Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon brings us to New York in the early days of the internet
It is 2001 in New York City, in the lull between the collapse of the dot-com boom and the terrible events of September 11th. Silicon Alley is a ghost town, Web 1.0 is having adolescent angst, Google has yet to IPO, Microsoft is still considered the Evil Empire. There may not be quite as much money around as there was at the height of the tech bubble, but there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left.
Maxine Tarnow is running a nice little fraud investigation business on the Upper West Side, chasing down different kinds of small-scale con artists. She used to be legally certified but her license got pulled a while back, which has actually turned out to be a blessing because now she can follow her own code of ethics—carry a Beretta, do business with sleazebags, hack into people’s bank accounts—without having too much guilt about any of it. Otherwise, just your average working mom—two boys in elementary school, an off-and-on situation with her sort of semi-ex-husband Horst, life as normal as it ever gets in the neighborhood—till Maxine starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO, whereupon things begin rapidly to jam onto the subway and head downtown. She soon finds herself mixed up with a drug runner in an art deco motorboat, a professional nose obsessed with Hitler’s aftershave, a neoliberal enforcer with footwear issues, plus elements of the Russian mob and various bloggers, hackers, code monkeys, and entrepreneurs, some of whom begin to show up mysteriously dead. Foul play, of course.
With occasional excursions into the DeepWeb and out to Long Island, Thomas Pynchon, channeling his inner Jewish mother, brings us a historical romance of New York in the early days of the internet, not that distant in calendar time but galactically remote from where we’ve journeyed to since.
Will perpetrators be revealed, forget about brought to justice? Will Maxine have to take the handgun out of her purse? Will she and Horst get back together? Will Jerry Seinfeld make an unscheduled guest appearance? Will accounts secular and karmic be brought into balance?
Hey. Who wants to know?
Thomas Pynchon is the famously reclusive author of Gravity’s Rainbow, V, The Crying Of Lot 59, and a long list of other works. In a brilliant coup, he sent Professor Irwin Corey, the double talking comedian (‘Wherever you go, there you are’) to stand in for him when given the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow.
Spermatikos Logos, V is for Vaudeville - Professor Irwin Corey
Professor Irwin Corey’s Pynchon connection is apocryphal. Here’s how it is described by famous New York writer and newspaper columnist Jim Knipfel:
One of Corey’s most notorious public appearances came on April 18, 1974, when he showed up at Alice Tully Hall to accept the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow on behalf of Thomas Pynchon.
'Thomas Guinzberg [of the Viking Press] first suggested the idea,' he says, 'and Pynchon approved it.'
So, after being mis-introduced (as ‘Robert Corey’), the little man with the wild hair and the rumpled suit walked to the podium and addressed some of the most esteemed figures in American publishing and literature:
'However…I accept this financial stipulation–ah–stipend in behalf of Richard Python for the great contribution which to quote from some of the missiles which he has contributed… Today we must all be aware that protocol takes precedence over procedure. However you say–WHAT THE–what does this mean…in relation to the tabulation whereby we must once again realize that the great fiction story is now being rehearsed before our very eyes, in the Nixon administration…indicating that only an American writer can receive…the award for fiction, unlike Solzinitski whose fiction does not hold water.
Comrades–friends, we are gathered here not only to accept in behalf of one recluse–one who has found that the world in itself which seems to be a time not of the toad–to quote Studs TurKAL. And many people ask ‘Who are Studs TurKAL?’ It’s not ‘Who are Studs TurKAL?’ it’s ‘Who AM Studs TurKAL?’…’
Totally awesome goof.