Sunday 14 April 2013

Learning to Read with Thomas Pynchon

Do you hate the kids these days? Do you often complain of them not being anything like the kids of your day? Do you blame a lot of this on the illiterate culture of today's world? All of it too focused on videogames and action films, throwing aside what was once man's go-to for complex storytelling and personal expression. If you do then 1) your an idiot, and 2) a few years ago I would have been one of your main targets.

That was until I decided to try out this whole "booking reading" fad, and discovered it wasn't half bad. I admit, I'm one hell of a slow reader, and since beginning my long trek into the land of the written word I admit I have bought way more books than a kid revising for his exams could ever hope to get through (at least for now) but thats part of the classiness of being a book reader, like being in some sort of expensive yacht club, isn't it?

Yet your probably thinking that I started off with something easy. Something that has a lot of pictures and is written in what Wikipedia hilariously calls "simple english". Yet I decided to jump straight into the deep end with "Inherent Vice", a 60s-set psychedelic detective story, in the style of the old Chandler-esqe noir novels.

I can't remember exactly how I find out about this book, but I can take a stab at it being from the announcement Paul Thomas Anderson would be making a film about it. Which to me, was basically a confirmation that this was a good book. Add to that-that every review used the term "Tarantino-esque" to describe the dialogue and everything I could find out at the time about Thomas Pynchon (which was very little, to be fair) made him out to be some sort of mystical figure, only seen by a small select group of people, and who writes ambitious and challenging books on a level of his own.

Which is probably the reason I went for this book in particular: because fans seem to have branded this as "Pynchon-Lite", which makes quite worried for when I get around to reading his earlier output. Yet despite being "Lite" it was a revelation for me in the way it was written. Pynchon writes in such as free way, his sentences are so long and ramble from one subject to the next, yet they never feel boring, they flow so perfectly.

I've read some really great stuff since then (most notably Blood Meridian and The Shining) from some of the most critically-acclaimed authors, and it's made me really notice something about great writing: that good writing is planned out, well structured, re-written and filled with good ideas and follows all of the correct marks which people are taught about to get good writing, but great writing goes past that, it breaks the rules (like McCarthy's complete lack of grammar, and Pynchon's long winding sentences), great writing is when the writer knows the craft so well they become confident enough to bend the rules around their own style, and Inherent Vice is a perfect example of Pynchon doing just that.

Like the two previous posts on this site, this post was just a introduction to the book based section of the site. I'll get around to writing more about Pynchon and Inherent Vice later, as I'm currently reading my way through Philip K. Dick's Ubik, and I'm planning on doing a book vs film article on The Shining. So as always, thanks for checking out the site, and I hope you find your way back here soon.

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