Two books arrived in the mail yesterday!
Thomas Pynchon (1974, Warner Paperback Library), by Joseph W. Slade, is a detailed analysis of all Pynchon’s short stories and novels up through Gravity’s Rainbow, which was Pynchon’s most recent book at the time this study was written. In the preface, Slade’s list of prerequisites for studying Pynchon include, among others, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Goethe’s Faust, and E. E. McKenzie’s The Major Achievements of Science.
In the forward to the Pynchon book, Terence Malley of Long Island University, Brooklyn, says, “It seems almost impossible that a writer still in his thirties could know so much, It is even more difficult to believe that any writer could assimilate so much in his fiction – and could treat it all with such authority . . . Genocidal war in South West Africa or arcane global diplomacy in Alexandria; how it feels to sit waiting for a V-2 rocket to land or how it feels to learn that beneath the taken-for-granted business-as –usual America an organized counter culture of losers may be operating . . . ”
The book is part of a series called Writers For the 70’s. Other titles in the series are Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. by Peter J. Reed, Richard Brautigan by Terence Malley, Herman Hesse by Edwin F. Casebeer, and J.R.R. Tolkien by Robert Evans. So far I’ve read the Forward, Preface, and Chapter 1, and can’t wait to get back into it.
As soon as I finish the Pynchon book I’ll start reading Claudia Moscovici’s novel, Velvet Totalitarianism. Ken Kalfus calls the book “a taut political thriller, a meditation on totalitarianism, an expose of the Ceausescu regime, and a moving fictionalized memoir of one family’s quest for freedom”.
My first novel, Velvet Totalitarianism, took me about ten years to write. It took me so long partly because I wrote this book while also teaching literature and philosophy, writing scholarly books and raising a family. It took me a long time to write it also because I had to do a lot of historical research for it. When one works for so long on one book, the interrelated questions of motivation and intended audience become all the more relevant. As I was writing Velvet Totalitarianism, I asked myself often: why write historical fiction about the Cold War, an era which is now relegated mostly to history books? Why is the history of Romanian communism so important to me and whom do I hope to touch in writing fiction about it? An anecdote brought these questions into sharper focus.