Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thomas Pynchon Vs. R.A. Wilson

Here Adam Kirsch sums up Thomas Pinchon's new book, and writing style in general:

"For the writer who lives by the list must die by the list, and Mr. Pynchon, in pushing the form to its limits and beyond, demonstrates what a list-like novel cannot do. Multiplicity, it turns out, is not the same thing as complexity: Complexity requires syntax, and syntax is just what the maker of lists must forswear. Human meanings — psychological, social, spiritual — require other kinds of structure than the infinitely repeated "and" of the shaggy-dog story. That is why Mr. Pynchon's meanings, in "Against the Day" as in his better books, are finally inhuman, Manichean, utopian, and dystopian. He believes in conspiracies, not histories, including the individual histories that the novel was invented to tell."

It's weird too because many of the things that I enjoy in Robert Anton Wilson's novels- the endless array of characters and events, the silly surrealism, the corny names, and complex physics and philosophy thrown in- annoy me in Pynchon's novels. And I think maybe it's partially because Thomas Pynchon is supposed to be a great novelist, and Robt. Wilson is a "stand-up philosopher". I definitely don't think of Wilson as a great novelist; but then again, I don't think of Voltaire as a great playwright either. It's the fun of watching a deeply humane gadfly tossing out ideas that I enjoy. Maybe the reason that I like R.A.W. more is simply that I've never felt any pressure to take his books seriously in any way, while the massively overestimated Pynchon has always been presented to me as A Great Writer.

I don't think of Pynchon as a great writer any more than I do Wilson. But, there's something deeply childish about Pynchon's novels that irritates me. They seem to have been written by someone with very little interest in humanity. Robt. Wilson is deeply humane, and I just don't get that with Pynchon, even with his sympathetic characters. Of course, a novelist needn't be humane- many of the best aren't! But, a pile of fascinating minutiae should add up to something aside from a paranoid/austistic tangle. And I'm not convinced that it ever does in Pynchon.


mcewen said...

You're not keen on autistic people for some reason?
Best wishes

Rufus said...

Shoot! I think I wrote that too fast. I tend towards the Asperger's syndrome, so it's been an ongoing topic on the blog. No, I'm quite keen on autistic people. I said that I think Pynchon's writing style is autistic, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was autistic. And I don't think he's a good novelist. But, I'm not sure where you get that I'm not keen on autistic people from that.

Rufus said...

Ah, it's the 'humanity' line, innit? Okay, that line does grate a bit. I'll change it.

gregvw said...

Generally speaking, a person does not do what I do without having some kind of high-functioning autism.

Rufus said...

I think that's pretty much the case with us too. I work with people who have thousands of dates and names and arguments on automatic recall and no real social skills. I'm pretty much the same way, which is part of the reason Claire calls me her Asperger's child. Also I count obsessively whenever I'm agitated.

René López Villamar said...

RAW never stroke me as essentially humane, still, I think his work is greatly unappreciated. I think he is a good novelist. (But I like Pynchon better.)