OWL Magazine Korea

Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49”

Thomas Pynchon, born in the 1900s, is known as one of the leading postmodernist writers in America. Alongside Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, and Don DeLillo, he is regarded as one of the four giants of contemporary American literature.

He actively employs conspiracy theories, mysteries, and detective elements, juxtaposed with a comic book-like plot, savvy references and parodies of popular culture, reflections on technological civilization, perspectives on history and civilization, and characters like Oedipa Maas known for their eccentricity.

“Representative of 1960s Postmodernism: The Crying of Lot 49”

Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49” embodies the characteristics of the 1960s, reflecting the author’s style mentioned above, making it a representative work of postmodernism from that era.

The original title, “Crying of Lot 49,” may not easily suggest its content, but the translated title, “The Auction of Lot 49,” provides a more intuitive understanding.

Especially when approached in its original English and in its Korean translated version, there can be a significant disparity. While the original text presents an engaging storyline, raising expectations for what follows, the Korean translation may render it as a dull narrative.

“Selected by Time: Top 100 English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005”

This novel was selected by Time as one of the “Time 100 Best English-Language Novels From 1923 to 2005,” holding a prestigious position among English literary works.

Published in 1966 in the United States, the novel gained immense popularity upon its release, dealing with the conspiracy theories prevalent at the time. Pynchon adeptly utilized this topic of public interest, even sparking a “Trystero” syndrome in the real world, mirroring the themes within his work.

“Trystero in the Narrative”

The narrative introduces two postal companies: “Thurn Und Taxis” and “Trystero.” While the former was an actual company in the United States, the latter was a fictional creation by the author.

“Language Play Throughout the Work”

The novel employs language play extensively, evident from its title, “The Crying of Lot 49,” which conveys ambiguity. Characters’ names also contribute to this linguistic playfulness, such as Oedipa Maas, Pierce Inverarity, FCUK Station, and Dr. Hilarius.

“Plot Summary”

The protagonist, Oedipa Maas, is appointed as the executrix of Pierce Inverarity’s estate upon receiving a letter. Already married to a character named Mucho, Oedipa begins to speculate about her past connection with Pierce Inverarity.

Collaborating with a lawyer named Metzger on executing the estate, Oedipa becomes aware of the existence of something seemingly concealed, possibly connected to Trystero. As she delves deeper into investigating Trystero, the men around her begin to act strangely, leaving her isolated. The narrative concludes with revelations at the final auction of “Lot 49.”

“Reflecting 1950s-1960s Conspiracy Theories”

The novel is based on prevalent conspiracy theories of the time, stimulating readers’ interest by presenting seemingly concealed truths. It reflects the conspiracy theories prevalent during the 1950s and 1960s, manifested through the rivalry between the two postal companies, Thurn Und Taxis and Trystero.

“Exploring Issues of Communication”

Furthermore, the work explores the issue of communication, incorporating elements of religion, language, and science. With terms like “entropy” and “Maxwell’s Demon” from the field of science, the novel touches upon a vast array of subjects.

For those interested in conspiracy theories, this is a must-read, but even for those uninterested, it stands as one of America’s representative works and is recommended for reading at least once. Whenever possible, it’s advisable to read the original English version rather than a translated one, as the English edition offers a more gripping narrative.

“The Crying of Lot 49”