Monday, May 8, 2017

Birthday Books of the Day: Two Thomas Pynchon 1st editions to celebrate his 80th


After J.D. Salinger’s death, Thomas Pynchon clinched the title of America’s most-reclusive author. The last verified photo of him was taken in 1955. Nobody seems to know where he lives.

But in contrast to Salinger, who was a grouch about it- and who also didn’t try as hard as Pynchon to be un-findable, Pynchon- the author of classics like V, Gravity’s Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49, and Mason & Dixon, has at times been remarkably playful about the media’s attempts to blow his cover. Wikipedia has a long account of the quest for sightings, including this:

Responding to the image which has been manufactured in the media over the years, Pynchon made two cameo animated appearances on the television series The Simpsons in 2004. The first occurs in the episode "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife", in which Marge Simpson becomes a novelist. He plays himself, with a paper bag over his head, and provides a blurb for the back cover of Marge's book, speaking in a broad Long Island accent: "Here's your quote: Thomas Pynchon loved this book, almost as much as he loves cameras!" He then starts yelling at passing cars: "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!"

In his second appearance, in "All's Fair in Oven War", Pynchon's dialogue consists entirely of puns on his novel titles ("These wings are 'V'-licious! I'll put this recipe in 'The Gravity's Rainbow Cookbook', right next to 'The Frying of Latke 49'."). The cartoon representation of Pynchon reappears in a third, non-speaking cameo, as a guest at the fictional WordLoaf convention depicted in the 18th season episode "Moe'N'a Lisa". The episode first aired on November 19, 2006, the Sunday before Pynchon's sixth novel, Against the Day, was released. According to Al Jean on the 15th season DVD episode commentary, Pynchon wanted to do the series because his son was a big fan.

It was revealed on August 28, 2014 that during pre-production of "All's Fair in Oven War", Pynchon faxed one page from the script to producer Matt Selman with several handwritten edits to his lines. Of particular emphasis was Pynchon's outright refusal to utter the line "No wonder Homer is such a fat-ass." Pynchon's objection apparently had nothing to do with the salty language as he explained in a footnote to the edit, "...Homer is my role model and I can't speak ill of him."

Nonetheless, the best authorities have it that today is the novelist’s 80th birthday. He continues to write in a wide array of genres and fields, at home in science as in history, music and math. Henry Bemis Books celebrates with two of his best, in very good first editions:

Pynchon, Thomas, Vineland (Little, Brown, 1st ed., 1st printing, 1990). That special brand of fiction known as Pynchonesque, this time set in a northern California town in an alternative version of 1984. Appearing to mixed reviews, the book's first edition was largely taken up by library acquisitions. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, near-fine condition. Rare. HBB price: $75 obo.

Pynchon, Thomas, Against the Day (The Penguin Press, 1st ed., 1st printing, 2006). ISBN 1-59420-120-X. Sprawling historical fantasy set in the United States between the CHicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the end of World War I. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. A real doorstop of a novel: 1084 pp. HBB price: $65 obo.

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