Thomas Pynchon and the Romance of Books

Ron Rosenbaum posts about the upcoming party for Thomas Pynchon’s new novel here, reflecting on the author’s career, and on his own curious prescience in forecasting that Pynchon’s last novel, “Mason and Dixon,” would be concerned with the famed surveyors’ attempt to measure the Transit of Venus.   I’m still curious about Pynchon, as I wrote here, but I dug Rosenbaum’s post mostly for this evocation of Manhattan bookstore culture:

I still want to know what’s going on in (Pynchon’s) mind and I like to run into people who feel the same way. Among literary enthusiasts Pynchonians are the sort I feel a kinship with even if I don’t necessarily think of myself as a Pynch-olator, so to speak.

In any case what set off this chain of thought was a recent breakfast with my girlfriend at another East Village landmark, Veselka, the still-fabulous Polish-Ukrainian coffee shop, followed by a visit to browse St. Marks Bookshop which I make a practice of doing every couple of weeks. I’ve loved this store ever since I came to New York and found it back when it was actually located on St. Marks Place on the funky day-glo gritty-hippy stretch between Second and Third Avenues. It’s now no longer exactly on St. Marks Place, it’s now a few steps away on the corner of 9th Street and Third Avenue. In a clean, well lighted, less Dickensian space. But still the same vibe, the vast unexpected eclectic selection of the the wayward, difficult and arcane. (And that goes for the books too). One of the last refuges of authentic intellectual Bohemian New York life.

st-marks-bookshop.jpgAnyway in the tiny vestibutle of the new store there’s a compressed remnant of the old St. Marks Street Bohemian vibe: a notice board leaved in multiple layers of announcmeents of anarchist performance art, madman poetry readings, experimental non-verbal theater workshops, appearances by mystics and prophets, and the like. But the big news this time was a poster by the bookshop itself—for the Pynchon release party. The store would stay open past midnight on Monday night so that—at the stroke of Tuesday, the official release date for Against the Day—it could start selling Against the Day ON the day.

Such a great idea! Obviously the deadline is arbitrary and has probably already been broken. But waiting til midnight is both celebratory and respectful. It’s an event, an attitude that reminds me again how much I like New York, how much I like Downtown New York and the spirit of the bookish Old Bohos that haunt it, how much I like St. Marks Bookshop…. And how much I like the idea that there is a community of Pynchonites who are likely to show up for the midnight release party.


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