Authors Reveal Their Thomas Pynchon Conspiracy Theories
The most notorious literary recluse now living (at least, as far as we know) may be Thomas Pynchon, the famously hermetic author of "Gravity's Rainbow," "The Crying of Lot 49" and, most recently, "Bleeding Edge." Pynchon's appearances have been exceedingly limited--we heard his voice in an episode of "The Simpsons," and author Salman Rushdie, who claims to have dined with Pynchon in the 1990s, says Pynchon "wears lumberjack shirts and blue jeans" (a clever disguise if we've ever heard one). To get to the bottom of the mystery, we asked authors about their Thomas Pynchon conspiracy theories. Airline pilot? Drug smuggler? Secretly J.D. Salinger? Read on, and leave your own theories in the comments.
An airline pilot. Probably for American. Or maybe Jet Blue, since the name would please him. He loves the uniform, the faux military vibe. The hat just kills him, and he wears his smile like an ironic salute. Captain Pynchon. He's been flying the New York-Miami route for years now, though in his younger days, he anchored the Los Angeles-Mexico City run. He loves the technical precision of takeoffs and landings; following the invisible line across the sky; being one with the instruments. Autopilot is for deep thinking. He often thinks people underestimate the importance of speed and the angle of attack. His hero is Howard Hughes. He will apologize for the turbulence though secretly he enjoys these stochastic principles in action. He has a fantasy of flying to the moon, of angling the nose toward the Oceanus Procellarum and going until going no further. This he wisely keeps secret. Just like all his books. But when he stands by the cockpit door and says his goodbyes, his "thanks-for-flying," he thinks, "You have no idea where I almost took you." And all you notice are his teeth.
Thomas Pynchon would never consider living in Duluth.
Thomas Pynchon is not a sandwich guy.
Thomas Pynchon does not want to talk with you about post-post-modernism, low culture, your mother, his mother or your kale and truffle quiche recipe.
You want to know what Thomas Pynchon does do? Here he is at his desk, his skin still hot from a bath. In front of him is a pile of unwanted catalogues, which he stuffs into manila envelopes. Thomas Pynchon affixes the appropriate postage. He has enough money and doesn't miss the few dollars it costs him to let these particular companies know that Thomas Pynchon does not require any new rugs, any lighting solutions, any white coffee tables pictured with springer spaniels sleeping in monogrammed dog beds.
Thomas Pynchon writes a few paragraphs and then deletes them.
Thomas Pynchon wonders if he should add more calcium to his diet.
Thomas Pynchon is sick of this wind.
Rand Corp Case DX3CJR-7: During a period when he worked as a merchant marine, Subject Pynchon reportedly became embroiled in a major marijuana smuggling operation down near the port city of Mazatlan. This was not a bale or two tucked into a VW microbus, it was a full freighter, registered with forged papers from Argentina and stuffed to the gills with primo Panama Red. Applying some of the gaming strategies he had mastered studying chess under Professor Nabokov ("Ah, so you have me again" Vladimir would mutter, sitting beside his Vera, who would not even bother looking up from grading undergrad papers), the young, brash and adventurous Subject Pynchon--using the alias "Carlos Danger"--managed to outmaneuver the criminal mastermind behind the operation, one Miguel San Miguel. Discovering the theft, the drug king chased down the Subject's trail until he stumbled across one Carlos Castaneda, a young aspiring writer and an acquaintance of Subject Pynchon's. In a case of mistaken identity, Miguel kidnapped and interrogated the wrong Carlos for weeks, force-feeding him a steady diet of psilocybin mushrooms and plata tequila in a futile attempt to find the whereabouts of the freighter. Returning from sea, Subject Pynchon learned of his friend's capture, almost too late for Castaneda, who at this point was almost completely lost in a complex dreamscape of hallucinogenic mythology. The Subject Pynchon's daring rescue of his friend ended in a big fist fight with Miguel, reportedly involving not just punches, karate chops and complex Mexican wrestling moves, but also hair pulling, biting and the pulling of underwear. Finally gaining the upper hand, Subject Pynchon resisted the urge to kill Miguel San Miguel and, instead, graciously spared his antagonist's life. The ungrateful Miguel San Miguel, left exhausted and bloody in the dust, was recorded to have said many terrible things in Spanish, the rough translation of which was "If I ever see you again Mister you are in some very big trouble. I seriously mean it." Which is why the Subject Pynchon was never ever seen again. Nor, for that matter, was the Argentinean freighter filled with marijuana. Which perhaps accounts for how the Subject Pynchon has managed to live so comfortably for so long on a literary novelist's salary.
Thomas Pynchon is really J.D. SALINGER. But here's the thing: J.D. Salinger is really ME. But there's more: I am really A ROBOT CREATED TO PRODUCE SHORT, SEMI-FUNNY RESPONSES TO GROUP QUESTIONS IN A FUTILE EFFORT TO BOOST MY BOOK SALES.
David Gilbert is the author of the story collection "Remote Feed" and the novels "The Normals" and "& Sons." His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, GQ and Bomb. He lives in New York with his wife and three children.
Ramona Ausubel is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of California, Irvine where she received the Glenn Schaeffer Award in Fiction. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, One Story, The Paris Review, Best American Fantasy and elsewhere, and have received special mentions in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Non-Required Reading. "No One is Here Except All of Us" was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice and named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Huffington Post.
Teddy Wayne, the author of "The Love Song of Jonny Valentine" and "Kapitoil," is the winner of a 2011 Whiting Writers' Award and a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, PEN/Bingham Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He writes regularly for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, McSweeney's and elsewhere. He lives in New York.