The Romance of the '60s: Self, Community and the Ethical in The Crying of Lot 49



Thomas Pynchon's literary production resides almost entirely within the imaginative dimension of romance, where the everyday is brought into close contact with what is wholly other and ordinary characters become protagonists of the romantic quest, confronting mysterious powers which threaten to take control of their lives. Romance permeates the life of consumer capitalism. Pynchon envisions the true democratization of artistic modernism, in which ordinary citizens–the engineer, the investor, the disk jockey and the housewife–all trapped in suburban solipsism, are driven to develop individual and fantastically elaborate schemes of power and transcendence. Comic reconciliation, in which these many quests might fold into one, is unthinkable. The society which could confirm its identity by such means seems to have disappeared. What remains is a vast productive system integrating its members according to a logic of its own, a logic which from the point of view of the individual appears alien and manipulative. The Crying of Lot 49 is a late version of the quest-romance and an immanent critique of its form, measured against the historical situation of the mid-1960s with its special imaginative possibilities and limits.


How to Cite: Farrell, J. (1992) “The Romance of the '60s: Self, Community and the Ethical in The Crying of Lot 49”, Pynchon Notes.(0). doi: