I’m getting down to the backstretch of my recluse series with about two more recluses to go. Really, I could do this series for a year with how notorious writers are for being reclusive, but I’ve been sticking to the more famous recluses. As is true for all recluses, Thomas Pynchon was not a recluse when he was with those he felt comfortable. Part of the reason he was considered reclusive was his insecurity in his own skin. He hated having his picture taken due to his buck teeth. He also stuttered; which made him uneasy around people. Despite these problems, Pynchon was known to be friendly and charming and before his marriage in 1990 he almost never went without a girlfriend.
Pynchon loved to travel so it was said that where Salinger hid, Pynchon ran. Traveling can be a form of escape; another way of being reclusive while being social, which is an enigma. Pynchon is most famous for his book, Gravity’s Rainbow, which again I have never read but I understand it is very hard reading. In fact, when I read the synopsis of the book, I didn’t understand it. However, it won the 1974 National Book Award.
The name Pynchon is one of immense history. You’ll find the name, spelled differently, in Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables. Pynchon’s father went to church with Teddy Roosevelt. His great-great uncle was president of Trinity College. Thomas was born into all that aristocracy in 1937 in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Besides his stuttering, he was never good at athletics and his family was very dysfunctional. But he was smart, skipping two grades even before high school. He wrote fictitious columns in high school under many pseudonyms turning teachers into villainous and violent druggees.
He went to Cornell studying to be an engineer for a couple of years but dropped out; not due to lack of ability; he had good grades, he just wanted more experiences which he got in the Navy. After which he was back in Cornell, this time an English major. He was considered an introvert. Most people thought he was weird. He graduated near the top of his class. He didn’t like the establishment or big business. After he was nominated for the National Book Award he was hounded by the press. Gravity’s Rainbow almost won the Pulitzer but couldn’t get past the committee.
He usually wrote all night and slept all day when he was writing. During that time he would often live on junk food and pot, cover the windows with black sheets and never open his door to anyone. Pynchon was an odd ball. He carried a pig figurine around with him in his pocket and was often seen conversing with it.
In the summer of 1988, he won the $310,000 McArthur “Genius” grant. What came out of that, Vinland, was disappointing to his readers. His next book, Mason and Dixon, was better. He appeared on the Simpsons because his son liked the show but wouldn’t do photo ops, instead appearing twice wearing a paper bag.
Writer’s Journal: This week was a wash out as far as writing goes. My time spent researching this blog was about all I did. Hopefully, I will get to some writing today before I drag myself into my half day of work. I say drag literally as I am slowly, very slowly, recuperating from a knee injury and any lengthy walking is a hardship. Next week I will continue on into March, yay, spring month, with another reclusive writer, William Faulkner. He is another writer I have never been able to read, although I’ve tried hard.