Reading: A Couple-Three Bonzos: "Introduction," Slow Learner and 1984


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A Couple-Three Bonzos: "Introduction," Slow Learner and 1984


Terry Reilly

University of Alaska Fairbanks
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In 1984, teachers, critics and other Pynchon enthusiasts, myself included, greeted Little, Brown's publication of Slow Learner with unbridled joy. No longer would we have to scrounge for these hard-to-find stories in back issues of Cornell Writer and New World Writing, and then burn up copy machines making enough bootleg copies for students and ourselves. Further, Slow Learner included a wonderful introduction in which the enigmatic Mr. Pynchon finally came forth to comment on his own life and work, as we had all hoped he would someday. The first reading of the introduction provided a sense of comfort and gemütlichkeit rarely experienced by critics or professors. Pynchon had surfaced, and we were there. With the publication of Slow Learner, we had the stories (excluding, as many have noted, "Mortality and Mercy in Vienna"); moreover, the introduction provided answers to many vexing questions about them: To what extent did Pynchon's stint in the navy influence his writing? How much of "Under the Rose" (or V., for that matter) was derived from Baedeker? And, perhaps most important of all, how much did Pynchon really know about entropy?
How to Cite: Reilly, T., (1999). A Couple-Three Bonzos: "Introduction," Slow Learner and 1984. Pynchon Notes. (44-45), pp.5–13. DOI:
Published on 22 Sep 1999.
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