The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49

by Thomas Pynchon


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Thomas Pynchon's classic post-modern satire, which tells the wonderfully unusual story of Oedipa Maas, first published in 1965.

When her ex-lover, wealthy real-estate tycoon Pierce Inverarity dies and designates her the co-executor of his estate, California housewife Oedipa Mass is thrust into a paranoid mystery of metaphors, symbols, and the United States Postal Service. Traveling across Southern California, she meets some extremely interesting characters, and attains a not-inconsiderable amount of self-knowledge.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780397004188
Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Publication date: 01/01/1966
Pages: 183

About the Author

Thomas Pynchon was born in 1937. His books include V, Gravity's Rainbow, Vineland, Mason & Dixon, Against the Day, Inherent Vice, and Bleeding Edge.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

May 8, 1937

Place of Birth:

Glen Cove, Long Island, New York


B. A., Cornell University, 1958

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The Crying of Lot 49 (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
Judy_Croome More than 1 year ago
I finally read this because I¿ve never yet managed to complete a Thomas Pynchon story. I managed to finish this novel only because it¿s short. I¿m left confused about many things, but not about this: I enjoy interesting and different books, but books loaded with pretentious intellectualism bore me to death. There¿s story-telling (which entertains and moves its readers) and there¿s word play. ¿The Crying of Lot 49¿ clearly falls in the last category and, while it might provide many readers with a satisfying read, I find the weirdness too weird, the ¿cleverness¿ too clever for its own good and the deliberate manipulation of names, references and language constructs silly. Is Pynchon actually laughing at us, the readers, who swoon at his ¿brilliance¿? Either that or, like Sacha Baron Cohen of the dreadful movie ¿Borat¿ fame, Pynchon is a sad man with a rather warped and gloomy view of the world. As a reader, I want more to a novel than pretentious intellectualism posing as literature. I enjoy reading a wide variety of genres and styles, fiction and non-fiction. I don¿t care what I read ¿ as long as it¿s good writing and keeps me engaged. Despite the occasional glimpse of what could attract people to this story (for example, Mucho & Oedipa¿s obsessions apparently suggesting ordinary folks¿ obsessive need to believe in some kind of reality and order ¿ I say ¿apparently,¿ because I¿m not entirely sure I ¿got it¿), Pynchon¿s writing required too much effort to make any sort of sense to me. Perhaps that was the point of the difficult, delirious writing style: that, despite modern technology supposedly assisting mankind in communicating, Mucho & Oedipa (representing the average human) were still unable to communicate with each other. This novel, far from solving this dilemma, exacerbated it! It does have its moments of post-modernist epiphany (modern life is uncertain; there is no guarantee of a happy ending), but I¿m a reader who prefers a more traditional (and optimistic!) form of story-telling and will leave Pynchon¿s existential explorations of an entropic society to those readers who prefer ¿high literature.¿
Maisie_Fullerton More than 1 year ago
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon is a mystery that is equally as witty as it is intriguing. Set in the chaotic cultural collision that was the 1960's, the novel's protagonist, Oedipa Maas, is strung through a plot bursting with conspiracy, paranoia, and insanity. Pynchon's clever puns and use of satire are whimsical and refreshing, and add an air of lightness to the text with the humor they bring. The Crying of Lot 49 is a short novel that openly breaks from the conventions of the typical detective story, and instead provides the reader with the aftermath of a society in crisis. The plot opens with the female protagonist, Oedipa Maas, seemingly trapped in the excruciating monotony of a life reduced to gardening and fixing evening cocktails for her depressive husband. The only momentary interruptions in the tedium that is her life are provided by phone calls from her psychiatrist, Dr. Hilarious, pressuring her to experimentally ingest LSD, and her industrial tycoon ex-boyfriend Pierce Inverarity, who's late night prank calls include a variety of racially inappropriate impressions. One evening, after returning home from a party, Oedipa finds a letter which informs her that she has been made executor of her ex-boyfriend, Pierce Inverary's will. After accepting the request, Oedipa leaves her husband and sedative lifestyle to execute the will. Upon leaving, Oedipa finds herself on the road to a personal revelation she is unable to fully perceive, as well as a mystery she is equally as immune to deciphering. The ambiguous symbol of a muted horn follows Oedipa throughout her journey, prompting her to investigate the source and meaning of its whereabouts. Throughout her inquiry to understand the purpose of the symbol, Oedipa discovers potential secret-organizations, conspiracies, or possibly just her own insanity's bizarre manifestations. Throughout the course of the novel, Oedipa journeys from southern to northern California, through a seemingly endless maize of equally as trivial connections to the symbol. Oedipa is left wondering whether her quest is to exposing an elaborate secret society, a joking conspiracy left plotted by her ex-boyfriend Inverarity to plague her, or if she is out of touch with reality. Pynchon fills the text with satirical portrayals of the 60's culture, including a teenage hippie group called "The Paranoids", LSD driven insanity, and anti-government associations, all of which propel Oedipa further into her roundabout investigation of the symbol. As cleverly intended by Pynchon, the reader, as well as Oedipa, is hopelessly left to sift through the unraveled evidence trying to distinguish any reality from all the chaos. The Crying of Lot 49 is a must for the bookshelves of any modern reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far Pynchon's most easily enjoyable novel, but you still get the Pynchon trademark complexity and innuendo. Honestly, I give it 4 and 1/2 stars. The first chapter by itself is worth the price of admission, as it is one of the funniest things I have read in quite some time. The most impressive thing about the book, however, is the way that Mr. Pynchon has turned the traditional detective story into the ultimate microcosm in a completely unprecedented and unique way, without the over-indulgence of, say, Gravity's Rainbow. While it could be a better or lesser novel than G.R., it's about as dense a novel as any other authors attempt (especially in the era of Grisham, Koontz, et. al.) and that means that you are going to spend more time pondering the novel than reading it. It's worth the effort though, because the themes Pynchon explores are ever-present and while they aren't necessarily new, they are expressed in a truly goundbreaking manner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I discovered this book as a teenager, and I am now 55 and still rereading it. The book speaks to the mythology underlying history, and questions history itself in a mysterious, atmospheric manner. It has the trademark Pynchon sendup humor at its finest. I've wondered why he has never written another quite like this (V. being a somewhat less crisp version of the same kind of quest) but I suspect any first-rate author is blessed to get one like this in a lifetime. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby compares for length (make that brevity and conciseness) and other qualities.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read the book twice (maybe three times), and each time I read it I like it more - mostly because it is starting to make sense. If Oedipa Maas thinks she is confused about this conspiracy, try reading about it - especially the final section in which Pynchon gives historical information. There are times though when the writing is powerful, lyrical, and comical - all at the same time. Mayvbe, when I read the novel again I will like it even more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though spectacularly dificult to follow 90% of the time, and just as confusing as an older person talking about life before the internet the other 10%, this was quite a creative read. Complicated language, multi-layered languid prose and a mystery make for an interesting compilation. After reading, I think that anyone can associate themself with Oedipa, the heroine. This fact is the mark of any good novel: the audience's ability to relate and empathize with the protagonist. I definitely recommend reading 2+ times, however, as to read it only once would be to view a Picasso with a quick furtive glance.
neurodrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A 1965 novel, about a mysterious will, the executor a woman named Oedipa Maas, who was a lover of the will maker, Pierce Inverarity. Inverarity owned many square miles of Southern California, Yoyodyne, a defense contractor, and much else. The story is about Oedipa¿s search into the mystery of the illicit and shadowy alternate mail system, the competitors of medieval Thurn and Taxis mail service, possibly killing off many persons involved. Lot 49 is the auction lot of the odd stamps under the gavel at the end of the book. There are some hilarious spots, the descriptions are baroque, but somewhat dated. Read over a weekend or two.
Rynooo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not sure if I enjoyed it - I found it rather laborious and it was a relief to get to the end. It's definitely put me off reading Pynchon's longer works. I quite like his convoluted style but the meandering is a bit over the top and found myself doing double-takes at the endless quick-fire, mid-paragraph scene changes.
WilfGehlen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant points of dust/ Dancing in a patch of sun/ Warms the cold within.If William Randolph Hearst were a real estate magnate instead of a newspaper tycoon, if he had developed a city called San Narciso instead of an estate called San Simeon, if he were fictionalized as Pierce Inverarity, with a passion for Tristero, instead of Charles Foster Kane, with a passion for Rosebud, would we have something like The Crying of Lot 49 instead of Citizen Kane? The enigma of the deceased "great man" and the search for the true meaning of his life, and by extension, ours, are central to both CL49 and CK and overshadow the difference in particulars.Pierce Inverarity amassed great wealth, lost a somewhat lesser amount of wealth, and, sometime prior to the start of CL49, died, leaving his former mistress, Oedipa Maas, as his executor. We know little of him except what Oedipa remembers and what she can glean by examining his residuum, his estate. When they were together, Oedipa thought of Pierce as her knight in shining armor, who would rescue her from the gray world of Eisenhower-conservative America. She realizes that escape with him was an illusion and returned to the world of tupperware parties. We first meet her after one such party, recovering from too much kirsch. Accepting the quest, as executor, to discover the truth about Pierce, she is given another chance to escape her suburban prison.Like Thompson, the tenacious reporter in search of Rosebud, Oedipa is a cardboard character, her real character, if there is one, hidden in the shadows. We don't relate to her, only to her mission. She finds that Inverarity owned most of San Narciso and that a shadowy organization, Tristero, is interwoven into the fabric of his legacy world and is insinuating itself into hers. Tristero is many things, but is, most importantly, another level of enigma. We really don't know what to believe about it. Historically an outlaw organization whose purpose is to supplant the state-recognized postal service, its services appeal to the downtrodden, those at the edge of society, those with a severe mistrust of the established order. It seems that Pierce Inverarity has embraced Tristero, being, as was Charlie Kane, "two people," at once a champion of the underdog and their exploiter.Jerry Thompson never discovers Rosebud, but comes to doubt that one word, even though uttered on his deathbed, can capture the essence of the man. Oedipa Maas is still on her quest to uncover Tristero as CL49 ends, its essence unresolved, its essence still at one remove from Pierce Inverarity, but its essence poised, possibly, to open Oedipa unto herself.The uncertainties, the lack of resolution, are intrinsic to the novel and are a reflection of life itself. Pynchon uses the concept of entropy as a motif for uncertainty. The ordered atoms in an ice crystal, the ordered desks at Yoyodyne, Oedipa's captivity, are an entropic stasis representing the rigidity of death. It requires a bit of activation energy to escape this stasis, a kick in the butt that allows entropy to prevail once again, for it to create an interesting diversity for a while, as glacier ice melts to frolic briefly as a mountain stream before becoming locked in the dismal swamps of the bayou. Pierce Inverarity's codicil may have been the boost of activation energy that allows Oedipa to escape her imprisonment, to accept her legacy. It may even carry her back to the Berkeley campus, to radical feminism, and the burning of her panoply of bras. Or not. So it goes.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. I'm really not sure about Pynchon, and about this book. Did I even like it? I don't even know! It's a crazy story, told in a semi-crazy manner; there's a conspiracy, some deaths, some intrigue, some amateur detective shenanigans, even an underground postal society. It was tough-going reading parts of it, but I did feel myself getting more and more sucked in.
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by Pynchon. I felt...underwhelmed. I'm still going to go on and read Gravity's Rainbow to make sure I'm not missing something, but overall, I felt like this was similar to a Tom Robbin's novel - which I'm also mostly over after reading a few of his. Hopefully, I just missed a lot in this novel since I was reading it on my usual work commute (bus, subway, office, reverse).
RebeccaAnn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Spoilers ahead.Oedipa Maas returns home from a Tupperware party one afternoon and discovers she has been the executor, or is it executrix, of her former lover, Pierce Inverarity's will. While sorting through his many properties (he owns everything in San Narcisso), she repeatedly comes across the same symbol: a muted horn. As her knowledge of what this muted horn might mean - as well as the organization it stands for, Trystero - grows, so does her paranoia. Is Trystero real? Is this Inverarity's idea of a joke? Or is she going insane?While I'm sure I missed the majority of the puns and humor in this book, I still found plenty of passages that made me snicker, a few that evoked sympathy, and even a some frightening passages. When Oedipa compares Trystero to a stripper, revealing bit by bit what it's all about to her, she wonders if she'll like what she finds out in the end. Will it be satisfying to know everything or will it, like the stripper, "the dance ended, come back down the runway, its luminous stare locked to Oedipa's, smile gone malign and pitiless; bend to her alone among the desolate row of seats and begin to speak words she never wanted to hear?" Terrifying, evocative, and utterly beautiful. This was my favorite passage of the entire book.Pynchon's prose is artwork in and of itself. Located somewhere around surreal and stream of consciousness, it reads like your own thoughts. Some passages are very focused and straightforward while others meander about, touching on multiple topics and at the end, you have to trace your way backwards to figure how to you got to where you ended. Some paragraphs are only a few words long, some take a few pages to get through. It's not consistent, but it works.I know a lot of people I've talked to don't like the ending. True, it's not what you'd expect a book. Lot 49 has a lot of components you expect from detective fiction. There's a death, a "detective", an investigation, but Lot 49 is missing the big reveal at the end. But look back through the book. What is there in Lot 49 that you actually expect? The world is similar to that of hard-boiled detective fiction, but rather than being given a strong detective to solve the case, we're given Oedipa. She's weak, she rarely says no to anyone. In fact, she rarely speaks up at all and she cries all the time. She's not the expected heroine. And who on earth ever expected the culprit to be an underground postal system? It's a strange thing to base a conspiracy on. But the conspiracy is what makes the ending work, in my opinion. The most intriguing aspect of every conspiracy is usually the inability to find the answer. Who really killed JFK? Did Paul McCartney really die in a car accident and has a look-alike been impersonating him since 1966? It's more fun without the answers and there are certainly no answers in Lot 49. Neither the reader nor Oedipa even knows if the facts are true, which is the most terrifying aspect of the book. Reality is a projection of fantasy and we can never escape that fantasy.No, Pynchon is not an easy read, but he is definitely a worthwhile one. Lot 49 is only 150 pages long and I recommend you at least give it a try. It's a great introduction into postmodernism and Pynchon in general.
checkadawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Classic Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 involves a fictitious mail delivery system and a quest, with overtones of paranoia. A great way to get introduced to Pynchon in a short novel.
frocine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There must be something wrong with me because I just couldn't get into this book, which is weird because post-modern weirdness is often my thing. I think this is one of those books that you must read and decide for yourself.
Crowyhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pynchon's most accessible work, and thus far my favorite.
barbharper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So much information, so little clarity.
Letter4No1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oedpia Mass is to be the executor of her ex boyfriend's will. With no legal knowledge, a very shady therapist and a husband that is in his own world, Oedpia starts the task of breaking up Pierce Inverarity's massive state and discovers a postal conspiracy years in the making.Why, oh why, did I think this was a good idea? Pynchon is the king of the run on sentence. Sometimes going on for two pages! In a book that is only 152 pages, sentences like that become a problem. There is also the issue of the names. While I liked Oedpia as a name, everyone else had weird names like Dr. Hilarious and Mike Fallopian that I couldn't take seriously and had a hard time processing. This all pales to how little I liked the story. I had a really hard time following what was happening with the Trystero stuff. I'm still not entirely sure if everything about the postal system was real or not, or if it was an elaborate joke or Oedpia going crazy or what. Regardless, I have never had such a hard time finishing 150 odd pages. I was really tempted to just set it aside and never come back, but the year is still young, so hopefully I'll be able to make up for the lost week I spent staring at the stupid cover and wishing it would burst into flames, or magically turn into Harry Potter.
BluegeneBookie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book in college nearly 30 years ago - I really really really want to understand the coolness of this book to be part of the "in" crowd. But like "Gravity's Rainbow", I just don't get Thomas Pynchon.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A disappointment. The main thread through the novel, the ¿Tristero system¿ conspiracy relating to mail delivery through history, is ultimately ridiculous. It¿s all over the map, and a bit like listening to a Jazz musician high on something. There are scenes which ¿hit¿, like the strip poker game Oedipa Maas finds herself in near the beginning of the book, and occasional humor in the satire of life in the 60s which works, but unfortunately these are few and far between. It¿s pretty sad when you think Dan Brown could have helped matters. Mercifully only 152 pages.Quotes:On management:¿In the early `60¿s a Yoyodyne executive living near L.A. and located someplace in the corporate root-system above supervisor but below vice-president, found himself, at age 39, automated out of a job. Having been since age 7 rigidly instructed in an eschatology that pointed nowhere but to a presidency and death, trained to do absolutely nothing but sign his name to specialized memoranda he could not begin to understand and to take blame for the running-amok of specialized programs that failed for specialized reasons he had to have explained to him, the executive¿s first thoughts were naturally of suicide.¿On poverty:¿Yet at least he had believed in the cars. Maybe to excess: how could he not, seeing people poorer than him come in, Negro, Mexican, cracker, a parade seven days a week, bringing the most godawful of trade-ins: motorized, metal extensions of themselves, of their families and what their whole lives must be like, out there so naked for anybody, a stranger like himself, to look at, frame cockeyed, rusty underneath, fender repainted in a shade just off enough to depress the value, if not Mucho himself, inside smelling hopelessly of children, supermarket booze, two, sometimes three generations of cigarette smokers, or only of dust ¿ and when the cars were swept out you had to look at the actual residue of these lives¿¿
ahgonzales on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fast moving book; seemingly disjointed parts, but I think that's the point. I just couldn't figure out which one I was supposed to care about. The main character was easy enough to follow, but I couldn't figure out why she cared either. The conspiracy theory/underground story just wasn't that exciting and the characters weren't fleshed out enough to worry about the consequences of her search/executorship. The writing was good, but I wouldn't have missed not reading it.
Retrobovine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Crying of Lot 49 is an interesting experiment in post modernism. While at times Pynchon's prose can seem quite pretentious the conspiracy theory works to keep the reader interested. Communication is key to the novel and the confusion of Oedipa seems mirrored by the many sub facets and the stream of conscious thought apparent in the writing that often leave the reader confused. An interesting ending although it is appropriate for post modern writing so much so that it perhaps becomes cliche.
poplin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have been staring at V on my bookshelf for several years now, deterred by Pynchon¿s reputation as a complex and difficult author. I decided to read The Crying of Lot 49¿which has, in my mind, the rather large benefit of being approximately 400 pages shorter than V¿as a means of easing into Pynchon¿s work. Happily, I think my plan had worked.The Crying of Lot 49 follows the story of Oedipa, a housewife who is made executrix of her ex-boyfriend¿s estate. Oedipa soon begins to encounter bizarre symbols and connections, and as she digs deeper, she uncovers the Tristero organization, a centuries-old underground group with a hidden purpose. Proof of this conspiracy, however, remains beyond her grasp.Oedipa¿s quest is one in search of meaning, a hunt for an underlying plan to encompass and encapsulate every peculiar thing she encounters. She plays the part of astronomer, charting a constellation on a mass of unordered stars. The meaning she searches for eludes her, but Oedipa is convinced that Tristero is either a far-reaching conspiracy or a posthumous practical joke; that there may be no meaning to what she¿s found¿that everything may, in fact, be a series of unrelated occurrences¿never even crosses her mind until the last few pages of the novel.Pynchon¿s underlying statement is that, like Oedipa, we cannot accept that there is no overarching meaning to the events in our lives. Like storytellers, we attempt to weave disparate episodes together, to give them meaning and gravity. Oedipa parallels her quest to that of an astronomer plotting the constellations. But the structure an astronomer imposes on the stars, while it may create superficial order, does not change the truth about the universe; it cannot create any inherent structure.Even when Oedipa finally confronts the possibility that Tristero may be neither a conspiracy nor a practical joke, she has trouble accepting the uncertainty that follows. Through a series of analogies, Oedipa imagines events as being dichotomous: having absolute meaning or an absolute lack of meaning. Even at the end, she cannot seem to walk the middle line of uncertainty. This inability has left her mired in paranoia, alienated from her life before Tristero became a part of it.The Crying of Lot 49 stands as (I hope) a good introduction to Pynchon¿s work. Though a quick read, brevity should not be confused for clarity. Pynchon¿s writing is dizzying and often confusing; I found myself reaching for the dictionary more than once, something that almost never happens during other books. The effort proved rewarding, however, and I will not hesitate to embark on V...sometime in the near future.
pbadeer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Clearly, I missed something in this book. I finished it because I knew I "should", but upon completion, I just kind of sat in a bemused silence. Other reviews use the term surreal. I think that hits upon it perfectly...but who wants "surreal" literature? Think about a Dali landscape translated into text. Would you be as fascinated by the text version? If yes, then go pick up a copy of this book.Another review referred to how much was crammed into the book (using the far more literary term of "dense"). Again, how much does one book need? The "dense-ness" of the book caused the plot lines and interconnections (where they existed) to fly in circles around otherwise obscure (albeit interesting) tidbits and none seemed to develop into any sort of closure. I really thought this book had potential - both because of the generally good reviews and the basic synopsis of the book - but I just didn't "get it". But I'm sure others will, and this book is for them.
Krista23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Underground societies, selling of human bones and a lonely housewife. Put them together and you have Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. Oedipa becomes a woman with a mystery to solve and what's really going on with the post and connection with W.A.S.T.E. the real question is, does she find all the answers?
391 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first Pynchon book I've ever read, and I cannot wait to get my hands on more. The Crying of Lot 49 was phenomenal - really a spectacular book. Reading it was like an extraordinarily vivid dream, all logically-ordered nonsense and utterly gripping unreal reality, resplendent with the features and culture of 60s-70s California. It is a fantastic book.