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Vineland (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – September 1, 1997

4.0 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141180633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141180632
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I'll admit right off the bat that this is one of my favorite novels. It's packed with more sly nods to American pop-culture of the last 8 decades than Dennis Miller could ever hope to cram into a whole week of Monday Night Football. The prose is cumbersome and labyrinthine, but Pynchon rewards those with the patience to stick it out. If you are willing to work your way through this dizzying journey to the heart of left-wing politics in America, there's a lot to be learned.
Like I said, Pynchon's style is really frustrating at times; clauses hang in places one wouldn't normally find them, long phrases get stuffed in parenthetical asides, and sentences--beautiful though they are--sprawl all over like lines of Whitman or Kerouac. What we lose in ease, though, we make up for in depth. The prose of "Vineland" almost forces you to slow down and savor it, and, given the wealth of historical and cultural moments to which Pynchon either pays subtle homage or deals a slight blow, you NEED to slow down.
This matter of style is directly related to the critique that Pynchon develops, through the course of the novel, of the Woodstock generation. "Vineland" charts the counter-culture's successes and failures in a very fair way, and measures the 1960s against the larger tradition of radical politics in America dating back to the first-half of the twentieth century.
Rather than narrowmindedly berate the hippies for their rejection of traditional moralities (as a whole ugly slew of right-wing critics has done, from Michel Houellebecq to William Bennett and Rush Limbaugh), Pynchon's problems with sixties radicalism revolve around the gut-instinct, spur-of-the-moment flightiness of the era.
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By A Customer on July 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
In Vineland, Thomas Pynchon takes us back to the Reagan era of 1984 California.
The book begins with Zoyd Wheeler waking up on a fine summer's morning to some Froot Loops with a little Nestle's Quik on top. Zoyd lives in Vineland County, California, a fictional, forest-filled refuge for ageing flower children. And Zoyd play the part of ageing flower child to the hilt. He is a parttime keyboard player, handyman and fulltime marijuana grower who retains his disability benefits by jumping through glass windows once each year on television.
Zoyd has become a single parent to his teenage daughter Prairie since the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Prairie's mother, Frenesi Gates. A radical filmmaker during the 60s, Frenesi allowed herself to be seduced by Brock Vond, a federal prosecutor who was responsible for Frenesi's transformation from hippie radical to FBI informant.
Two decades after Frenesi's "disappearance," Zoyd is still looking for her, as is Vond, as is Prairie. The plot then becomes dense and tangled with flashbacks and flash forwards. Much of the book is simply gross exaggeration that is fairly preposterous and, at times, very funny.
Pynchon has a penchant for working symbolic meaning into his titles. Vineland is no exception. Vineland is, of course, the name of the mythical California setting of the book, but it is also the name Leif Ericsson gave to North America. As such, it was the name for a land untouched by human hands.
The exact opposite happens to be true of 1984 California, as anyone who's ever visited the area knows full well. Vineland exhibits none of the experimental prose that made Gravity's Rainbow so famous. In fact, the language employed in this book is flat and simple.
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Format: Paperback
This book has always been shamefully underrated, and I've never been sure why. As Pynchon's first new published work after Gravity's Rainbow (not counting his intro to Slow Learner and letters to various Northern California local papers written under the pseudonym, Wanda Tinaski) it must have come as a shock. Where was the dazzling virtuosity? Where was GR's fascination with hidden conspiracies, inanimate processes and their ineluctable creep into and over human life?
But this book has nearly all the complexity of GR, just hidden in a narrative so perfectly crafted that you barely notice as it slides from time to time, place to place and most signigicantly, person to person. It is also a retelling of a set of Greek or other myths (especially in all the lands of the dead that characters must enter and re-emerge from) or a fable of the dream of American freedom - a dream much older than the hippies. And no less than GR, and perhaps more honestly, Vineland takes a very hard look at what it means to be free or not. It is in many ways an answer to GR, taking up it's concerns and treating them forthrightly. But instead of laying the blame on inanimate processes of technology, here Pynchon looks as what "actual" people do, conciously and unconciously, to create our world, and he is not afraid to lay the blame squarely on people who insist on attempting to control others, and finding hope in those who wish only to live their lives.
Which brings up the point of the whole book. Without question, Pynchon's strongest, truest characters live in Vineland and it is for them and them alone that it is written. In his intro to Slow Learner, Pynchon mentions how much more important good characters are than clever ideas, and I have to agree.
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