It's Thomas Pynchon's birthday today: he's 66. By today, I mean the date at the bottom of the page, not the day I'm writing this, or whenever you may be reading it. It's more appropriate that way, since the man doesn't exist, in public, other than on the printed page. He has only been photographed twice, both times against his will, in the forty years since his first novel, V., was published. A film about him, Thomas Pynchon: A Journey into the Mind of <P.>, is showing at the ICA from 2 May until 31 May. The title is an allusion to an essay by Pynchon that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in June 1966. 'Journey into the Mind of Watts' was written after Leonard Deadwyler, a young black man from that neighbourhood, was shot by an officer of the LAPD on the night of 7 May 1966. He was in his car with his pregnant wife and a friend. The Watts Riots had taken place the previous summer. The initial 'P.', which stands for 'Pynchon' but also for 'paranoia', brings to mind V., the elusive and transmigratory object of desire in the novel to which she gives her name. The angle brackets make it look like an HTML tag, suggestive not only of the hypertextual (non-linear) nature of Pynchon's fiction, but also of the many, many websites that are devoted to him and his work.
LRB 8 May 2003 | PDF Download