New Pynchon Book?

From Scott comes this rumor that Pynchon has a new book out in December from Viking, set in 1897 Chicago. There is nothing currently listed at the Amazon site, nor on the Penguin site, but the Wikipedia Pynchon entry notes:

It has been rumored that Pynchon’s next book will be about the life and loves of Sofia Kovalevskaya, whom he allegedly studied in Germany. The former German minister of culture Michael Naumann has stated that he assisted Pynchon in his research about “a Russian mathematician [who] studied for David Hilbert in Göttingen”. Information from Penguin Press (Viking) places the new novel’s publication date as December 2006.

Of course, since we have nothing here that has been confirmed, it’s best to treat all this information as rumor or conjecture. I will be making calls this morning to see if I can confirm anything. I’ve also sent an email to Paul Slovak.

[UPDATE: There is some kind of Pynchon book being handled by The Penguin Press, not Viking. My contacts at Viking expressed some familiarity with it (one even confirming December publication), without actually telling me what it was. I have a call into Penguin Press people and, as soon as I learn more, I will report it here.]

[UPDATE 2: I’ve spoken with Tracy Locke. She has confirmed that The Penguin Press is publishing a Pynchon book in December 2006, but will not reveal any further information at this time. There isn’t yet a title for the book.]

[RELATED: Darby Dixon III and Bud Parr on reading Pynchon. For those who are new to Pynchon, I suggest the following reading order: V., Gravity’s Rainbow, Mason & Dixon and, once you’ve been thoroughly seduced, Slow Learner to see how it all started. I have not actually read The Crying of Lot 49 or Vineland, hoping to save these books for a very special occasion. Although, strangely, I’ve read all of Gaddis multiple times.]

[UPDATE: I can’t even begin to imagine where John Freeman got his information from, can you?]

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31 Comments

  1. While surfing around, I stumbled into this wonderful news. This makes my day. This makes my holiday season. I’ve been through here a couple times, but this news seals the deal–I am fully converted to your site. Thanks for the news…

  2. How much does anybody want to bet that a Russian site has the whole text of the next Pynch up by October – complete with 57 varieties of viruses? (Bob Coover wept.)

  3. Thanks for the great investigative work to confirm the rumor that was planted in my ear. I would treat this as VERY speculattive, but some people think that this
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._H._Holmes
    might be involved.

    Also, from the guy who started, and unfortuantely doesn’t have the energy to continue, the first Vollmann website on the internet, I want to thank you for carrying the flag. You are Bright And Risen.

  4. I tried to read ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ some years back but gave up within ten pages. Seemed like laboured crap to me. Maybe I’ll have to give the new one a go.

  5. Since he’s hitherto alternated big sprawly global with California contemporary, that would be a departure.

  6. The Crying of Lot 49 should be first. It’s an “introduction” to Pynchon’s ideas, and it helps make V., GR, and the rest much more comprehensible.

  7. Dean, _Gravity’s Rainbow_ just might be too much for you to handle. One needs to read it at least 3 time (with time in between) to even start to “understand” it. But it CAN be enjoyed without fitting all the parts of the puzzle together. But MANY very well-read and learned folks will testify that it’s not “laboured crap.” That insight is a product of your own failings, not the book.

  8. Waiting for a special occasion to read The Crying Of Lot 49? Like what? The Rapture?!

    Lot 49 is the gentle introduction to Pynchon. You’ll only want more after you’ve read it.

  9. Thanks for the ear to the ground. And Roddy, don’t put Vineland down. (I couldn’t, in the page-turning sense.) Look what’s happening now.

  10. A possibility: 1895 Chicago was the scene of the “Race of the Century” which, as the Journal of Illinois State Historical Society describes, was a “race [that] would establish the automobile [viewed previously by society as we today view segways] as the transportation technology of the future, and Chicago’s connections to the automobile…” This seems like a Pynchon book waiting to happen.

    If the book IS set in 1897, that puts it five years after Sofia Kovalevskaya’s death in Germany.

  11. “Although, strangely enough, I’ve read all of Gaddis multiple times”
    Jesus. I doubt very much that’s true, but even if it is, why would you insert it so clumsily? I understand the impulse — what fun is postmodern literature if you can’t keep score? — and the need to mitigate your insecurity about not having read all of Pynchon, but you should learn to be a little more elegant. If you can make the compensatory name-dropping look like a little less of a non-sequitur, you’ll be well on your way to being a real critic.

  12. I’ve read Pynchon in the following order: Vineland, The Crying of Lot 49, V., Mason & Dixon, Gravity’s Rainbow, and Slow Learner. I’ll admit Vineland was a bit of a challenge and completely foreign, but I read it in college for a class term paper after a challenge of sorts was issued by my instructor who admitted that he could not finish it.

    I attempted Gravity’s Rainbow not long after and had to give up. It took about 10 years (and 3 Pynchon novels) until I picked it up again and was able to devour it. I really think you need the other “serious” Pynchon books under your belt before diving in.

    I think the proper order, if you’re new, is probably The Crying of Lot 49, V., Vineland, Mason & Dixon, Gravity’s Rainbow, and Slow Learner. Slow Learner is laughable after you’ve read the others. There’s enough criticism and discussion out there now, however, that you can probably read them as you please.

    A new big fat Pynchon book would be quite a gift. I’ll wait until its official before getting too excited.

  13. Vineland is my most read Pynchon (next to Lot 49, solely on account of its brevity), and probably the most accessible of his longer works. And I think you’re right Ellie; Vineland couldn’t be more relevant to 21st century America.

  14. Vineland is sorely underrated. I was a bit disappointed when it first came out in 1989 (December, by the way), expecting something more after a 17 year hiatus. My sense is that Pynchon was trying to make up for his perceived failings in The Crying of Lot 49 by writing another California novel using that state as a microcosm of America. I especially like the epigram at the beginning of Vineland: “Every dog has its day and a good dog just might have two,” a nice commentary both on Pynchon’s successes and on the possibilities of a re-emerging Left. My only negative takes on Vineland are that the pop culture references are tedious after a while and I am not quite sure that the Godzilla subplot really works. The latter seem to reflect some post-modern flirtation with Orientalism.

    Chicago in the 1890’s is a great setting for a Pynchon novel. Not only does the locale shift Pynchon’s focus towards the midwest, it also captures Pynchonian themes of science, technology, and religion. 1893 was the date for the World Parliament of Religions, which took place in Chicago. Perhaps that important occassion will get a mention. I understand that there is a Pynchon family connection to Chicago, a family company that went bankrupt during the Depression.

  15. As far as book publishing goes (at least in Europe) the book-sellers get to know the fall production in the summer (3-6 months in advance). So there has to be some sort of announcement, hopefully pretty soon.

    it’s about time for his next novel…

  16. The book is ready for pre-order from amazon.com. It is listed as “Untitled Thomas Pynchon Novel,” priced at $ 35.00, and is described as having 992 pages. What’s the matter, couldn’t he eke out another 8 pages? I guess this is really happening.

  17. ” Dean, _Gravity’s Rainbow_ just might be too much for you to handle. One needs to read it at least 3 time (with time in between) to even start to “understand” it. ”

    I have a problem with that. My life is too packed to read even my favorite novels twice (I’ve only done so w/LOTR and the occasional Vonnegut), let alone spend what would amount to be several months just trying to “get” one. That’s like developing a relationship with someone. If I spend that much time on a novel, then I’m not spending enough time with my kids or my friends. Why would anyone bother? Aside from Lit students, I mean.

  18. I don’t know the context in which the advice was given, but the statement of needing to reread GR several times can be taken in different ways.

    First, it may simply be saying give the book a chance and don’t pass judgments until it is fully savored. Under this interpretation, you can decide whether it was worth giving the book more time.

    Second, the comment may be indicating that there are many layers to GR and that multiple readings are needed to unpack everything. The choice then becomes at which level one chooses to read the book.

    Third, the advice may simply be the ramblings of an obsessive. Only context and more information can tell if this is accurate.

    I read GR in college on my own, i.e. not as a class assignment. I was inspired to read it after attending a group read of the book and after reading Lot 49 and V, also on my own. I have read GR only once, but have jumped back to several sections many times, especiallly the section on Pokler and on Tchitcherine and the language conversion in Kirghizstan (I probably misremember the last details). Sometimes I think GR is a dense, intricate, intimidating book. Other times, I view it as a fun riff on Twentieth Centiury obsessions with technology and empire. I do think there are many levels and am implicitly endorsing the second interpretation above.

    Of course, this depends on the need to balance all of life’s commitments. I think Pynchon is a demanding author, but I do not think he demands us to plunge completely into the depths of plots and historical origins as come across in his books. Rather, I think he demands us not to take the world for granted or to accept truths at face value. His books, however read, are an invaluable reminder of the need to keep thinking and living, and that probably means going beyond rereading his books over and over again.

  19. The surefire way to find out if someone who claims to have read GR has really read it? If they mention the great banana scene, then they haven’t come close to finishing it. It’s the first real chapter of the book, and the first of several dozen stunning set pieces that help one, uhhh, digest this smorgasbord. Now, if they mention “snot soup” then you know they’ve gotten a lot farther…I think Vineland’s gotten a raw deal too, but then again Mason & Dixon is in my opinion almost as good as Gravity’s Rainbow, which translates to “better than any other novel written in America in the last thirty three years.” So after M&D, Vineland seems a little like a bad made-for-TV-musical. Which it is. Which is why it’s so great, after all.

  20. I have read M&D once. My assessment is that it is even better than GR. One thing I found frustrating about GR is Pynchon’s tendency to flog things and let episodes go on too long. It’s been a while, but the whole section with Slothrop and the submarine seemed to be a bit repetitive. What makes GR briliant is Pynchon’s ability to evoke a particular place in time and make it resonate with far reaching, both temporal and geographic, implications. The book is part novel, part philosophy treatise, part spiritual tract and part political reporting. M&D is all that and executed perhaps more beautifully and seamlessly than GR.

    Vineland has all of these elements as well but it seems lesser because its focus appears narrower. The narrow focus makes it seems like a slighter novel than the others. But I wonder if it isn’t somewhat deeper and maybe even more original.

    Can’t wait for the next one…

  21. PYNCHON ROOOLS! I think the best one of this books to start with–if you’re not sure to begin–is whichever one you happen to pick up. The UNTITLED new one sounds like he’s trying to hit a ball outta the park and I think that’s AWESOME. I loved M&D (just finally finished it after a few attempts). He’s just so good. And accessible. You just have to want to invest the time. Why should it be easy. This aint’ the BABY SITTER’S CLUB. I mean, I’ve read all of Gaddis, like, twelve times over, and I still think PYNCHON ROOOLS!

  22. hmmm. some of us got extra testosterone this morning. I’m not sure Pynchon – or literature – is a competitive sport. the reason to read lit (rather than fiction) is because it can change our lives – how we see and feel about ourselves and the world. is that more important than time with the kids? probably not. but it might be more important than mowing the lawn or watching Baseball Tonight (two of my distractions)

  23. That description linked by “S.” above makes the new Pynchon sound like a cross betwen The Man Who Was Thursday and Around the World in 80 Days.

  24. Interesting allusions. The AP reported that the book is called Against the Day. I am confident that the final product is better than the ad copy.

  25. Hard to know what to think when it comes to this dude, he’s always been something of a slippery character. Plus, any one of his many fans might easily have cooked this up just for a larf. Still, if it is true and Mister Pynchon does have a new novel coming out in December I for one know what I’m getting for Christmas. I notice a number of the comments here contain the word “postmodern”–can’t we lose this at best limiting and at worst meaningless term? Why this urge to categorise anyway? I suspect this impulse has its origins in fear rather than any real critical intelligence, a way to tame the beast so contemporary students can feel good about themselves. Pynchon is emphatically not just for students, he’s for everyone with half a brain. Nice to read here also the good words about Vineland–don’t let the lazy comments here about it resonating strongly with whatever it is that’s happening today in America put you off reading this magnificent ghost story.

  26. The Godzilla subplot (if it’s really developed enough to be called a subplot) seems to be a vestigial bit of writing — according to a couple sources i’ve read, Pynchon was toying with his next book after GR either being about Godzilla or about Mason & Dixon. I like a lot about Vineland, and am a longtime lover of GR, but i really think Mason & Dixon is his finest book, and i hope this next novel (if in fact it exists) lives up to M&D.

  27. I read Pynchon in much the same way I read Rabelais or Cervantes, dipping into a favorite chapter rather than steaming through whole novels. You can easily approach Gravity’s Rainbow with too much gravity. ( I recommend tea with Mrs Quoad–begins on page 114 in Viking Paperback edition).

  28. I don’t think anyone can glean a ‘full’ understanding of Pynchon’s stuff. Just go with the flow; it’s surprising how much will slot into place long after you’ve shut the book/s. As the man himself implies: the secret is to keep it bouncing.
    Shine on brightly
    Michael

  29. I agree with some guy down here: The crying of lot 49 should go first in the list. Pynchon’s mind is in there, and will guide into his others novels.
    And don’t wait to much form Slow Learner. Is just what it is: a candy, a reward for fans.
    Ave Pynchon!

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