29 December 2009

Pynchon, Pynchonesque.

The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon: Pynchon is, I think, one of those polarizing, love-him-or-hate-him authors, also tainted by an overserious and undercritical male following. Me, I love his work to absolute bits, ever since reading V. in eighth grade (though both then and in my rereading ten years later, I skipped the excruciatingly detailed nose job scene entirely).

The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem: Epic coming-of-age novel (like everyone feels their coming-of-age to be) set in 70s Brooklyn, during the morphing of Gowanus into Boerum Hill. Apparently Lethem's another divisive novelist--this book in particular, to judge by Goodreads reviews, is either THE BEST EVER or A PIECE OF SHIT. "Pretension" was a common and frankly baffling accusation. I have to assume these detractors' pop- and high-culture experiences differ widely from Lethem's own and his characters'; to me, writing from within what's comfortable for you can never be pretentious, and The Fortress of Solitude reads with the confidence of comfort. One commentor complained that there were too many adjectives and similes in his prose; to me, this is saying, "Yeah, those descriptions were way too vivid! I hated knowing what the sights and sounds and smells of the narrative were! And figurative language just confuses me!" Perhaps Lethem's just firmly in my bailiwick, with his adorable sweater vest (when he read at WORD in November) and comparisons to Pynchon? And yeah, I got a kick out of knowing, down to the block, where the book takes place.

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