Customer Reviews for

The Crying of Lot 49: A Novel

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

A Witty and Refreshing Must-Read

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon is a mystery that is equally as witty as it is intriguing. Set in the chaotic cultural collision that was the 1960's, the novel's protagonist, Oedipa Maas, is strung through a plot bursting with conspiracy, paranoia, and insanity. ...
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon is a mystery that is equally as witty as it is intriguing. Set in the chaotic cultural collision that was the 1960's, the novel's protagonist, Oedipa Maas, is strung through a plot bursting with conspiracy, paranoia, and insanity. Pynchon's clever puns and use of satire are whimsical and refreshing, and add an air of lightness to the text with the humor they bring. The Crying of Lot 49 is a short novel that openly breaks from the conventions of the typical detective story, and instead provides the reader with the aftermath of a society in crisis. The plot opens with the female protagonist, Oedipa Maas, seemingly trapped in the excruciating monotony of a life reduced to gardening and fixing evening cocktails for her depressive husband. The only momentary interruptions in the tedium that is her life are provided by phone calls from her psychiatrist, Dr. Hilarious, pressuring her to experimentally ingest LSD, and her industrial tycoon ex-boyfriend Pierce Inverarity, who's late night prank calls include a variety of racially inappropriate impressions. One evening, after returning home from a party, Oedipa finds a letter which informs her that she has been made executor of her ex-boyfriend, Pierce Inverary's will. After accepting the request, Oedipa leaves her husband and sedative lifestyle to execute the will. Upon leaving, Oedipa finds herself on the road to a personal revelation she is unable to fully perceive, as well as a mystery she is equally as immune to deciphering. The ambiguous symbol of a muted horn follows Oedipa throughout her journey, prompting her to investigate the source and meaning of its whereabouts. Throughout her inquiry to understand the purpose of the symbol, Oedipa discovers potential secret-organizations, conspiracies, or possibly just her own insanity's bizarre manifestations. Throughout the course of the novel, Oedipa journeys from southern to northern California, through a seemingly endless maize of equally as trivial connections to the symbol. Oedipa is left wondering whether her quest is to exposing an elaborate secret society, a joking conspiracy left plotted by her ex-boyfriend Inverarity to plague her, or if she is out of touch with reality. Pynchon fills the text with satirical portrayals of the 60's culture, including a teenage hippie group called "The Paranoids", LSD driven insanity, and anti-government associations, all of which propel Oedipa further into her roundabout investigation of the symbol. As cleverly intended by Pynchon, the reader, as well as Oedipa, is hopelessly left to sift through the unraveled evidence trying to distinguish any reality from all the chaos. The Crying of Lot 49 is a must for the bookshelves of any modern reader.

posted by Maisie_Fullerton on May 15, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Not for me

I finally read this because I¿ve never yet managed to complete a Thomas Pynchon story. I managed to finish this novel only because it¿s short. I¿m left confused about many things, but not about this: I enjoy interesting and different books, but books loaded with pretent...
I finally read this because I¿ve never yet managed to complete a Thomas Pynchon story. I managed to finish this novel only because it¿s short. I¿m left confused about many things, but not about this: I enjoy interesting and different books, but books loaded with pretentious intellectualism bore me to death.

There¿s story-telling (which entertains and moves its readers) and there¿s word play. ¿The Crying of Lot 49¿ clearly falls in the last category and, while it might provide many readers with a satisfying read, I find the weirdness too weird, the ¿cleverness¿ too clever for its own good and the deliberate manipulation of names, references and language constructs silly. Is Pynchon actually laughing at us, the readers, who swoon at his ¿brilliance¿? Either that or, like Sacha Baron Cohen of the dreadful movie ¿Borat¿ fame, Pynchon is a sad man with a rather warped and gloomy view of the world.

As a reader, I want more to a novel than pretentious intellectualism posing as literature. I enjoy reading a wide variety of genres and styles, fiction and non-fiction. I don¿t care what I read ¿ as long as it¿s good writing and keeps me engaged.

Despite the occasional glimpse of what could attract people to this story (for example, Mucho & Oedipa¿s obsessions apparently suggesting ordinary folks¿ obsessive need to believe in some kind of reality and order ¿ I say ¿apparently,¿ because I¿m not entirely sure I ¿got it¿), Pynchon¿s writing required too much effort to make any sort of sense to me.

Perhaps that was the point of the difficult, delirious writing style: that, despite modern technology supposedly assisting mankind in communicating, Mucho & Oedipa (representing the average human) were still unable to communicate with each other. This novel, far from solving this dilemma, exacerbated it!

It does have its moments of post-modernist epiphany (modern life is uncertain; there is no guarantee of a happy ending), but I¿m a reader who prefers a more traditional (and optimistic!) form of story-telling and will leave Pynchon¿s existential explorations of an entropic society to those readers who prefer ¿high literature.¿

posted by Judy_Croome on November 24, 2011

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