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The Crying of Lot 49: Her Errand Into the Wilderness
One of the central themes touched upon in Pierre-Yves Petillon's Essay, "A Re-cognition of Her Errand Into the Wilderness," is the general sense of awakening one feels when he reads Thos Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. Petillon begins his essay by expressing the opinion that "it is rather odd that The Crying of Lot 49, a slim novella should have become an overnight classic (O'Donnell, p.127)." What at first seemed like a typical piece expounding the virtues of LSD, turned out to have much more under the surface than a first reading would reveal. "Here was another 'groovy' sample of the emergent psychedelic scene: om, sweet om, O(edipa) M(ass) and her Lonely Hearts Club Band (O'Donnell, p. 128)." Petillon touches upon the book's power beautifully by realizing that "its 'mood' grows upon you with each reading (O'Donnell, p. 129)."
Born in the Late 1930's, Thomas Pynchon "came of age during 'the Eisenhower Siesta,' when everything had, it seemed, slowed to a sudden standstill (O'Donnell, p. 135)." Petillon then relates Lot 49 to Jack Kerouacs On The Road, by telling of their simultaneous "sense of 'blooming,' as if awakening from a long sleep (O'Donnell, p. 130)." He also points out that both Kerouac's and Pynchon's main characters (Kerouac's being himself, and Pynchon's being Oedipa Maas), both move further and further into an "invisible, hidden America (O'Donnell, p. 130)."
I believe the one thing Petillon has failed to mention adequately, though, is the fact that the reader never gets a sense of their surroundings. When awakening from a long sleep, one usually ends up with a general awareness and clarity as to what is going on around him. However, with The Crying of Lot 49, you come to end of the story, or the end of the awakening if you will, only to find that you have slipped further into a dream.
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O'Donnell, Patrick (Editor). (1991). New Essays On The Crying of Lot 49: "A Re-cognition of Her Errand into the Wilderness,"
by Pierre-Yves Petillon. Cambridge University Press, NY.