I’ve been hopelessly reading Thomas Pynchon these days and I repeatedly had the feeling that Gravity’s Rainbow (his postmodern supposed masterpiece under my scrutinizing eyes) requires the kind of reader you don’t regularly find on the street. Although Pynchon, so much like DeLillo or Boroughs or Kerouac (to name the most esteemed ones by the literary critics), puts together a thick prose made up of recent pop culture (movies, music, consumer goods of all sorts), mundane slag and exhausting pornographic scenes, so as to fit the tastes of the preterit (i.e. the average Joe), in all of the cases mentioned above, the element of surprise (which stands in fact for their artistry) is still old-fashioned literary skills. However, the artisan is never toiling and sweating and carving literary gems everywhere more than here, which is kind of mind boggling. Why would someone lampoon old-literary styles and, nevertheless, write as if the Holy Ghost of the Quill is within you? There are so many Pynchon aficionados out there that it would take a lifetime to figure out what they all have in mind when reading their cult writer, not to mention the huge bulk of texts they often produce (just search a little and you’ll see what I’m hinting at) in return, as a sort of reward to the Master of Literary Witchcraft. I find idolatry, especially literary one, utmost distasteful. Still, why would regular people indulge into such inextricably intricate pieces of writing (especially if by figuring out the postmodern „rhizome „-like maze it turns out finally that it has the striking effect of a rigid Porphyry’s Tree).
My assumption would be that they’re attracted to the same aspects they would find elsewhere, at a cheaper price and less demanding too, probably if they read trivial novels instead. Some enjoy Pynchon for the hard-core sexual scenes, while others are fond of the vulgar language. Wouldn’t trivial literature pay off better than the 800 page-long inquisitorial GR? Besides, you get the same effect without messing up your brains completely.
As for those who read postmodern literature, who are skillful readers or want to become writers themselves or are keen on solving riddles, GB, for instance, is like a giant octopus, tentacles stretched-out, which teases with your patience every 5 seconds. What’s even hard to understand is the level of sadomasochism this potential reader might have: delving into heaps of prolixity, helplessly avoiding dead-ends, always on the lookout for a direction in the disturbing maze, subconsciously falling pray to the narrator’s whims and fantasies, who’s simultaneously looming over the gloomy atmosphere, the reader turns into a tormented yarn of disaffected impressions. Why is today’s high-brow literature unripe for a good settled plot and an interesting artistic story-telling? Is it just me but aren’t the most illuminating pages of Tolstoy, for instance, written with so much self-awareness and clarity of expression that would leave a sublime impression even on the last doomed spirit which vainly treads the earth? And isn’t this plain talent as the one experienced by a true craftsman of life? Dragging one’s feet through the muddy chunks of Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake is more of a professional enterprise, a self-taught class in creative writing more than the common enjoyment of reading. Where’s the literary feasts in Pynchon, if we put aside the rewarding battles with the encyclopedic literally beast? Is literature not more than hermeneutic prowess? I reckon that both the exquisite and the down-to-earth readers are cheated: the first, by the abundance of shit and sperm and raw meat, the second by the frenzy roller-coaster-like display of ostensible expertise in domains varying from Poisson’s hypotheses to Kekule’s dreams and IG Farben’s demonic role in modern history. What’s the point in all these if the final product seems to be borne out of millions and millions of scrap notes scrupulously knit together, disguised under the name of postmodern literature?