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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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Today (June 9th 2010) marked the start of the 9th International Pynchon Week conference, a biennial event that, this time around, is hosted in Poland at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin. Having attended today's proceedings, I thought I'd put a few thoughts about the event so far online. 09:45-11:15 Session I  chair: Zofia Kolbuszewska Ali Chetwynd (University of Michigan), Inherent Obligation: Ethical Relations and The Demands of Patronage in Recent Pynchon Ali had a really tough job opening the conference here, but he pulled it off admirably. Moving to delineate early and late Pynchon (across, aptly enough, Mason & Dixon), he demonstrated the ways in which obligation, be this internally or externally and coercively enforced, can become the central structuring motif of Pynchonian ethics. It was evident that the opening slot did him a disfavour by tending towards the general over specifities, but this really was an excellent paper. David Letzler (CUNY), Pointsman and the Preterite: On Character and Theology in Gravity’s Rainbow David actually ended up presenting on a slightly different topic which became an "apology for Pointsman". Moving beyond the commonplace critical denunciation of Pointsman, David built a case for self-selection -- owing to a definition based on, essentially, arbitrary criteria -- in the conditions for preterition. This hinged around the quotation in GR relating Jesus and Judas iscariot to show that, in Pointsman mortality and humanity, there is redemptive potential. While I didn't agree with all David said and felt that a few of his quotations did not show the phenomenon he claimed, this was an admirable attempt at a controversial, and difficult, angle on Pynchon's text. Birger Vanwesenbeeck (SUNY, Fredonia), The Crying of Lot 49 and the Politics of Mourning Again, a highly interesting paper which worked through Freud and Derrida to demonstrate the ways in which mourning becomes work in TCoL49. Indeed, Maxwell's Demon as an instantiation of Oedipa's mourning was the interpretative highlight of the paper, for me, and the questions provided a stimulating discussion ranging as far as Abraham and Torok. 11:30-13:00 Session II chair: Luc Herman Martin Paul Eve (University of Sussex), ‘It sure’s hell looked like war’: Terrorism and the Cold War in Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day and Don DeLillo’s Underworld I'd better not say too much about this one. I thought it went well though and greatly enjoyed fielding the Q&A session. Gilles Chamerois (University of Brest), Pynchon, Leone, and Dynamite Gilles pulls off a feat which few can manage. While the main focus of his paper was on the influence of Leone's Westerns on Pynchon's work, he also deals with a curious aspect of Pynchon's linguistics. The metaphor of text as dynamite and syntax as stabiliser seems, to most ears, including mine, far fetched. However, with a potent example of how Pynchon's syntax deteriorates in a subjectless sentence that has to be re-read, he really brought this reading to the fore. Jesse E. Sherwood (SUNY, Fredonia), Pynchon’s Wild West: The American Myth in Against the Day and Other Works Concluding our anarchism panel, Jesse painted a portrait of Pynchon's use of Wild West imagery and the increasing prevalence of this motif throughout Pynchon's career. Starting with the capitalistic drive of the Old West, a drive both towards freedom and domination/captivity, I thought that Jesse made a fantastic contribution to our understanding of Pynchon's deployment of Western themes. 14:30-16:00 Session III chair: Sean Molloy Panel: Thomas Pynchon and Politics: Power, Spectacle and Transcendence

Robert J. Lacey (Iona College), Pynchon on Totalitarianism: Power, Paranoia, and Preterition in Gravity’s Rainbow and The Crying of Lot 49 Seán Molloy (University of Edinburgh), Between and Beyond Bakunin and Nietzsche: Thomas Pynchon and the Politics of Transcendence. Dara Waldron (Limerick Institute of Technology), Thanatoids and Death by Television: Politics and/of the Spectacle in Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland
Owing to technical difficulties beyond my control, I missed a good part of this panel and would not like to decontextualise three works that were clearly resonating with one another so strongly. What I heard, though, I liked. 16:15-17:45 Session IV chair: Sascha Pöhlmann Richard J Moss (Durham University), Ernst Bloch‘s European Reichs in Pynchon’s Imagined Europe Richard clearly knew his stuff, but, owing to surely none but my own deficiencies, I was unable to follow his argument. I think that I lack the depth of knowledge of Bloch and 1000 year return cycles of Christ. However, with some development and background reading, I'm sure that this would be a fascinating paper. Matthias Mosch (Durham University), Faust and the Faustian in Gravity’s Rainbow Matthias' paper also had me slightly at a loss for a response. The work was, again, solid, but I felt that a little more context -- eg. which portions of the Faust myth were being targeted -- would have aided my understanding of this work. Terry Reilly (University of Alaska, Fairbanks), Hans Kammler and Gravity’s Rainbow: Or, The Kammlerstab Takes a Road Trip Terry's paper, the last of the day, dealt with the underrepresented presence of Hans Kammler in the critical response to GR. Kammler was the officer in charge of V2 production. However, this has taken ages to make it into the history books and it was certainly not common knowledge when Pynchon was writing Gravity's Rainbow. From this information, Terry speculated that Pynchon must have encountered German scientists in the know during his stint at Boeing for GR mentions Kammler not once, but four times. It was also pleasing to hear such glowing praise of Samuel Thomas' work on Pynchon (which is excellent), Terry going so far as to state that Thomas' work on invisibility in Pynchon deserves to be extended to a book length collection. CFP anyone? That's all for now, hopefully a further report tomorrow.