Dear Mr. Pynchon,
Please allow me to introduce myself. I have read two of your books, The Crying of Lot 49, and Gravity’s Rainbow. I plan yet to read Mason & Dixon, and I will reserve judgement on that which I have read for two reasons. The first of which being that you surely are unmoved by the opinions of a faceless entity, and secondly because that faceless entity does not require validation for those opinions he holds.
Now that our introduction has been taken care of, I would like to move on to the reason I am writing you today. Posted on an internet website primarily used for the discussion of literature (one I anticipate you are familiar with) was a list of blurbs that you had written in your past. The most beautiful by far was the blurb that you wrote for Mr. Fariña’s novel. I have not yet had the privilege of reading his work, perhaps I will write you another letter once I do. (Interesting side note: I read your blurb for Mao II when I read the novel, well before I stumbled across this list. I felt Mr. DeLillo’s biography of your life was very astute, and I was sorry to hear of your death for the first time from him. A truly good deed has but one witness.) But these were not the reviews that piqued my attention. In the review that stuck out to me, you spoke of a masterfully spun yarn full of music. Full of Music. I am only guessing here, but you were not referring to songs the author wrote inside his novel as you are wont to do, instead rather of the well-crafted sentences and prosaic melodies that dance on the tongue and in rattle inside my internal monologue. I was relieved to find the book still in print and it was important for me to let you know that your words have convinced me to read this book that I’d never even heard of. Did you know you could do that? The words from one stranger have had an impact on another which was completely unintentional. What analyst could have predicted it? I was not even born when you wrote about this book and still those words affected me in such a way that I broke under the pressure and will read a book that you asked me to way back in ‘75. I didn’t want to write you about this, I swear. I wanted desperately to keep our intimate author/reader relationship pure, but instead I now riposte and upset our fragile balance. You are the reader now. Here I sit, frightened by the impulse to read this novel that I know I will love, and wondering how my inevitable actions will implicate my character.
You told me you’ve read everything by this author, and that this novel was him at his best. A cheap claim. Is it true? Did you really read this book, or were the publishing house and your agent just writing themselves a quick check? I don’t want to know. In fact, not only do I not expect a reply from you, I loathe the scenario in which you do. I didn’t give you my return address, hell I didn’t even mail this letter to you. I pray that you never read this letter that I poured forth from myself for your eyes to scrutinize alone. I don’t want to know if you really read, really enjoyed, really recommended this book written long ago, but rather my goal is for you to understand the consequences of your actions. Writing this review may have seemed harmless at the time, but it had a real lasting impact 45 years later. Can you live with that knowledge on your conscience?
I spoke earlier of our relationship. You are the author and I am the reader. This relationship is one-sided at its core and I overcame great consternation before fatefully breaking this bond that we share. ‘Nah,’ you may think to yourself, ‘I’ve gotten a letter from a reader that sez I’m erudite, got one sez I suck. I’ve got so many I don’t know what to do with em, there’s no one- sided relationship here,’ (I apologize for speaking for you, feel free to say whatever you like; I simply wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to use the word sez) but those letters that you have undoubtedly received in the past present and future are from other readers, and today our bond is being broken by me. The very nature of being an author allows you to be the object of affection to those that are completely invisible to you. What a scary thought. I hope that never happens to me. You are eternally cursed to be read by people you will never meet, held by hands you will never shake, I would not wish this fate upon my worst enemy. I don’t know what you did to deserve this, but it is seemingly as inevitable as the chain of events that led me to taint the perfect relationship you once had with me. Surprise, we had a connection betwixt. Surprise, it ended before you knew it existed. I apologize for hitting you with such a blow, but I’m not sorry enough to try to prevent it.
A close friend told me a joke once that made me laff harder than I have in a while. I can’t remember exactly how the setup went, but the punchline played on the homophone of tale and tail, and something about elephants never forgetting. You would have loved it, and I laffed so hard I cried. Thinking about it now still makes me crack open.
(I won’t pretend to understand your choice to isolate yourself, I won’t even venture a guess. As Mr. Camus once wrote, « Ils croient toujours qu’on se suicide pour une raison. Mais on peut très bien se suicider pour deux raisons. Non, ça ne leur rentre pas dans la tête. »)
I would now like to thank you for not replying to this post. An unopened return to sender would be nice, but limbo would be a much better outcome. Thank you also for allowing me to get this off my chest. I am comforted—yet a little hagridden—by not knowing how this letter reaches you, but I hope it reaches you well. I hope you are reading literature that is truly meaningful to you, literature that you will never have to write a blurb for. Literature that you will not speak of with strangers or try to sell, but literature that you can meditate on and come to understand the universe through.
The drama’s done. Why then here does any one step forth?