter 3
- "I was dreaming [...] about my grandfather. A very old man, at least as old as I am now, 91. I thought, when I was a boy, that he had been 91 all his life. Now I feel as if I have been 91 all my life."
- Chapter 4
- Write by WASTE. The government will open it if you use the other. The dolphins will be mad. Love the dolphins.
- True pornography is given us by vastly patient professionals.
- Death glided by, shadowless, among the empties on the grass.
- This is America, you live in it, you let it happen.
Gravity's Rainbow (1973)
- A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.
It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it's all theatre. There are no lights inside the cars. No light anywhere. Above him lift girders old as an iron queen, and glass somewhere far above that would let the light of day through. But it's night. He's afraid of the way the glass will fall soon it will be a spectacle: the fall of a crystal palace. But coming down in total blackout, without one glint of light, only great invisible crashing.
- First lines
- Flotsam from his childhood are rising through his attention. He's remembering the skin of an apple, bursting with nebulae, a look into curved reddening space.
- The night room heaves a sigh, yes Heaves, a Sigh--old-fashioned comical room, oh me I'm hopeless, born a joker never change, flirting away through the mirrorframe in something green-striped, pantalooned, and ruffled--meantime though, it is quaint, most rooms today hum you know, have been known also to "breathe," yes even wait in hushed expectancy and that ought to be the rather sinister tradition here, long slender creatures, heavy perfume and capes in rooms assailed by midnight, pierced with spiral stairways, blue-petaled pergolas, an ambience in which no one, however provoked or out of touch, my dear young lady, ever, Heaves, a Sigh. It is not done.
- Colonies are the outhouses of the European soul, where a fellow can let his pants down and relax, enjoy the smell of his own shit. Where he can fall on his slender prey roaring as loud as he feels like, and guzzle her blood with open joy. Eh? Where he can just wallow and rut and let himself go in a softness, a receptive darkness of limbs, of hair as woolly as the hair on his own forbidden genitals.
- Out and down in the colonies, life can be indulged, life and sensuality in all its forms, with no harm done to the Metropolis, nothing to soil those cathedrals, white marble statues, noble thoughts.
- Tibet is a special case. Tibet was deliberately set aside by the Empire as free and neutral territory, a Switzerland for the spirit where there is no extradition, and Alp-Himalayas to draw the soul upward, and danger rare enough to tolerate.
- Now there grows among all the rooms, replacing the night's old smoke, alcohol and sweat, the fragile, musaceous odor of Breakfast: flowery, permeating, surprising, more than the color of winter sunlight, taking over not so much through any brute pungency or volume as by the high intricacy to the weaving of its molecules, sharing the conjuror's secret by which — though it is not often that Death is told so clearly to fuck off — the living genetic chains prove even labyrinthine enough to preserve some human face down twenty generations... so the same assertion-through-structure allows this war morning's banana fragrance to meander, repossess, prevail.
- They are in love. Fuck the war.
- It's been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home — only the millions of last moments... nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.
- She has turned her face, more than once, to the Outer Radiance and simply seen nothing there. And so each time taken a little more of the Zero into herself. It comes down to courage, at worst an amount of self-deluding that's vanishingly small: he has to admire it, even if he can't accept her glassy wastes, her appeals to a day not of wrath but of final indifference....
- It is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice — guessed and refused to believe — that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chance, no return. Yet they do move forever under it, reserved for its own black-and-white bad news certainly as if it were the rainbow, and they its children....
- Out at the horizon, out near the burnished edge of the world, who are these visitors standing... these robed figures — perhaps, at this distance, hundreds of miles tall — their faces, serene, unattached, like the Buddha's, bending over the sea, impassive, indeed, as the Angel that stood over Lübeck during the Palm Sunday raid, come that day neither to destroy nor to protect, but to bear witness to a game of seduction... What have the watchmen of the world's edge come tonight to look for? Deepening on now, monumental beings stoical, on toward slag, toward ash the colour the night will stabilize at, tonight... what is there grandiose enough to witness?
- He lies on top of her, sweating, taking great breaths, watching her face turned 3/4 away, not even a profile, but the terrible Face That is No Face, gone too abstract, unreachable: the notch of the eye socket, but never the labile eye, only the anonymous curve of cheek, convexity of mouth, a noseless mask of the Other Order of Being, of Katje's being — the lifeless non-face that is the only face of hers he really knows, or will ever remember.
- Proverbs for Paranoids:
- You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
- The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
- If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
- You hide, they seek.
- Paranoids are not paranoid because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.
- There was no difference between the behavior of a god and the operations of pure chance.
- The man's thirst for guilt was insatiable as the desert's for water.
- It's a Rocket-raising: a festival new to this country. Soon it will come to the folk-attention how close Wernher von Braun's birthday is to the Spring Equinox, and the same German impulse that once rolled flower-boats through the towns and staged mock battles between young Spring and deathwhite old Winter will be erecting strange floral towers out in the clearings and meadows, and the young scientist-surrogate will be going round and round with Gravity or some such buffoon, and the children will be tickled, and laugh....
- Kekulé dreams the Great Serpent holding its own tail in its mouth, the dreaming Serpent which surrounds the World. But the meanness, the cynicism with which this dream is to be used. The Serpent that announces, "The World is a closed thing, cyclical, resonant, eternally-returning," is to be delivered into a system whose only aim is to violate the Cycle. Taking and not giving back, demanding that "productivity" and "earnings" keep on increasing with time, the System removing from the rest of the World these vast quantities of energy to keep its own tiny desperate fraction showing a profit: and not only most of humanity — most of the World, animal, vegetable, and mineral, is laid waste in the process. The System may or may not understand that it's only buying time. And that time is an artificial resource to being with, of no value to anyone or anything but the System, which must sooner or later crash to its death, when its addiction to energy has become more than the rest of the World can supply, dragging with it innocent souls all along the chain of life.
- "Who has sent this new serpent into our ruinous garden, already too fouled, too crowded to qualify as any locus of innocence — unless innocence be our age's neutral, our silent passing into the machineries of indifference — something that Kekulé's Serpent had come to — not to destroy, but to define to us the loss of... we had been given certain molecules, certain combinations and not others... we used what we found in Nature, unquestioning, shamefully perhaps — but the Serpent whispered, 'They can be changed, and new molecules assembled from the debris of the given.... ' Can anyone tell me what else he whispered to us? Come — who knows?"
- "Personal density," Kurt Mondaugen in his Peenemünde office not too many steps away from here, enunciating the Law which will one day bear his name, "is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth."
"Temporal bandwidth," is the width of your present, your now. It is the familiar "∆ t" considered as a dependent variable. The more you dwell in the past and in the future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.
- She watches Marvy's face as he pays Monika, watches him in this primal American act, paying, more deeply himself than when coming, or asleep, or maybe even dying.
- Those must have all been important to me once. What I am now grew from that. A former self is a fool, an insufferable ass, but he's still human, you'd no more turn him out than you'd turn out any kind of cripple, would you?
- It's a giant factory-state here, a City of the Future full of extrapolated 1930's swoop-facaded and balconied skyscrapers, lean chrome caryatids with bobbed hairdos, classy airships of all descriptions drifting in the boom and hush of the city abysses, golden lovelies sunning in roof gardens and turning to wave as you pass.
- It can get pretty fascist in here...
- M-maybe there is a Machine to take us away, take us completely, suck us through the electrodes out of the skull 'n' into the Machine and live there forever with all the other souls it's got stored there. It could decide who it would suck out, a-and when. Dope never gave you immortality. You hadda come back, every time, into a dying hunk of smelly meat! But We can live forever, in a clean, honest, purified, Electroworld —
- What are the stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing?
- "I want to break out — to leave this cycle of infection and death. I want to be taken in love: so taken that you and I, and death, and life, will be gathered inseparable, into the radiance of what we would become.... "
- Each will have his personal Rocket.
- This ascent will be betrayed to Gravity. But the Rocket engine, the deep cry of combustion that jars the soul, promises escape. The victim, in bondage to falling, rises on a promise, a prophecy, of Escape....
Moving now toward the kind of light where at last the apple is apple-colored. The knife cuts through the apple like a knife cutting an apple. Everything is where it is, no clearer than usual, but certainly more present. So much has to be left behind now, so quickly.
- "The edge of evening ... the long curve of people all wishing on the first star.... Always remember those men and women along the thousands of miles of land and sea. The true moment of shadow is the moment in which you see the point of light in the sky. The single point, and the Shadow that has just gathered you in its sweep ..."
The first star hangs between his feet.
- LATER than usual one summer morning in 1984, Zoyd Wheeler drifted awake in sunlight through a creeping fig that hung in the window, with a squadron of blue jays stomping around on the roof. In his dream these had been carrier pigeons from someplace far across the ocean, landing and taking off again one by one, each bearing a message for him, but none of whom, light pulsing in their wings, he could ever quite get to in time. He understood it to be another deep nudge from forces unseen, almost surely connected with the letter that had come along with his latest mental-disability check, reminding him that unless he did something publicly crazy before a date now less than a week away, he would no longer qualify for benefits. He groaned out of bed.
- First lines
Mason & Dixon (1997)
- Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr'd the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware,— the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking'd foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel'd Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,— the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax'd and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy Advent, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.
- First lines
- If America was a person,— and it sat down,— Lancaster town would be plunged into a Darkness unbreathable.
- Chapter 66
- It is usually not wise to discuss matters of costume with people like this,— politics or religion being far safer topicks.
- Chapter 74
- At Bishop they learn'd that Dixon had been buried in back of the Quaker Meeting-House in Staindrop. Doctor Isaac stay'd with his Father, step for step. At the grave, which by Quaker custom was unmark'd, Mason beseech'd what dismally little he knew of God, to help Dixon through. The grass was long and beaded with earlier rain. A Cat emerg'd from it and star'd for a long time, appearing to know them.
"Dad?" Doc had taken his arm. For an instant, unexpectedly, Mason saw the little Boy who, having worried about Storms at Sea, as Beasts in the Forest, came running each time to make sure his father had return'd safely,--whose gift of ministering to others Mason was never able to see, let alone accept, in his blind grieving, his queasiness of Soul before a life and a death, his refusal to touch the Baby, tho' 'twas not possible to blame him.... The Boy he had gone to the other side of the Globe to avoid was looking at him now with nothing in his face but concern for his Father.
"Oh, Son." He shook his Head. He didn't continue.
"It's your Mate," Doctor Isaac assur'd him, "It's what happens when your Mate dies."
Against the Day (2006)
- "If the U.S. was a person," he later became fond of saying, "and it sat down, Columbus, Ohio would instantly be plunged into darkness"
- Page 66
- ...all investigations of Time, however sophisticated or abstract, have at their true base the human fear of mortality.
- Page 622 (Vintage Books 2007 UK paperback edition)
Quotes about Pynchon
- Thomas Pynchon is an enigma shrouded in a mystery veiled in anonymity.
- CNN article (5 June 1997)
- Brief biography at Themodernworld.com
- Thomas Pynchon Wiki
- Pynchon links at Robot Wisdom
- 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
- pynchonesque - art inspired by Pynchon