I think I’ll happily admit to struggling with this one. Pynchon has a particular style that I like, but find difficult. His meandering into long descriptive passages is fascinating, but has a tendency to cause me to daydream about the things he’s writing. I consequently lose track of the narration and have to constantly backtrack.
That said, The Crying was more accessible that Gravity’s Rainbow, which I had to put down after a 5-page sentence completely defeated me.
The book centres on a woman named Oedipa Mass, who, while undertaking to become an executor for a lovers will, becomes embroiled in a shadowy underworld. A shadowy underworld of postal workers…
It’s not as silly as I’m making out. Although the premise is a secret postal network, this is a metaphor for 1960s counter-culture. One-by-one the characters Oedipa encounters either reveal themselves to be, or become, members of the underworld. It’s as if she has scratched the surface of great mystery, one that exposes itself in degrees as her understanding of its true dimensions grows. Oedipa kind of becomes less square as the story progresses, flirting with insanity and mental expansion all at once.
In a way, the metaphor also represents the novel itself, and the way in which it unfolds before the reader as they work through the text. Hidden within The Crying are numerous references to the counter-culture of the late 1960s, ones that would have escaped readers who were not ‘with it’. It’s the structures and the norm that are the most insane parts of the book, while the counter-culture, while bizarre, provides the greatest continuity.
The novel grants a glimpse into the crazy, existential world of the pot-smoker and the LSD-taker, and opens slowly to expand the potential awareness of the reader, if they’re prepared to be taken on a ride, and not walked through a structured, ordered progression of story.
It’s a crazy little ride, and one I enjoyed, even if it did challenge my patience, my reading ability, and my concentration span.