Returning to Pynchon, now, I remember my first taste of his work. A bargain store copy of The Crying of Lot 49 that I bought without expectation. I found the book to be a revelation. I wandered campus in a fog, asking people what they knew about this Thomas Pynchon. I’d never heard of him. Professors were, occasionally, dismissive: “Well, he’s an important post-modernist” they would say in a way that let me know they meant “not important at all.”I thought they were crazy to be so dismissive. Very quickly thereafter I devoured V. and Gravity’s Rainbow. For a little while I considered Gravity’s Rainbow my favorite novel and Mr. Pynchon the greatest writer this country had ever produced. By far. His range, his intelligence, his … greatness seemed to tower above every other possible writer.
I was 22 or maybe 23 at that point. In some ways I was well read for my age. And in other ways I was not. Many of the writers I found impressive in my middle twenties, in particular, the post-modernists and the absurdists (and those who influenced them) were unknown to me and so Pynchon seemed a giant existing in a vacuum.
I wonder if this is why at some point Pynchon became less interesting to me–I stopped reading him entirely after a re-read of Lot 49 my first semester in grad school. In the subsequent years I’ve picked up all of his other novels, once or twice, and considered re-reading Rainbow. Harold Bloom’s high estimation of Mason & Dixon (he sees the novel as towering above all others of the last… however many years or so) has always brought me to that book and back over the years, but I’ve never wandered beyond page 40. I’m reading it again and enjoying it but not nearly at the level of when I was younger. Pynchon no longer seems so gigantic, in short. I wonder now if he’s that certain type of novelist who flares within the mind of the reader for a brief time, but whose work you cannot return to again and again, as with Kerouac, for instance.
However, I’m hoping I’ll rediscover him this time and regain some of that youthful passion. Certainly if there’s any writer my own work would hope to emulate it’s probably Pynchon. Which makes my reluctance these last 8 or 9 years all the more mystifying.
Can anyone relate? Are there writers who meant a great deal to you at a younger age but, upon returning to them, refused to grant the same pleasure?