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Literary Novels - The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon - YANAPOP by John Argo

You'll Love It: Best Novel in Years.

Start Free Reading: click to start readingYANAPOP is the name of a fictional media conglomerate in Los Angeles. The acronym stands for Young Adult New Adult Participating Older Persons.

Our hero, young writer Martin Brown, age 21, meets the angel of his dreams, Chloë Setreal (also 21) at a job fair. No sooner has he returned to San Diego, than Chloë phones and says she needs him. Martin hops in his car, glad for an excuse to see her again. What should be a quiet two hour drive along the Pacific coast becomes an epic adventure that will leave you almost as terrified and breathless as Martin. This imaginative saga rivals any wild story written in human history—trust me.

Odyssey. Like Homer's Ulysses in the Odyssey, Martin seeks to be with Chloë. He has many terrifying and mad adventures along the way. It happens that Thomnas Pynchon also gave his heroine (a female Odysseos or Odysseia?) a Classical sounding name: Oedipa.

Short Novels. I have observed that some of the best (often most passionate) work of many novelists seems to be their shortest and often youngest work. That includes The Great Gatsby, which F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his early twenties. That's a novel, coincidentally, that most of us were forced to read in high school; I recall having a crush on Jordan, and was enthralled by the blowing curtains; but I would advise you to re-read The Great Gatsby later in life, because it's a very different experience (the only good guy in the novel is Gatsby, whose name is a take-off on 'gat' meaning gun, as in gangster; which was a popular idiom at the time referring to Gatling's rat-a-tat gizmo of Civil War fame.

Similarly, Goethe is best remembered for his epic poem Faust (which I have translated from German into English and plan to publish some time soon); but Goethe's star rose to greatest fame when he was 24. Goethe was recovering from a painful rejection at love by a young woman named Charlotte. The result was one of the biggest smash hits in literary history: The Sorrows of Young Werther. The novel created a rage among Goethe's generation, with many young men dressing and acting like the jilted, melancholy young lover Werther, and in fact many ending their lives with a similar pistol shot to the head as Goethe's hero. I could go on, but you get the idea— and the melancholia of hormone-revved youth speaks for itself in every generation.

Melancholia and Humor. At some level, Pynchon's love story is a darkly comedic journey in search of the unknown instead of a home like that Odysseus thought he would find upon his return to Ithaca after many trials at sea. That's Ithaca in the Pelopponese region of Hellas, some 27 centuries ago or more; not New York State any time lately. Pynchon's novel employs some clever faux history, notably regarding the Thurn und Taxis (zillionaire) family and their private postal system, as well as a very imaginative literary investigation into a dark and scary play centuries ago involving lost legions of soldiers. But also Pynchon's "air-conditioned nightmare," as one critic described it, eerily foreshadows the digital age at its darkest moments.

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