Not Quite so Crazy After all These Years: Pynchon's Creative Engineer



Critics have not usually been very flattering in their judgment of John Nefastis, the inventor of the Maxwell's Demon machine in The Crying of Lot 49. Edward Mendelson thinks his science is "unbalanced," and regards "the whole effect" of Nefastis's description of his machine as "one of Blavatskian mumbo-jumbo" (Sacred 126, 129). Tony Tanner dismisses Nefastis as "a lunatic" who believes in "a crazy fantasy of his own making" (184). Katherine Hayles describes Nefastis's machine as "a demonic version of the two-cycle engine that drives the novel," and as "a demented attempt to escape universal heat death" (112, 113). Others draw attention to the implications of his name: "unholy, unclean, abominable" (Palmeri 982); "unspeakable to the gods" (Nicholson 101); "perhaps 'nefarious': … evil or impious" (Abernethy 25). Frank Palmeri also rather unkindly suggests that Nefastis's crewcut and Polynesian shirt identify him immediately as an "unmistakable science nerd" (982). Certainly the engineer's reference to "young stuff" and his inappropriate assumption that Oedipa is sexually available do not indicate a highly evolved consciousness.


How to Cite: Grant, J. K. (1991) “Not Quite so Crazy After all These Years: Pynchon's Creative Engineer”, Pynchon Notes.(0). doi: