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Slow Learner: Early Stories Paperback – April 30, 1985

3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Published in 1984, this contains five of the author's early stories?written between 1958 and 1964?along with an introduction.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

All five of the pieces ... have unusual narrative vigor and inventiveness. Each establishes its own special mood ... and each contains its moments of Pynchonesque comedy.... -- The New York Times Book Review, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (April 30, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316724432
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316724432
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
For those who find Thomas Pynchon frighteningly intimidating (and who doesn't?), a perusal of these stories will quickly bring The Man down a few notches where you can be certain that he once (once, long ago) was human.
The stories, presented chronologically, are also a testimonial to an astounding learning curve, a man who in very little time learned from his mistakes. And there are mistakes: at times you may find yourself chuckling at the young Pynchon's overwriting or callow viewpoints. Yet these are still the works of a budding genius (my favourite, bar none!) and there glimpses aplenty.
But don't buy the book for the stories alone! No no no! The candid introduction by Pynchon is the real gem here and, for all those Pynchonites, worth the price of admission.
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I've read The Crying of Lot 49, as well as material about Pynchon, so expected a tough read, but found this collection of short stories surprisingly light, although the final story was excellent, thoughtful, and moving. As for the introduction, mentioned by someone as the worth of this book, he is nearly right, as it was an absolute pleasure to read, both light and witty; it wa so good that at times I simultaneously laughed and cried.
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Format: Hardcover
Well I am pleased that I finished another Pynchon work. Having read V., The Crying of Lot 49, and now Slow Learner-I have avoided the gigantic Gravity's Rainbow, which comes after 49 in order, mostly out of intimidation...

Slow Learner seems to have been produced out of a public interest in Pynchon, perhaps out of the void of 10 years since Rainbow, as something to give us all, ever awed by his labrinthine worlds and layered stories.

Though made up of five stories written from 1959-1964, and published in the Cornell Writer, New World Writing, the Kenyon Review, The Noble Savage 3 and The Saturday Evening Post, there is a sixth tale, the introduction, in which Pynchon shares his analysis and criticism of his works and his earlier self. It is a terrific piece, and suits the experience by pre-empting the stories' weaknesses with his exposure of them.

Without going into them I'll just say that I enjoyed the first three very much, The Small Rain, Low-lands and Entropy. Entropy in particular was a layered, manic visceral fiction that manages to incorporate meta-physics with phychology and neurosis. I did not like Under the Rose, as I found it confusing, pre-occupied with itself and it's twists and I couldn't get into it's rhythm and so finished it in bunches. The glaring aspects of his style become annoyances here, the bizarre names, the digressions into the past, elaborate memories...The Secret Integration though is clearly his most mature, skillful work, with a haunting conclusion that resonates deeply.

I feel the better for reading these works. I know he is a master of sorts, his style and execution are awesome, as well his reputation shrowded in mystery. I recommend this book....
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I agree with other reviewers that the fun of this book lies in Pynchon's thoughts of these early efforts. It made the reading of them much more enjoyable. It also made them seem better then they really were, since I realized they were not to be judged in the same light as his later works. So, the fifth star was for his honesty.

This is a recommended read for any reader interested in the entire works of Pynchon.
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The first paragraph of the introduction is almost worth the price of the collection. For the person who has not read Thomas Pynchon, it is a first class review of what his work is like. The humor and seriousness are there, tempered with a bit of Sci-Fi whimsy. But the way that he takes the stories apart and shows what is missing, is a lesson for any budding writer. This book should be taught in many writing classes. I particularily love when he disses himself for creating a rule of writing and makes himself follow it. (The list of writers who do this very thing, is a long, long list!) I also love his comment that he was showing off his "Ear" (For dialogue) before he had actually attained one.

It is nice that he left these stories in the condition that he found them, but I can't help but wonder what might have happened if he had revised or revisited them now as a master of his craft. (And then printed both versions.)

Thomas Pynchon (and others) have downed these stories. But, what is poor, beginning writing for someone like Pynchon, is a level that many aspiring writers NEVER achieve. The story Entropy has been reprinted several times, so even though Pynchon finds it weak, it has great value. (At least to some editors.) The first time that I read it, I was not aware that this story was repudiated by its own author.

While Pynchon really requires several hundred pages to reach the stride of his genius, I would certainaly state that these stories and introduction are an excellent place to start to read Thomas Pynchon. While he is often thought of as a writer who mines the pathway, and puts up boundries for his readers, this is far from true. Granted he is a difficult writer, and you need to know a LOT of stuff to completely "Get" what his is up to, he can be read for sheer pleasure. Get what you can and try to get more on each re-reading.
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