In this book, there is so much symbolism and metaphors that it shakes you to your core. Looking at the symbolism I believe that there is a recurring theme of constellations and stars. Opedipus talks about being a projector and projecting a world/ universe, later she struggles looking for a book that has one specific line she was thinking about, “No Hallowed Skein of Stars Can Ward I Trow”. Thi pattern of the universe and mentioning something much bigger than herself is deep and kind of puts the reader in the state of knowing that Opedipus is aware of her existence and how little she is in the big picture. It sets this theme of what’s actually real but what can also be the hallucination creating this sense of paranoia. With the author controlling this emotion with the readers, it creates question of what to interpret, but also are we interpreting too much? A big questions that I have after reading this is that are we reading too much into specific word choices or names? how can you also interpret some of the metaphors used because the author makes it very murky and the readers can interpret metaphors in different ways, which I feel like it can change the reading experience for each reader.
The Crying of Lot 49 was a very interesting book to read, at the same time, it was also quite challenging for me. There were a few times that I have to tell myself to read slowly, and then reread the context, even over and over again to understand what message the author was trying to deliver. One thing I found very interesting was the idea of how the letters played a role in this novel. I have to reread the plot to realize that the role of letters in this novel can be viewed as the example of failed communication. As I read through the novel, I subconsciously approached it as a deductive novel and expected that the ending would provide the answer to the mystery. To be honest, the ending, “Oedipa settled back, to await the crying of lot 49” was confusing to me. I was expected to learn who the mysterious bidder is, to find out if the Tristero was real and if the whole story was a conspiracy theory. But the ending turned out to be another mystery to me. However, this is what I like about this novel, which is you never know what is next. Another thing I like was the author’s descriptions, such as the description of California as a circuit board. Although it took me a lot of time to finish reading this novel, I was enjoy reading it overall.
My only previous experience with Pynchon was in Inherent Vice, a book I’d definitely recommend even if it doesn’t exactly touch on the same types of themes as this book does. That said, I definitely expected a slightly different novel in total.
There are a few things in this book that left me thinking more about the relationship between reader and text and between characters in the novel more than any piece of reading I’ve done in some time. Oedipa’s paranoia throughout the book and her relationship with Mucho were both things that the reader is made pretty well aware of as well as leaving as many questions as it gave answers.
Her feelings about Mucho give the reader a lot of information about him that paint him in a hardly-sympathetic light; as if it is more than logical for Oedipa to start her affair with Metzger. I was left wondering what purpose he served in the novel itself. Was he supposed to serve as a contrast to Metzger, or some sort of influencer to Oedipa’s actions?
Like a couple of others, I was also focused on Oedipa’s thought process in so much as her worry that what was happening to her was not real. Not too many characters in novels I’ve read have had that type of feeling before, and it made for a welcome departure to me.
I found The Crying of Lot 49 a very interesting read. To be completely honest, the novel was not what I expected at all. From the start, I struggled to really get into the novel, but as I continued to read, I found myself trying to make sense of the novel in different ways. Though I must admit that I found this reading to be complex in many ways, from the writing style to the tone that we experience in the novel, I tried to understand the book through simply analyzing the content that was presented.
I found it fascinating the way the novel uses puns and symbolic language to emphasize the connection between communication and the many problems that were encountered. In fact, I noticed that for the most part, the problems that were faced throughout the novel, relate to the notion of communication and interpretation. Towards the end of the novel Oedipa Mass, the protagonist, encounters the sense of loneliness as she’s alienated from society. I found it interesting that the more evidence she found, the more she felt like she was going crazy. Even though I feel like this was an interesting book, I can’t help but feel like there’s a deeper layer of meaning that I am missing.
Upon starting this novel, I automatically had a hard time getting into my “reading zone” as I found nothing in the text to grab onto and ground myself in the story. It was like there were bits of information missing and we (as the reader) should not question it. I enjoyed the vast descriptions, but the ideas swirled, morphed, and ran into each other much like a dream would, and you really need to concentrate to connect everything together.
It is interesting that the text itself felt dream-like because of the mentions of hallucinations and LSD. Along with the absurd drama of the story, I am led to believe that Oedipa was hallucinating the whole conspiracy around the muted horn due to heightened emotions and stress surrounding her deceased ex-lover, the guilt of cheating on her husband, and this strange urge to “escape” her life.
The ending is even more of a mystery to unpack. We are never given any closure or answers surrounding “Tristero”, and the anticipation of wanting to see who the mysterious bidder is was cut off by the abrupt ending, sending me into a spiral of more questions. Who is the bidder? Was this all an elaborate prank, like Mike Fallopian suggested in chapter 6? Was Oedipa just crazy the whole time? Will I ever get answers?
I feel like the grad student from the Biographer’s Tale who wished for “things.” I must have answers. I look through a window at the bitter cold landscape of the Midwest wish to be back in the warm auction house awaiting with Oedipa to see who bids during the crying of lot 49. I found myself constantly wanting to throw the book across the room while still being totally seduced into reading every next word, and when I finally finished I only wanted more. I am finding it difficult to approach the text through the ideas of The Interface. I find the versions of certain texts, the various Folios, Quartos, Whitechapel and Vatican editions of The Courier’s Tragedy fascinating and perhaps a way into the interface and print texts. Which made me think back on Kathleen’s statement about different editions of Crying and how to not worry if you have a different one because the comparison would be fascinating, and I agree. A part of the book that made me most think of technology was on page 150, just before Oedipa goes to the auction, towards the end a manic inner monologue there a short sentence “Ones and zeroes.” Which made me think: How does this novel change if we are in the digital age that we are now? If all of the text is programmed by ones and zeroes, how much of the experience exists or how much is simulated in our head?
Disclaimer: This book is outrageous, my claims might be as well haha. Also, my claims operate on the notion that Trystero exists, which I understand is debatable O_O
I’m beginning to wonder if Trystero was meant to function as an allegory for the obsolescence of certain technologies and relations. I’ve only come to this conclusion because of this really long section (I’m reading the novel off of a pdf I apologize for the lack of page numbers) where the Yoyodyne executive sends out a column attempting to inquire about whether or not anyone who was in his situation had thoughts of suicide. Following that context there is an event where he enters his kitchen and douses himself in gasoline with the intent of replicating the Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in protest. In the process of doing so a man enters with his wife—the man who replaced his job with the IBM 7094. In that moment when he was about to light his zippo and end his life he realizes that the letters on his possession had the Trystero muted horn symbol.
I’m thinking more now about the obsolescence that a technology brought to a man’s life—no longer being an executive and in losing his wife to the efficiency expert who displaced his position of being a bread-earner of his household—which could simultaneously function as a theme of alienation in a postmodern framework and the alienation that masculinity must have been experiencing from the transition of the hard working business man of the 50’s *eye roll*. In that moment, his relationship to his career is dissolved by technology, and his relationship with his wife, is dissolved by the man who dissolved his career.
Furthermore, I think the Trystero symbol in that moment is meant to function as the obsolescence that an entire group of people are experiencing not only with the alienation of their existence considering the letters were on the topic of suicide but also with the dissolution of an interface due to the Trystero’s obsolescence in society as a postal service.
So…yeah. Maybe that’s the point? Or one of the points? Idk anymore. Thanks for reading! I’m wondering if anyone else has thoughts about the themes of alienation or obsolescence =D
The Crying of Lot 49 was a fascinating read for me for a variety of reasons, but I was especially intrigued by the way information is coded, exchanged, and transformed throughout the text. The narrative is awash in information and, usually, you never quite know what’s relevant or significant until later–or never at all. For instance, I expected from the beginning that Oedipa’s name would end up being more meaningful (?) than it was (unless I missed something), but that possibility was never fully realized, at least in the part of the story that’s shared with the reader. (We could probably make connections between Oedipa’s obsession with finding answers and the riddle of the sphinx, but I found it surprising that Pynchon didn’t capitalize on that. How postmodernism mocks our expectations…) Anyway, for me the abundance of symbols, taken into consideration alongside the anticlimactic ending that explains nothing, reinforces how arbitrarily we assign meaning to the objects, stories, words, etc., that fill our lives. It seems that Oedipa’s quest is so frustrating, and that she ultimately loses interest, because Trystero and the muted horn mean something a bit different for everyone who is associated with it and it’s impossible to untangle all of those threads to a satisfying end point. They are objects that have become detached from an origin point, so to speak, and as such we are forced to come to terms with their “thingness,” like we discussed last class, or else fabricate our own explanations for their existence/meaning. We are (and she is) given a lot of information about both the symbol and the name, but we’re also reminded that much of the information is little more than conjecture, simply a way to create a comprehensible, cohesive narrative out of patterns. In that sense, we don’t need and can’t possibly have a conclusion that answers anything, because any answer indubitably opens onto a field of even more patterns, conjectures, and arbitrarily assigned meanings. In the end, the joke is on us, the readers, for actually expecting anything to make sense in the chaos of postmodernity. But then, I can be rather pessimistic…
Going into The Crying of Lot 49, I had no idea what the plot would entail and what themes would come to the forefront. However, very early on, a thought entered my mind and wouldn’t leave for the remainder of the novel. This thought was sparked by the paragraph “Either he made up the whole thing, Oedipa thought suddenly, or he bribed the engineer over at the local station to run this, it’s all part of the plot, an elaborate, seduction, plot” (Pynchon, 20). What really struck me is Pynchon’s use of the word “plot,” as this paragraph initially crafted the ideas that 1) Oedipa might be the punchline to an elaborate joke, and 2) that quite literally, this paragraph is for the plot of the book.
In other words, Pynchon’s use of “plot” gave me the idea that Oedipa might be developing her own Truman Show Delusion and made me self-aware that I was literally reading the plot of the novel.
This layering of ideas would again and again come to the forefront throughout the novel for me – particularly in the ten or so pages where Pynchon meticulously describes each act of the play that Oedipa watches. Just as Pynchon writes about the predetermined actions of the characters on the theatrical stage, I became aware that I, too, was watching the characters of the novel take predetermined actions decided by Pynchon himself. And, to add another layer, that the entire novel might be about one man executing an elaborate, predetermined con.
As a final note, when I finished the novel I couldn’t help notice the irony in questioning if any of it was real or not. At the end of the day, the reader has had the answer to the question from the beginning because, in the most literal sense, none of it is real – it’s a work of fiction. Oedipa is a fictional character, as is her world and husband and friends. But, and perhaps this is where the beauty and wonder of the interface come in, our ability to immerse ourselves into the novel’s world allows to question if a completely fictional work was real or not.
I would love to know if any of you have similar thoughts or found similar passages that highlight this layering of “plot.”
I found this book to be difficult to read. There were a lot of things I was confused about, and that I had to look up. Maybe I was confused because the ideas were so strange that I did not understand them, or maybe I just missed something. I was puzzled about what exactly the “sensitives” and “paranoids” meant in this text. Did it literally mean people were sensitive or paranoid? How did they add importance to the story?
Another thing I am confused about is the significance of the title of the story. I realize that “crying” refers to auctioning off the lot, and that lot 49 was where Pierce’s stamps were. But, why is this the title of the story? The word “lot” appears a couple of times throughout the story, for example, when Mucho Mass talks about the car sales lot he used to work at, but I did not see any real significance of lot 49 until the last few pages of the entire story, and even then it seemed like a weak connection to me. Is there more to this title?
I did find it interesting that Oedipa Maas never figured out the mystery behind the “Tristero.” It was as if all of her investigating was for nothing and maybe she imagined all of it. This kind of made it seem like she was going crazy, or possibly on LSD like her husband and, I think, Dr. Hilarius. Did anyone else feel like maybe she hallucinated, or dreamt all of this? This is where I think that the idea of an interface can come into play, it could be a combination of how people and drugs interact to create a new type of interaction. Any thoughts?