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October 2012

The Crying of Lot 49
by Thomas Pynchon


THU OCT. 25 1:00 - 2:00  p.m. McDowell Center
VT 550
Panel Discussion
MON OCT. 29 4:00 - 5:00  p.m. Bradner Library
L 105
TUE OCT. 30 1:30 - 2:30  p.m. Bradner Library L 105


Oedipa Maas is made the executor of the estate of her late boyfriend, Pierce Inverarity. As she carries out her duties, Oedipa finds herself enmeshed in a worldwide conspiracy, meets some extremely interesting characters, and attains a not inconsiderable amount of self-knowledge. The novel is often classified as a notable example of postmodern fiction. TIME included the novel in its list of 100 Best English-Language Novels published from 1923 to 2005.


Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (b. 1937) is an American writer based in New York City, noted for his dense and complex works of fiction. Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known today: V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), Vineland (1990), Mason & Dixon (1997), and Against the Day (2006). Pynchon is regarded by many readers and critics as one of the finest contemporary authors. He is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the National Book Award, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Both his fiction and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, styles, and themes, including (but not limited to) the fields of history, science, and mathematics. Pynchon is also known for his avoidance of personal publicity; very few photographs of him have ever been published, and rumors about his location and identity have been circulated since the 1960s.


Questions from 1. Thomas Pynchon deliberately wrote in a way that defied interpretation. How and to what effect is the problem of interpretation focused on in The Crying of Lot 49?

2. Why does Pynchon leave Oedipa’s quest unresolved?

3. Discuss the importance of historic references in the novel.

4. The Crying of Lot 49 does not have any evident plot. Is this true?

5. Consider Pynchon’s use of names in the novel. Do they fit their characters? If not, why not?

6. There are many references to communication in the novel. Why do you think communication is so important in The Crying of Lot 49?

7. At one point in The Crying of Lot 49, Oedipa begins to wonder if someone is “putting her on,” or if she is going mad. Which do you think it is?

8. The reader never finds out who is the buyer of Lot 49. Who do you think it could be?

9. How does Oedipa change over the course of the novel? How does her social situation change?

10. Discuss the ending of the novel. Do you feel that there is any sense of resolution?

We would like to hear from you! What did you think of The Crying of Lot 49? Please e-mail your thoughts, comments, and questions to:
Debbee Sheppard,
Nov 1, 2012, 5:49 AM