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Crying of Lot 49, The

The Crying of Lot 49

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: (Rupert) John Cornford Biography to Cwmaman (pr. Cŏomăˈman) Glamorgan

a novel by Thomas Pynchon, published in 1966. The plot is essentially a fictional tool of convenience whereby Pynchon can explore what he takes to be the problematic, if not frequently conspiratorial, nature of reality. Oedipa Maas discovers she has been made the executrix of the estate of Pierce Inverarity, a former lover. This sets her off on an increasingly bizarre and sinister trail of detection during which she discovers what she believes to be a secret communication system dating from the sixteenth century, whose symbol is the Tristero (a muted posthorn). She believes that the bidder for Inverarity's stamp collection at an auction will solve the enigma of the Tristero, but the novel ends as she awaits the crying out of the relevant lot 49. Like many of the major works of American post-modernism, the novel is a work of metafiction, interrogating the nature of its own fictional universe as much as that of the ostensibly ‘real’ world through which Oedipa passes. His second, and shortest novel, The Crying of Lot 49 contains much of his most inventive writing, notably in its hilarious parody of a Jacobean tragedy, but Pynchon himself is known to have a low opinion of it.

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