The Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

It's Just Lunch....or IS IT??

Monday, November 14, 2005

I sport wood every time I see Thomas Pynchon's name

The Revolution is Not a Dinner Party's irregular heckler JTB often derides Thomas Pynchon's confused masterpiece Vineland. Apparently some librarian in New Mexico agrees. The above link, which will expire in 5 days, is what passes for "news" these days at the not-so-grey-anymore lady. It is about a couple from Los Alamos who recently purchased the entire Penguin Classics library to replace their home library which was burned because they decided to live in a tinderbox.


So where did she start? "I ran my finger along the shelves, closed my eyes and stopped on one," Ms. Gursky said, sitting in an overstuffed chair in her new library, 31 rows of great literature looming behind her.
She picked "Herland," a feminist utopian novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a great-niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe, combined in one Penguin volume with Gilman's short fiction and poetry. "I had never heard of her before," Ms. Gursky said. "But that is one of the joys of this collection. It takes you places where you wouldn't have otherwise gone."

Since then, by similarly traipsing along the edge of her bookshelves or by following a reference to one classic made in the introduction to another, Ms. Gursky has wound her way through "The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" and three other books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Soon to follow were "Vineland" by Thomas Pynchon ("Boy, that was weird," she said) and "The Virginian" by Owen Wister. She picked up "The Riddle of the Sands," by Erskine Childers, which she said she had listened to "hundreds of times" on tape but had never seen in print, but noticed that near Childers on the shelf were four books by Kate Chopin, who was unfamiliar, so Ms. Gursky started on Chopin's "Bayou Folk and a Night in Acadie."


A couple points.... 1) Kate Chopin's name brings back memories of some fun discussions in 11th grade AP English. This is where I learned the wonderful word "ennui." 2) The Revolution is Not a Dinner Party is partial the Penguin's Great Books of the 20th Century collection, which straddles the line between paperback and hardcover in a very elegant and pomo way. 3) JTB (proud antiquarian and leader of the Graham Green revival club) should join the modern age. And, no, by "modern" I don't mean the post-911 revival of moralization and finger wagging.


At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm shocked there are only 1,081 books better than "Vineland." Did "V" make the list, or had the fumes the listmaker was obviously inhaling consumed him by then?

What was the crucial cut-off point between books #1,082 and #1,083? What obvious drop off in quality separates those two books?



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