Abstract

The Crying of Lot 49 was written while the postmodern ethos was developing. The essence of that ethos, which Pynchon helped shape, was the repudiation of modernity's unconditional faith in the inevitability of human betterment through scientific, technological, moral, and cultural advancement, the rejection of modernity's penchant for sweeping totalizations, particularly about right versus wrong and good versus evil, the refutation of modernity's scrupulous separation of fact from fiction, and its disavowal of modernity's cultural elitism. In the present essay I argue that The Crying of Lot 49 influenced the postmodern American art of the 1980s, specifically that of Robert Longo, David Salle, Eric Fischl, and Keith Haring, which in turn influenced Pynchon's shift to late-postmodernist stylistics in Against the Day. Whereas the ethos underlying The Crying of Lot 49 is onerous, the stylistics inspired by that ethos render Against the Day relatively light-hearted. Not only is style in itself more light-hearted than revisiting historical trauma, but Pynchon's era benefited by the abating fear of total nuclear destruction and scientists' shift from concern for the increasing thermodynamic entropy of the solar system to the celebration of decreasing entropy at the worldly level.

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