Pynchon and anarchism

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Pynchon and anarchism

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jun 26, 2009, 11:30 am

I've only read Crying of Lot 49, which has the hilariously named Mexican anarchist group CIA. and from what I understand anarchists appear in most (all?) of Pynchon's other novels.

What is the story/connection between Pynchon and anarchism?

jun 27, 2009, 9:59 am

I guess the connection is just that he's sympathetic to it. That's certainly evident in Against the Day, which is a fantastic book: a somber and hilarious elegy for anarchism.

jun 29, 2009, 3:59 pm

There's an essay by George Levine in Mindful Pleasures, one of the earlier critical collections: “Risking the Moment: Anarchy and Possibility in Pynchon's Fiction.”

But the real expert seems to be Graham Benton, who had a paper on Gravity's Rainbow in Pynchon Notes, “Riding the Interface: An Anarchist Reading of Gravity's Rainbow”; and a broader one about the same time in the Oklahoma City University Law Review(!?), which you can read online here. And this was the topic of his 2002 Rutgers dissertation, Unruly Narratives: The Anarchist Dimension in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon, which you should be able to get in PQDT / DisExpress. He covers both the anarchist characters and plot elements and the stylistic implications of the Poetry and Anarchism sort. That only takes you up to Mason and Dixon, but he had a paper for Against the Day, “Daydreams and Dynamite: Anarchist Possibility in Against the Day,” at IPW2008, which you can listen to from that site and presumably read in a while.

jun 29, 2009, 4:41 pm


jan 31, 2011, 3:01 pm

Reminds me of how Crying of Lot 49 is a smackdown of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged Pynchon's anarchists, preterites, and hobos are a riposte to Rand's industrialist heroes who believe in the either-or circuit.

apr 30, 2012, 10:06 pm

Another writer to check out is Eugene O'Neill, especially The Iceman Cometh, with hobos, former anarchists, and disgraced circus workers drinking their lives away in Harry Hope's bar. O'Neill never abandoned his anarchist leanings.

dec 21, 2012, 4:59 pm

In re #6, ksw, forgive the lecture, but as one who was hanging out with Wobblies and real anarchists (some from old Russia, some from Spain, and sundry other points along the way) before you were born, let me opine that depicting marginalized people drinking their lives away seems a curious way to demonstrate anarchist leanings. To lean is one thing, to fall down drunk is quite another. In solidarity, -- GCG

dec 21, 2012, 5:44 pm

> 7

The Iceman Cometh is one thing, but O'Neill's political sentiments are a little more patent in The Hairy Ape.

dec 21, 2012, 7:10 pm

In re #8. Yepp, I seem to recall that there is a Wobbly there, and a good one too. Thanks for the reminder. -- Goddard

jan 8, 2013, 5:45 pm

7: An anarchist and a hipster. I disavow any statements that impinge on your superannuated authenticity:

jan 8, 2013, 6:03 pm

In re #10. Many thanks for the link. It would be mildly interesting -- I say "mildly" because I'm not motivated enough to do the research -- to know the origin of this poster. Most of my old anarchist buddies would have scoffed at it, or just been puzzled by it. There was a time when anarchism actually had something to do with the labour movement, and while plenty of workers have heaved Molotov cocktails, that has little if anything to do with the anarchist vision -- or its real accomplishments. -- Goddard

jan 8, 2013, 11:15 pm

11: Scoffing at things and accomplishing things are two entirely different sets of behaviors. Hipsters always confuse the two.

jan 9, 2013, 8:39 am

We certainly can agree on that. Perhaps you recall that odious production THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK. Same sort of thing. Incidentally, the word "hipster" has had a curious life, hasn't it? As positive self-desription, it barely lasted a decade. Almost at-once it became a term of derision applied from outside the ranks of the (supposedly) cortically emancipated. By no means a unique process in culture, to be sure. When was the last time any of us actually heard somebody call him- or herself a "hipster"? Where I live there is the whole spectrum of far-out types and still I've never heard it, and believe me, we get 'em all here: I love to see the willowy girls (with names like StarBurst or SpectraDream) in tie-died dresses hanging out around the obese, toothless rednecks with their cigarette-pack rolled under the T-shirt arm. Mickey and Sylvia were only half-right when they sang "Love is strange": Hell, LIFE IS STRANGE. Peace to ya, -- G