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Knopfler Kronicles Part 7: THOMAS PYNCHON AND MASON & DIXON

Norman Warwick

compares and contrasts the fact and fiction about

Knopfler Kronicles Part 7


Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. (left) commonly /ˈpɪnˌtʃən/ PINCH-in;[3] born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist noted for his dense and complex novels. His fiction and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, genres and themes, which include historymusicscience, and mathematics. For Gravity’s Rainbow, Pynchon won the 1973 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.

Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon served two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known: V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), and Gravity’s Rainbow (1973). Rumors of a historical novel about Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon had circulated as early as the 1980s; the novel, Mason & Dixon, was published in 1997. His 2009 novel Inherent Vice was adapted into a feature film of the same name by Paul Thomas Anderson in 2014. Pynchon is notoriously reclusive from the media; few photographs of him have been published, and rumors about his location and identity have circulated since the 1960s, although he did voice himself on two episodes of The Simpsons. Pynchon’s most recent novel, Bleeding Edge, was published on September 17, 2013.

Thomas Pynchon was born on May 8, 1937, in Glen CoveLong Island, New York, one of three children of engineer and politician Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Sr. (1907–1995) and Katherine Frances Bennett (1909–1996), a nurse. His earliest American ancestor, William Pynchon, emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, then became the founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1636, and thereafter a long line of Pynchon descendants found wealth and repute on American soil. Aspects of Pynchon’s ancestry and family background have partially inspired his fiction writing, particularly in the Slothrop family histories related in the short story “The Secret Integration” (1964) and Gravity’s Rainbow (1973). During his childhood, Pynchon alternately attended Episcopal services with his father and Roman Catholic services with his mother

The meticulously researched novel is a sprawling postmodernist saga recounting the lives and careers of the English astronomer Charles Mason and his partner, the surveyor Jeremiah Dixon, the surveyors of the Mason–Dixon line, during the birth of the American Republic. The dust jacket notes that it features appearances from George WashingtonBenjamin FranklinSamuel Johnson and a talking dog. Some commentators acknowledged it as a welcome return to form; T. C. Boyle called it “the old Pynchon, the true Pynchon, the best Pynchon of all” and “a book of heart and fire and genius.”Michiko Kakutani called Mason and Dixon Pynchon’s most human characters, writing that they “become fully fleshed-out people, their feelings, hopes and yearnings made as palpably real as their outrageously comic high jinks.”[59] The American critic Harold Bloom hailed the novel as Pynchon’s “masterpiece to date”. Bloom named Pynchon as one of the four major American novelists of his time, along with Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth and Don DeLillo.

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