September 12, 1996
Johnstone, John. "Toward the Schizo-Text: Paranoia as Semiotic Regime in The Crying of Lot 49." New Essays on The Crying of Lot 49. Ed., Patrick O'Donnell. Cambridge UP, 1991. 47-78. Proffering an intriguing reading of the novel, Johnstone argues that the process of interpreting Lot 49 is a political gesture. Pynchon, he suggests, scrupulously avoids articulating any dominant discourse in the novel. All perspectives are marginal perspectives. Therefore the struggle to read and interpret is an excursion into the margins of American society. The essay's greatest weakness is the positioning of the central character, Oedipa Maas. According to Johnstone, Oedipa functions textually as a "blind spot," while the series of men she confronts in the novel are acting as "interpreter priests," competing for discursive precedence.
Petillon, Pierre-Yves. "A Re-cognition of Her Errand into the Wilderness." New Essays on The Crying of Lot 49. Ed., Patrick O'Donnell. Cambridge UP, 1991. 127-70. Attempting to assess Pynchon's work in light of the various contexts which his writing elicits (the 1950s and '60s, Puritanism, captivity narratives, eschatology, et al.), Petillon argues that Oedipa's quest in the novel, though ostensibly an escape from confinement, is finally a return to America's Puritan roots. Oedipa is enacting a wilderness vision and regaining her lost (American) origins by seeking both escape and the redemption of a revelatory vision (a la Mary Rowlandson). Once again, I am uncomfortable with how Petillon would reinscribe Oedipa in a hegemonic (masculine-centered) paradigm. Still, reading this essay is a must.
Poirer, Richard. Review of The Crying of Lot 49. New York Times Book Review, May 1, 1966. 43. The first instance of diminishing Oedipa's significance in the novel; Poirer states that Oedipa's character is too limited to bear the "rhetorical weight" of the "America" section at the end of the text. Though not specifically dealing with Poirer, Sherard's essay (see below) critiques the idea/ ideal of character which Poirer articulates and demonstrates the degree to which Poirer's complaint might reveal his ideological biases (i.e., the idea of "America" is bigger than this woman).
Pynchon, Thomas. "A Journey into the Mind of Watts." New York Times Magazine June 12, 1966. 34-36, 80-83. Written only months after the release of Lot 49, this essay, despite its ill-advised title, demonstrates the lengths to which Pynchon will go in critiquing whte bourgeois culture. Given the political implications of this essay, can we avoid trying to read a similar political agenda into Lot 49?
Sherard, Tracey. "The Birth of the Female Subject in The Crying of Lot 49." Pynchon Notes 30-31 (Spring/Fall 1993): 60-74. Drawing from a post structuralist French feminist perspective, Sherard argues that Lot 49 can be read as a feminist text. Oedipa's journey is one in which she intuits "that she may be a construct of her culture's approved version of reality" (64). In order to free herself from the constraints of that approved version, Oedipa must learn to stop reflecting that approved version of "femininity" back at the culture. To the extent that she succeeds, Oedipa becomes a subject. For Sherard, the suspense over the lack of closure at the end of the novel surrounds not solving the riddle of the Tristero but whether Oedipa will claim her subjectivity and join the chorus of those who would cry for Lot 49.