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Vineland (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) - Thomas Pynchon

Playlist added 4/4/2013

With this read I officially become a Pynchon fan. I have admired him for years but made it through only one other book, [b:Inherent Vice|5933841|Inherent Vice|Thomas Pynchon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347697574s/5933841.jpg|6151926], which I thoroughly enjoyed, enough to give it 5 stars. Vineland I just flat out love.

Story matters to me, and yes, there's a story here, a crazy-quilt kind of political, personal, cultural, criminal and fanciful bits that a couple of times almost lost me, but the language made all the difference, his way with words. A story is what makes this a novel and not poetry, but the words kept me going, one after another and another, progressively enchanting me until I was spellbound. I've never doubted the man's literary genius, which until now has awed in fits and starts but never (except for Inherent Vice) sufficiently to keep me engaged throughout. Maybe this one being shorter has something to do with it, but there's a flow or a groove to the telling that proved irresistible, and once it kicked in I was blissfully along for the ride.

I marvel and wonder about how Pynchon writes. Inevitably I picture him sitting down to a typewriter, closing his eyes, reaching forth and typing like mad, not stopping until the book is done, as if tranced by some crazed but clear-eyed muse known only to him, who somehow makes art and craft of what in lesser hands would be just a mess. It feels like that's how he writes, and the reading strikes me as mainlining from his imagination to the page to my imagination in one brilliant rush of, well, words, glorious words. Let's jump in at random to show you what I mean.

. . . it had been his job for the past couple of weeks, nonetheless, trying, like everybody else, to get as much of the crop as possible out before Willis's big barbecue, too little time remaining on the clock, but wordlessly all agreeing fuck the clock, fuck it, play it to the end. Out on those runs, speeding after moonset through the smell of the redwoods, with all the lights out, trying to sense among the different patches of darkness where the curves were, and what gear to be in for grades that were nearly impossible to see, bouncing along in a vintage Power Wagon, Zoyd from somebody's collection of beat-up old 8-tracks usually found himself listening to the Eagles Greatest Hits, in particular Take It To The Limit, basically his whole story these days, singing mournfully along, though obliged from time to time to interrupt himself as some new set of headlights appeared -- "OK, Zoyd, back on defense" -- half hoping for a run-in with Brock, knowing by now it was never going to happen in any frontal way, attempting to get back his own small piece of Vineland, but out here at the periphery, in motion, out on one of the roads that had taken him away from his home, and that must lead back . . .

Following the story via the language proved relatively easy (as I said, was like being blissfully along for the ride) but keeping track of the many characters was not, and I'd be remiss not to mention Douglas Albert's Index. You may not want or need it but I found it useful as an enhancement of the reading experience, plus it further reveals and explores Pynchon's literary genius, because Jesus Zoyd Christ, the detailing and synchronizing are simply astonishing.

You can find the index online at: http://www.pynchonwiki.com/wiki/download/Vineland-Index_D-Albert.pdf

Here's my fun PLAYLIST, which I am quite proud of. It does not include every song mentioned in the book. It includes some that are not mentioned based on my take on the characters and story. It is limited to what will fit on an 80-min CD and organized according to my listening preferences. Page numbers reference the 1997 Penguin paperback.

1. Frenesi -- Artie Shaw p. 75
2. Them There Eyes -- Billie Holiday p. 79
3. Pipeline -- The Chantays p. 38
4. Rock and Roll -- Led Zeppelin p. 209
5. Fuck California (Hector does Vineland) -- Presidents of the U.S.of A. p. 356/357
6. Got A Ukelele (just like Takeshi) -- Loudon Wainwright III p. 161/162
7. Love Is Strange -- Everly Brothers p. 16
8. Sam Cooke Medley -- Sam Cooke p. 314
9. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (Weed's lament) -- Bryan Ferry p. 228/229
10. Don't Get Around Much Anymore -- Willie Nelson p. 225
11. Dirty World (Ode to DL) -- Traveling Wilburys Chap. 9 (p. 130)
12. Streetwise Man (I wanna ride) -- Sarah Borges p.274
13 People Are Strange -- the Doors p. 133
14. Cry (Frenesi and DL's lament) -- Siouxsie and the Banshees p. 260
15. Snake Song (I should've known better) -- Eleni Mandell p. 216/217
16. Everybody Knows -- Concrete Blonde entire
17. Wouldn't Want To Be Like You -- Alan Parsons Project p. 150/151
18. Instant Karma -- Lennon/Ono 0.174/175
19. Power to the People -- Black-eyed Peas p. 209
20. Kick Out The Jams -- The Bad Brains p. 191
21. Purple Haze -- Jimi Hendrix p. 18
22. Take It To the Limit (Zoyd's lament) -- the Eagles p. 374
23. Show Me The Way to Go Home -- Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Chap. 15 (p.323)
24. The Future (lullaby for Prairie) -- Eleni Mandell p. 321/322