I told Alan Cheuse, and now I'm telling you. Thomas Pynchon's lit'ry destiny is to become the Herman Melville of the 20th century. Melville was never a best seller, though he attracted attention with his "wicked book", Moby Dick. His publisher did not sell all 3,000 copies of the first printing. All of his work was out of print by 1876; Melville died in 1891.
Biographies of this obscure author began to appear in the 1920's. The "Melville Revival" was on. Even Lewis Mumford, an American historian of technology, penned a decent bio. Moby Dick contains a great deal of technical detail on whales, the hunting of them, and all aspects of whaler life, so I can see Mumford's attraction. I enjoy them as well.
This level of detail makesMoby Dick an 'encyclopedic' novel, just like Gravity's Rainbow, The Recognitions, Cryptonomicon (A 3-page essay on the proper way to eat Cap'n Crunch cereal,gotta love it!), and Soul Mountain. This style of novel is tricky to pull off, as too many tangents will lose the novel's forward motion. The success(or not)of the novel depends on the reader; if they throw it against the wall at p.26, it may be deemed a failure. Encyclopedic novels generally are not experimental; they just have a great deal of interesting (or not) information in them.
I have recently seen T Pynchon's latest novel, Against the Day, on the bargain/remainder pile at the local big box bookstore. It is the start of Pynchon's fade. Don't worry: his rep will enjoy a resurgence in the 2020's. You heard it here first.
Counterfeiting along the Borderlands
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