Uncollected works, p.1

Uncollected Works, page 1


Uncollected Works

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Uncollected Works

  Uncollected Works of Thomas Pynchon

  Created by antimist 12/05/14


  Uncollected Fiction

  Mortality and Mercy in Vienna

  From Cornell University’s Spring 1959 Epoch, this is one of Pynchon’s first short stories.

  Voice of the Hamster

  A fiction serialized in four issues of Pynchon’s high school newspaper, the Oyster Bay High School Purple and Gold, in 1952-53.

  The Boys

  Another piece from Pynchon’s high school newspaper. A short, humorous piece on Pynchon’s band of high school chums, a shadowy group whose secret membership is finally revealed when they are photographed for the first time...!

  Ye Legend of Sir Stupid and the Purple Knight

  Another piece from Pynchon’s high school newspaper. A short Arthurian parody.


  A Journey Into the Mind of Watts

  The New York Times Magazine, 12 June 1966. This article is a psychological profile of the Watts neighbourhood of L.A. and the racial tensions that gave rise to the infamous riots.

  Is it O.K. to Be a Luddite?

  The New York Times Book Review, 28 October 1984. This essay discusses the history of the Luddite movement and the many ways it has resurfaced throughout the years.

  Nearer, My Couch, to Thee

  The New York Times Book Review, 6 June 1993. This essay, part of their “Seven Deadly Sins” serial, focuses on Sloth.


  The Gift

  Reprinted from Holiday, December 1965, this is a review of Oakley Hall’s western, Warlock. (Pynchon was asked to select a favorite “neglected” book.)

  The Heart’s Eternal Vow

  The New York Times 10 April 1988, this is a long and compassionate review of Gabriel García Márquez’s “shining and heartbreaking” novel, Love in the Time of Cholera.


  Introduction to Fariña

  An introduction to his friend Richard Fariña’s 1966 novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.

  Barthelme Introduction

  The introductory essay from The Writings of Donald Barthelme

  Introduction to 1984, George Orwell

  For their “Orwell Centennial” editions, Plume asked Thomas Pynchon to pen a new foreword to 1984. The result is an insightful look at Orwell’s contemporary mindset, the Orwellian methods that modern governments use to maintain control, and the possible optimism found in the novel’s oft-neglected appendices.

  Uncollected Fiction

  Mortality and Mercy in Vienna

  Epoch (Cornell University) Spring 1959, Vol IX, No. 4

  By Tom Pynchon

  Just as Siegel got to the address Rachel had given him it started to rain again. All day rain clouds had hung low and ragged-edged over Washington, ruining the view from the top of the Monument for the high-school kids on their senior trips, sending brief squalls which drove tourists squealing and cursing in to find shelter, dulling the delicate pink of the cherry blossoms shich had just come out. The address was a small apartment building on a quiet street near Dupont Circle, and Siegel dove into the lobby, in out of the rain, clutching the fifth of scotch he was carrying as if it were a state secret. There had been times—during the past year, in the Avenue Kleber or the Viale delle Terme di Caracalla—where there had been a brief case where the fifth was now, clutched under the same tweed-clad arm against rain or a deadline or some bureaucratic necessity. And most of these times, especially if he were hung over from the night before, or if a girl fellow junior diplomats had sworn was a sure thing had turned out to be so much more than sure that in the end it had not been worth even the price of drinks, he would shake his head like a drunk who is trying to stop seeing double, having become suddenly conscious of the weight of the briefcase and the insignificance of its contents and the stupidity of what he was doing out here, away from Rachel, following an obscure but clearly-marked path through a jungle of distrainments and affadavits and depositions; wondering why, in his first days with the Commission, he should have ever regarded himself as any kind of healer when he had always known that for a healer—a prophet actually, because if you cared about it at all you had to be both—there is no question of balance sheets or legal complexity, and the minute you become involved with anything like that you are something less; a doctor, or a fortune-teller. When he was thirteen, a little less than a month after his bar mitzvah, his cousin Miriam had died of cancer and perhaps it was then—sitting shivah on an orange crate in a darkened room high over the Grand Concourse, gaunt and looking a little like a John Buchan hero even at thirteen, gazing fixedly at the symbolic razor slash halfway up his black necktie that this awareness had begun to grow, because he still remembered Miriam’s husband cursing Zeit the doctor, and the money wasted on the operations, and the whole AMA, crying unashamed in this dim hot room with the drawn shades; and it had so disquieted young Siegel that when his brother Mike had gone away to Yale to take pre-med he had been afraid that something would go wrong and that Mike whom he loved would turn out to be only a doctor, like Zeit, and be cursed someday too by a distraught husband in rent garments, in a twilit bedroom. He would stand, therefore, out in some street, not moving, hanging on to the briefcase and thinking about Rachel who was 4’ 10” in her stocking feet, whose neck was pale and sleek, a Modigliani neck, whose eyes were not mirror images but both slanted the same way, dark brown almost to fathomlessness, and after awhile he would drift up to the surface again and be annoyed with himself for worrying about these things when the data inside the briefcase should have been at the office fifteen minutes ago; and realize, reluctantly, that the racing against time, the awareness of being a cog, the élan—almost roguery—of the playboy element in the Commission which went well with his British staff officer appearance—even the intradepartmental scheming and counterscheming which went on in jazz cellars at two in the morning, in pensions over brandy and soda, were, after all, exciting. It was only when he forgot to take vitamin-B pills the night before to ward off a hangover that these funky periods would come at all. Most of the time the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Siegel would assert himself and then he would look on the funky days as only brief aberrations. Because when you came down to it it was fun to manoeuvre. In the army he had lived by a golden rule of Screw the Sergeant before He Screweth Thee; later in college he had forged meal tickets, instigated protest riots and panty raids, manipulated campus opinion through the school newspaper; and this was the part of him inherited from a mother who at the age of 19 had struggled with her soul one night in a railroad flat somewhere in Hell’s Kitchen and, half-drunk on bootleg beer, had ended up refuting Aquinas and quitting the Roman church; who would grin fondly at her husband and refer to him as an innocent slob who never had a chance against her female cunning, and advise Seigel never to marry a shiksa but to find himself some nice quiet Jewish girl because at least there you were given a running start. For this his roommate at college sophomore year had called him Stephen and taunted him mercilessly about the still small Jesuit voice which kept him from being either kicked around or conscious of guilt or simply ineffective like so many of the other Jewish boys on campus seemed to Grossmann to be. “Also, Grossmann,” Siegel had retorted, “it perhaps saves me from being a schmuck like you.” Grossmann would laugh and stick his nose back in a textbook. “It is the seed of your destruction,” he would murmur. “House divided against itself? You know.” Well, here he was, 30 and on the way to becoming a career man, and not particularly aware of destruction mainly because he was unable to give it a name or a face, unless they were Rachel’s and this he doubted. With the bottle under his arm he climbed up two flights of stairs, the few raindrops which had caught him gl
istening in the shaggy tangle of his tweed coat. He hoped she had said sevenish—he was pretty sure but it would be awkward if he arrived too early. He rang the buzzer in front of a door that said 3F and waited. It seemed to be quiet inside and he was just beginning to wonder if maybe she hadn’t said eightish when the door opened and a wild-looking, rangy man with fierce eyebrows, wearing a tweed coat and carrying what looked like a pig foetus under one arm, stood staring at him, an empty room behind him, and Siegel, annoyed, realized he had goofed and that 30 years was a long time and that this might be a first indication of senility. They faced each other like slightly flawed mirror images—different patterns of tweed, scotch bottle and pig foetus but no discrepancy in height—with Siegel experiencing a mixed feeling of discomfort and awe, and the word Doppelgänger had just floated into his mind when the other’s eyebrows shot up into twin parabolas and he stuck out his free hand and said, “You’re early but come in. I’m David Lupescu.”

  Siegel shook hands, muttering his own name and the spell broke; he looked at the object under Lupescu’s arm and saw that it really was a pig foetus, caught the faint scent of formaldehyde and scratched his head. “I brought some booze” he said. “I’m sorry about this, I’d thought Rachel said seven.” Lupescu smiled vaguely and closed the door behind him. “Don’t worry about it,” he said, “I’ve got to put this thing someplace.” He motioned Siegel to a seat and picked up an old-fashioned glass from a table, a chair from nearby, dragged the chair to the entrance of what Siegel presumed was the kitchen, stood on the chair, took a thumbtack from his pocket, stuck it through the umbilical cord of the pig foetus and tacked it onto the molding over the entrance, hammering with the bottom of the glass. He jumped down off the chair and above him the foetus swung dangerously. He looked up at it. “I hope it stays there,” he said, and then turned to face Siegel. “Fetching, isn’t it?” Siegel shrugged. “Dada exhibit in Paris on Christmas eve, 1919,” Lupescu said, “used one in place of mistletoe. But ten to one this group won’t even notice it. You know Paul Brennan? He won’t.”

  “I don’t know anybody,” Siegel said, “I’ve been sort of out of touch. I just got back from overseas last week. All the old crowd seems to have drifted away.”

  Lupescu stuck his hands in his pockets and looked around the room, brooding. “I know,” he said grimly. “Big turnover. But the types are constant.” He moved toward the kitchen, glanced in, paced back again to the French windows, then suddenly turned and shot out a forefinger at Siegel. “You,” he almost roared. “Of course. You’re perfect.” He advanced toward Siegel menacingly, stood looming over him. “Good grief,” Siegel said, cowering a little. “Mon semblable,” Lupescu said, “mon frère.” He gazed at Siegel. “A sign,” he said, “a sign, and deliverance.” Siegel could smell alcohol fumes on Lupescu’s breath. “I beg your pardon,” Siegel said. Lupescu began pacing around the room.

  “Only a matter of time,” he said. “Tonight. Of course. Why. Why not. Pig foetus. Symbol. God, what a symbol. And now. Freedom. Deliverance,” he screamed. “Genie. Bottle. Century after century, until Siegel, fisher of souls, pulls the cork.” He began running around the room. “Raincoat,” he said, picking a raincoat up off the sofa, “shaving gear.” He disappeared into the kitchen for a moment, came out with an overnight kit in his hands wearing the raincoat. He paused at the door. “It’s all yours,” he said. “You are now the host. As host you are a trinity: (a) receiver of guests”—ticking them off on his fingers—“(b) an enemy and (c) an outward manifestation, for them, of the divine body and blood.”

  “Wait a minute,” Siegel said, “where the hell are you going?”

  “The outside,” Lupescu said, “out of the jungle.”

  “But look, hey, I can’t make this. I don’t know any of these people.”

  “All part of it,” Lupescu said airily. “You’ll pick it up fast enough,” and was through the door and out before Siegel could think of an answer. Ten seconds later the door opened again and Lupescu stuck his head in and winked. “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” he announced owlishly and disappeared. Siegel sat staring at the foetus. “Well now, what the hell,” he said slowly. He stood up and strolled across the room to where the phone was and dialed Rachel’s number. When she answered he said, “Fine friends you have.”

  “Where are you?” she said. “I just got back.” Siegel explained. “Well I’m glad you called,” Rachel said. “I called your place and you weren’t in. I wanted to tell you, Sally’s brother-in-law’s sister, a winsome little brat of fourteen, just blew into town from some girls’ school in Virginia and Sally is out with Jeff so Iv’e got to stay here and entertain her till Sally gets back, and by the time I’m able to get away the liquor will be all gone: I know Lupescu’s parties.”

  “Oh for god’s sake,” Siegel said irritably, “this is ridiculous. If Lupescu’s friends are anything like him this place is about to be invaded by a horde of raving lunatics, none of whom I know. And now you’re not even coming.”

  “Oh it’s a nice crowd,” she said. “ A little curious maybe but I think you’ll like them. You ought to stay.” The door was suddenly and violently kicked open and through it lurched a fat florid adolescent in a sailor suit, carrying a girl piggy-back. “Lewpayskew,” the sailor shouted. “Whay aw yew, yew mothuhlovin Roumanian.”

  “Hold on,” Siegel said. “What was that again,” he asked the sailor, who had deposited his passenger on the floor. “Mayun ah said whay’s Lewpayskew,” the sailor said. “God,” he babbled into the phone, “they’re coming, they’re filtering in already. What do I do, Rachel, they can’t even talk English. There is some nautical looking type here who is speaking no language known to man.”

  “Darling,” Rachel laughed, “stop acting like a war flick. That’s probably only Harvey Duckworth, who comes from Alabama and has a charming southern accent. You’ll get along wonderfully, I know you will. Call me tomorrow and let me know everything that has happened.”

  “Wait,” Siegel said desperately, but she had already said “Bye-bye,” and hung up. He stood there holding the dead receiver. Harvey Duckworth was stomping around in the other rooms, yelling for Lupescu; and the girl, who was very young and had long black hair and big hoop earrings and was wearing a sweatshirt and levis—who seemed to Siegel a perfect parody of the girl bohemian of the Forties—stood up and looked at Siegel. “I want to go to bed with you,” she intoned dramatically and all at once Siegel cheered up. He put the receiver back on the hook and smiled. “I’m sorry,” he said suavely, “but statutory rape and all that, you know. Can I get you a drink?”

  He went into the kitchen without waiting for an answer and found Duckworth sitting on the sink trying to open a wine bottle. The cork popped out suddenly and the bottle slipped and Chianti splashed all over Duckworth’s whites. “Gaw damn,” Duckworth said, staring at the purple stain. “Mizzable Guineas can’t even make wahn bottles raht.” The buzzer rang and Siegel called, “Get that would you, beautiful,” and picked the Chianti bottle up off the floor. “Still some more,” he said cheerfully. He was beginning to feel jovial, irresponsibly so; a lightheadedness which he realized might be one of the first stages of hysteria but which he rather hoped was some vestige of the old nonchalance which had sustained him on the Continent for the past two years. In the other room he heard what sounded like a chorus of roaring boys, chanting dirty limericks. The girl came in and said, “My god, it’s Brennan and his friends.”

  “Oh goodo,” Siegel said. “They seem to be in fine voice.” Indeed, they were. In his suddenly amiable state it seemed to Siegel that this account of the young fellow named Cheever who had an affair with a beaver took on Deeper Human Significance, was gilded with a certain transcendental light which reminded him of that final trio from Faust, where the golden stairs come down and Margarethe ascends to heaven. “Really lovely,” he mused. The girl looked with disgust at Duckworth and then smiled brightly at Siegel. “By the way,” she said, “I’m Lucy.”

Hi,” Siegel said. “My name is Cleanth but my friends call me Siegel, out of pity.”

  “Where’s David anyway. I ought to give him hell for inviting that oaf Brennan.”

  Siegel pursed his lips. Hell, this was impossible. He had to trust somebody. He took her hand and led her into the bedroom and sat her down on a bed. “No,” he said quickly. “Not what you’re thinking.” He told her about Lupescu’s sudden departure and she shrugged and said, “Maybe it was a good thing. He would have cracked sooner or later, he was going native.”

  “That’s a strange way to put it,” Siegel said. After all, going native in Washington, D.C.? In more exotic places, certainly, he had seen that. He remembered a Peter Arno cartoon in the New Yorker he had always liked, showing a girl in Apache costume, sitting on the lap of a depraved-looking Frenchman in a sidewalk cafe; and the girl’s friend, obviously an American tourist, armed with camera, shoulder-bag and guidebook, saying, with a scandalized expression, “But Mary Lou, you mean you’re not going back to Bryn Mawr, ever?” Still, stranger things had happened. In the two semesters he spent at Harvard Siegel had witnessed the gradual degeneration of his roommate Grossmann, a proud and stubborn native of Chicago who denied the presence of any civilization outside of Cook County and for whom Boston was worse even than Oak Park, was in fact, a sort of apotheosis of the effete and the puritan. Grossmann had remained unmarred, majestically sneering, happy-go-lucky, until one Christmas eve he and Siegel and some friends and a group of Radcliffe girls had gone carolling on Beacon hill.

  Whether it was the booze they had brought along or the fact that Grossmann had just finished reading not only Santayana’s The Last Puritan but also a considerable amount of T. S. Eliot—and so might have been a little more susceptible to tradition in general and to Christmas eve on Beacon hill in particular—or merely the bothersome tendency Grossman had to get sentimental in the company of Radcliffe girls, he had still been touched enough to inform Siegel later on that night that maybe there were a few human beings in Boston after all. And this had been the first tiny rent in that Midwestern hauteur which he had carried up to now as a torero carries his cape; after that night it was all downhill. Grossmann took to strolling in the moonlight with only the most patrician of Radcliffe and Wellesley girls; he discovered a wonderful make-out spot down behind the minuteman statue in Concord; he began carrying a black umbrella and gave away all his loud clothes, substituting flawless and expensive tweeds and worsteds. Siegel was mildly disturbed at all this but it was not until one afternoon in the early spring, when he entered their rooms at Dunster and surprised Grossmann standing in front of the mirror, umbrella under one arm, eyebrows raised superciliously and nose ached loftily, reciting “I parked my car in Harvard yard,” over and over, that he was struck with the extent of his roommate’s dissipation.

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