The Crying of Lot 49

I remember reading an excerpt of this novel for Contemporary Fiction a couple years ago, and although I do not remember what we discussed about I do remember that I was confused by the whole thing. And after a second reading I have to say that my opinion of Pynchon and his work is not changing much.

The novel seems to be a big satire of American culture. It Introduces us to the main character who has a boring life with a husband who might not be all that sane and then breaks up her monotony. An old boyfriend dies and leaves her with part of his troubled estate. And off she goes to be an executor of a will. On the way she meets the Paranoids and discovers a vast and ancient conspiracy to send mail outside of government postal system.

This conspiracy symbolized by a muted post horn (as a side note I found a muted post horn scratched into a stall in the mens room in The basement of King Chapel) and the acronym W.A.S.T.E. consumes her. She sees the symbol everywhere and flings herself from a bathroom to a lawyer suing Pierces company to a play to Yoyodyne and in each of these disparate cases she finds a way to validate this conspiracy she has stumbled on.

It is weird because in her preoccupation with the muted post horn and W.A.S.T.E. she completely disregards a crime that is rather shocking. The looting of soldiers bones from World War II to be used to make filters for cigarets. This is something that seems highly illegal and yet all it seems to do in this novel is remind a pot smoking musician of a play that has a similar story. And instead of pursuing the real story the main character and her Paranoid Lover go see the fictional story which pushes her further into the pursuit of the conspiracy.

SO, is there any real substance to this conspiracy? Or is it like the movie 23?

And what did you think about the many characters in this book? Each one of them seems to be a critique of American society. I like the name Dr. Hilarious myself.

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3 Responses to The Crying of Lot 49

  1. laurawelch8 says:

    I also found it interesting that the issue of the stolen bones became a small part of the work, considering the extremity of the situation. But this made me think about the relevance of the truth in this work. It seems like Oedipa is constantly being thrown information, some of which may not be true, and she has to sort through all of this information and figure out what is really going on. She is so focused on the things that she is hearing, excited by the mystery presented to her, which makes it seem that the mystery involved in this conspiracy is more important because of the lack of a solidified truth. This made me wonder if the focus on this conspiracy theory a critique on the idea of truth, and the lack of truth in our society?

    Also, when I started reading, the characters in the book reminded me of the quirky characters from Bartleby. They are so many different characters, they have really odd names, and have a random place in the context of the work. Mucho reminded me a little of Bartleby because he seems to be out of place, and he’s not doing much of anything with his life. Did anyone think about the relevance of Mucho? I think it’s interesting that the title of the book is “The Crying of Lot 49” and he is constantly thinking about the lot he used to work at. I’m not sure if they’re connected or if this is another pun, but I wonder if we will find out by the end of the work. My guess is no :/

  2. CArnold13 says:

    (The website has been acting strange because of the power outage, but I needed to make a post, so here it goes, I hope it works)

    The beginning of this book is really… confusing. There are so many things going on, and it seems like none of them are as relevant as the veteran’s bones being used as props. Through out the book, I go between feeling like this could be taking place in our modern day society to thinking that this world that they are in is insane and it couldn’t possibly be set in a realistic society. I keep waiting for magic to be used or for entropy to be utilized (Oh, wait…). Even the characters do this flip flop on whether or not they could possibly be people in the real world or the made-up one. The names, for one, are ridiculous and couldnt possibly be real. No decent mother would name her child Bloody Chiclits. Then their mannerisms get to me. Most of the time, Oedipa seems to be pretty normal, like a spy in a movie. But then her lover makes a comment about how people working for a huge company shouldnt be expected to be allowed to have patents – thats just silly. Thus far, I am recognizing the irony and metaphors in this book, but they are not helping me to enjoy the book.

  3. sph12 says:

    I don’t think there is really any conspiracy to this novel. I suppose maybe it could have relevance at the end, but the way things are going now, I think that the whole “conspiracy” will turn out to be insignificant. Most of the ideas introduced so far seem to be present for that chapter or even half a chapter and then are completely lost so I don’t really expect to learn much more about the muted post horn. Also, does anyone else think that maybe all these “conspiracies” and random facts Oedipa learns are maybe just to show how fixated humans become on a single idea? We take an idea and exaggerate it far beyond its original meaning until we are solely focused on a concept that really holds no true value? I think Pynchon is going to continue to introduce arbitrary people and facts that will hold no real value in the end (however he chooses to end this).

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