Sean Carswell at The Millions:
There’s a dirty secret tucked away in Thomas Pynchon’s novels, and it’s this: beyond all the postmodernism and paranoia, the anarchism and socialism, the investigations into global power, the forays into labor politics and feminism and critical race theory, the rocket science, the fourth-dimensional mathematics, the philatelic conspiracies, the ’60s radicalism and everything else that has spawned 70 or 80 monographs, probably twice as many dissertations, and hundreds if not thousands of scholarly essays, his novels are full of cheesy love stories.
Personally, I like the cheesy love stories. If reading a Pynchon novel is like running a marathon, then the love stories are the little gooey snacks that you pick up at aid stations. You could probably finish the run or the novel without the gooey parts, but having them raises your spirits and gives you the energy to cruise to the end. Still, I know the love stories are dirty secrets because I spend an inordinate amount of time in the world of Pynchon studies. I’ve read through mountains of work on his novels. I’ve written one of the aforementioned dissertations, a few of the essays, and one of the monographs. I’ve presented papers on Pynchon at academic conferences. I regularly teach a semester-long class on Pynchon. I hang out sometimes with other Pynchon scholars. And I notice that the love stories are never discussed openly. We get together after class, we gather in conference break rooms, we share a beer and confide in each other. We say things like, “I think Maxine and Horst make a better divorced couple than they do a married one” and “I’m so happy that Kit and Dahlia finally got together. I sure hope it works out.” We talk of characters as if they’re real people, and we talk about ourselves as if we’re characters. But we never write about the love stories.