I’m reading The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon for my English class. I’ve always loved Victorian and Edwardian Literature and only a few Renaissance texts by Donne, Shakespeare, and Milton could ever pull me away from that devotion. But surprise, surprise- I also love Post-Modern lit. It’s absolutely insane. No really, sometimes it barely makes sense. Here’s my favorite excerpt:
In Golden Gate Park she came on a circle of children in their nightclothes, who told her they were dreaming the gathering. But that the dream was really no different from being awake, because in the mornings when they got up they felt tired, as if they’d been up most of the night. When their mothers thought they were out playing they were really curled in cupboards of neighbors’ houses, in platforms up in trees, in secretly-hollowed nests inside hedges sleeping, making up for these hours. The night was empty of all terror for them, they had inside their circle an imaginary fire, and need nothing but their own unpenetrated sense of community.
The sequence ends with her deciding not to believe in them any more and moving on. Crazy right? But I love the search for fulfillment and meaning amidst the chaos. Even if the meaning is that there is not meaning, that is a valid statement I can make. The way they portray emptiness and futility is how I imagine living without the gospel is. And their desire to search for some meaning, though for them often fruitless testifies to me the basic human instinct to find God. The fundamental knowledge that He is there for them to search out, even if they look in all the wrong places.
I also love the way they use symbols and the senses to express their themes. Everything is about symbols- deconstructing their supposed meanings. It’s amazing how everything sensory is a symbol. Cathedrals are symbols of religion and devotion. The characters 4 and 9 together make a specific amount to us. Language is a system of audible symbols with certain meanings. But only because we’ve assigned that meaning. Even the words I’m typing only make sense because we’ve decided that they do. But they do. God uses symbols all the time. They are throughout the scriptures. They are the means for our communication now, and somehow I think they are His as well, though probably different. More perfect, because, as Post-Modernists are pointing out to me, the language I love is very problematic. But symbols are beautiful to me. I love knowing that there is something deeper that the tangible or audible object, just as there is something transcendent about life. I would be a very interesting Post-Modern scholar with all my hope and ideas of transcendence.
I realized something else as I was reading this novel and it slowly but surely became one of my favorite books:
When I first started reading I was reading solely for content. I loved the repetitive fantasy genre because I loved living vicariously through the heroes/heroines. But when I classify a favorite book now, it is not longer because of what happens in the story. It’s always difficult to explain why I love Tess of the d’Urbervilles. It’s depressing and frustrating to read. I don’t agree with many or even any of the actions of the characters–but I love the book. When I tell people I always say: “It’s depressing, but the symbolism and themes are amazing! and Hardy’s use of language is fantastic. I no longer correlate plot content in my equation for the label “Favorite Book”. It’s how the plot is communicated and how it functions in a broader picture. It’s how the book makes me think and push my brain. It’s interesting how much a person can change in just a few short years, but I certainly have.
Here are some of my favorites:
Tess of the d’Urbervilles by: Thomas Hardy
Paradise Lost: John Milton
A Room With a View: E.M. Forester
The Crying of Lot 49: Thomas Pynchon
Peter Pan:J.M. Barrie
The Kite Runner: Housseni
A Valediction Forbidding Mourning: John Donne
Birches: Robert Frost
Goblin Market: Christina Rossetti
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Coleridge
3/10 are American. Yay we’re making some progress.