Are you ready for Thomas (Screaming Comes Across the Sky) Pynchon on the subject of Sept. 11, 2001? On the one hand, his poetry of paranoia and his grasp of history’s surrealist passages make a perfect fit. Yet his slippery insouciance, his relentless japery, risk being tonally at odds with the subject. Either way, and despite his sensibility’s entrenchment in ’60s Californian hippiedom, Pynchon is a New Yorker, with an intimate license to depict the sulfurous gray plumes and tragic tableaus of that irreconcilable moment: “On the way home she passes the neighborhood firehouse. They’re in working on one of the trucks. . . . She threads among the daily bunches of flowers on the sidewalk, which will be cleared in a while. The list of firefighters here who were lost on 11 September is kept back someplace more intimate, out of the public face, anybody wants to see it they can ask, but sometimes it shows more respect not to put such things out on a billboard. . . . What makes these guys choose to go in, work 24-hour shifts and then keep working, keep throwing themselves into those shaky ruins, torching through steel, bringing people to safety, recovering parts of others, ending up sick, beat up by nightmares, disrespected, dead?”
more from Jonathan Lethem at the NY Times here.