A Journey into the Mind of P: A Cinematic Look at Thomas Pynchon

Nov­el­ist Thomas Pyn­chon does not, as his read­ers well know, do pub­lic­i­ty. But does he need to? When a man has writ­ten books like V., The Crying of Lot 49, and Grav­i­ty’s Rain­bow, does­n’t the appear­ance of a new one pub­li­cize itself, in some sense? Pyn­chon’s eighth nov­el Bleed­ing Edge, a seem­ing­ly hard-boiled yet char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly askew and para­noia-fla­vored tale of post-tech-bub­ble but pre‑9/11 New York, comes out on Sep­tem­ber 17th, and a cer­tain class of fan has no doubt spent hours scru­ti­niz­ing the excerpt its pub­lish­er Pen­guin has already released. A cer­tain oth­er class of fan, the sort who spent long dorm-room hours with the ear­ly books but who some­how nev­er sum­moned the will for the more recent ones, will at least have felt their curios­i­ty piqued. To anoth­er class of fan entire­ly, those who feel like they could get into Pyn­chon but can’t quite deter­mine why or how, we offer the doc­u­men­tary above, Fos­co and Donatel­lo Dubini’s A Jour­ney into the Mind of P.

“I think of Pyn­chon as a cryp­togram,” says one read­er inter­viewed in the film. “We are almost, in a sense, code­break­ers. He presents a puz­zle that we are try­ing to crack.” That, as well as any­thing, sums up my own find­ings from talk­ing to Pyn­chon die-hards about their enthu­si­asm for their author of choice. A Jour­ney into the Mind of P actu­al­ly exam­ines two minds at once: the mind of Pyn­chon the writer, and the mind of the Pyn­chon fan, which seeks not only to grasp the cul­tur­al­ly sweep­ing, infor­ma­tion-dense height­ened real­i­ty of the nov­els, but also to con­struct a coher­ent image of the man who cre­ates that real­i­ty. Thus far, these read­ers have had to draw this image from only the nov­els them­selves (though, in sev­er­al cas­es, large and labyrinthine ones), and for the fore­see­able future they must con­tin­ue to do so. At least Bleed­ing Edge, what­ev­er its recep­tion, will add almost 500 more pages to their body of avail­able evi­dence. Best of luck, Pyn­chon exegetes with copies on pre-order. Per­haps the rest of you would rather start with the book trail­er just above. A new Pyn­chon nov­el may always make a splash, but Pen­guin’s pub­lic­i­ty depart­ment isn’t tak­ing any chances.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read the First Page of Thomas Pynchon’s New Nov­el, Bleed­ing Edge

New Pyn­chon Book [Inher­ent Vice] Out Today: Watch the Trail­er

Thomas Pyn­chon Nov­els Com­ing to eBook, at Long Last

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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