This is a bloody strange book.
I was initially led to this postmodern 1960s American mystery-thrillery-comedy due to my enjoyment of the Vonnegut I’ve read, and my awareness that Pynchon has the vague reputation of being similar in tone, though a bit more literary. Also, this book’s tiny, 141 pages, so there seemed no reason not to read it.
The Crying of Lot 49 is about a woman who is made, unexpectedly, the executor of an incredibly wealthy ex-lover’s estate. But as she begins to look into his possessions, she becomes obsessed with small clues that lead her to a belief in the existence of a secret postal service. So that’s what it’s about – about her investigation into this. Which is a strange overall plot, to say nothing of the content.
It’s full of unexpected events, characters breaking down, running away, dying, becoming addicted to LSD, pretending to be the Beatles… In terms of its evocation of California in the 60s, it’s a joy to read. It’s funny, it’s sharp, it’s complex and confusing and frequently detached from itself in a somewhat drug induced way. You could call it trippy, but that makes it sound like a bender of a novel. It’s not. It’s weird and it’s strange and it’s conflicting, often dense, often really confusing, but regularly funny, and filled with great images. I liked it, but I was often too unsure of what was happening to love it. As a reader you have to jump in, I suppose, flow with it, be pulled along by its unpredictability and its strangeness. It’s a funny journey, but a very mapless one. Which is both good and bad, I suppose.
A mixed reaction from me.