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Reviews of Vineland

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Summer, 1990 - "State and Vine" in the Yale Review - Richard Powers: "All fallen and even abused children, like Frenesi, with her "shadows of her shoulder blades, like healed stumps of wings ritually amputated once long ago," will, for better or worse, never escape the need for parenting, for a bedtime story. Yes, narrative may be a form of paranoia, a frightened systems-building to counter or create conspiracies, real and imagined. But narrative can be more: in Vineland it is an interrogation of power, a flexing of imagination and observation, an urgent verbal gag straining to redeem what innocence is left us by the State. In this, its only weapon, as always, is continuous telling and retelling. Whatever other astonishments and innovations have landed him securely in American readers' imaginations, Pynchon remains above all a story-spinner, winning another few moments for the mind's eye. So tell us another one, Pop, before it gets too dark."

03/23/90 - The Tech - Mark Webster: "The Tube is ubiquitous. Life is defined, framed, imitated, and irradiated by the Tube. Movie and TV show titles have dates next to them as if they were references for the story. Pynchon can pack more historical, literary, scientific, and entertainment references into a single sentence than anyone. The tone of Vineland is softer, more conciliatory than in past works. There is a hopeful sense of coming together that contrasts with the apocalyptic Gravity's Rainbow. Could the years be mellowing Pynchon? No matter, his talents remain sharp, and it's good to hear from the master of the absurd again."

03/09/90 - Chicago Reader - Jonathan Rosenbaum: "A novel that begins and ends with literal awakenings (of Zoyd and Prairie, respectively), Vineland structures its vinelike meanderings through an ingenious system of flashbacks and a few key images. (The exposition is arranged so that even the most fugitive vines in the narrative tangle eventually prove to be linked: Zoyd and Prairie’s house, for instance, which figures in the opening pages, is only described in some detail toward the novel’s end, and its bric-a-brac construction resembles Pynchon’s own building methods.) The flashbacks are mainly a matter of shared memories, and the incidents in 1984 that occasion them are not always the settings that the reader returns to when they’re over."

02/26/90 - The Nation by John Leonard: "Vineland — a multimedia semithriller, a Star Wars for the counterculture — is easier to read than anything else by Thomas Pynchon except The Crying of Lot 49. Like Crying, it's a brief for the disinherited and dispossessed, the outlaws and outcasts of an underground America. Also like Crying, I suspect it's a breather between biggies. It doesn't feel like something obsessed-about and fine-tuned for the seventeen years since Gravity's Rainbow. It feels unbuttoned, as though the author-god had gone to a ballgame; another, darker, magisterial mystification is implied, maybe the rumored Mason-Dixon opus. This doesn't make Vineland a Sunday in the Park with George, but at least it can be summarized without my sounding too much like an idiot."

01/15/90 - Time Magazine by Paul Gray: "Pynchon's devotion to electronic allusions has been criticized before, and Vineland will no doubt increase the number of protests. It is, admittedly, disquieting to find a major author drawing cultural sustenance from The Brady Bunch and I Love Lucy instead of The Odyssey and the Bible. But to condemn Pynchon for this strategy is to confuse the author with his characters. He is a gifted man with anti-elitist sympathies. Like some fairly big names in innovative fiction, including Flaubert, Joyce and Faulkner, Pynchon writes about people who would not be able to read the books in which they appear. As a contemporary bonus, Pynchon's folks would not even be interested in trying. That is part of the sadness and the hilarity of this exhilarating novel."

01/14/90 - New York Times by Salmon Rushdie: "Vineland, Mr. Pynchon's mythical piece of northern California, is, of course, also Vinland, the country discovered by the Viking Leif Ericsson long before Columbus. It is Vineland the Good; that is to say, this crazed patch of California stands for America itself. And it is here, to Vineland, that one of America's great writers has, after long wanderings down his uncharted roads, come triumphantly home."

12/31/89 - Los Angeles Times Book Review - Frank McConnell: "Vineland is, quite simply, one of those books that will make the world — our world, our daily chemical-preservative, plastic-wrapped bread — a little more tolerable, a little more human. Kafka says somewhere that the books we need are the books that are ice axes to break up the frozen sea within ourselves; and Pynchon, here as he always has, makes the cut."

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