Listics Review

graffiti and epistemology

because it’s raw and pure, it’s raw energy.” But rather than being an absent-minded character locked in the ivory tower of academe, Choe is running loose in the streets (dressed in slacks and blazer, can of spray paint in hand, skateboarding), being paid to destroy movie sets, and falling in love with oils in his studio. He lives. He lives out his artwork and philosophies—the postmodern and crazed version of the Zenga artist quickly drawing the enso.

These apparent paradoxes eventually clue the reader into the nature of Choe and his artwork: He is a cultural satirist who is serious about his personal life, with a sincerity that Urb magazine sarcastically described as “secretly romantic.”

Choe doesn’t try to create some great piece of art. It comes naturally. Choe is just doing his thing, following a method similar to what San Jose artist Joseph Demaree calls “Telling-My-Story-Wellism.” In all of his art, from the mixed media (watercolors, pen and ink, white out, acrylics, oils, spray paints, crayons, Polaroids, and Mexican candy wrappers) of his 1999 Self Portrait, to the traditional materials of his more recent Water Color Sketch from Parked Car Outside 7-11, to the pages of his newest book Bruised Fruit (Slow Jams, $20.00), he captures and conveys a stimulating self-reflection that is always

“In general, I imagine Pynchon is so important because of the emphasis in his work on epistemology, technology and history. His work amounts to an ongoing critique of the way these themes are articulated in Western culture,” says Rick Moody, author of The Diviners and the forthcoming collection Right Livelihoods. “Because, moreover, he happens to understand technology deeply, more deeply than most contemporary American writers. That theme is perhaps especially rigorously thought through, with the result that Pynchon seems to have more to say about technology than just about anyone.”
“With Pynchon, one can’t help but feel simultaneously intimidated and embraced. The breadth of the work’s intelligence is nothing short of obscene, and such intellectual formidability is dazzling, seductive and utterly enduring,” says author Bret Anthony Johnston, author of the critically acclaimed stories collection Corpus Christi. “I love the endless abundance of dualities in all of his books, and how they — whether political or scientific or conspiratorial or infrastructural — are precariously teetering on a kind of cultural seesaw — tipped one way, we’re saved, tipped the other, we’re goners.”
Robert Bramkamp, a German filmmaker whose Preufstand 7 loosely adapts Pynchon’s magnum opus, Gravity’s Rainbow, for the big screen, telling the cinematic biography of the novel’s screaming missile, says, “Pynchon’s novels operate interconnected within their own time zone, and that mystery and wonder is the key to our own times.”
Steve Erickson, prodigious author of Our Ecstatic Days and Amnesiascope, both significantly influenced by Pynchon, calls the American maestro “the lunatic god of American literature” and says Pynchon’s novels are full of “infinite secrets.” Gravity’s Rainbow, Erickson says, “transcends assessment: Whatever you think of it, whatever you can even begin to think of it, you can’t resist it, it’s inexorable, the event horizon of contemporary literature. The only novel of the last 50 years in its league is One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
“Pynchon knows the culture before the culture knows itself, and in some cases, he knows the culture in a way the culture will never know itself,” says columnist and author Jim (The Buzzing, Slackjaw) Knipfel, whose work has been blurbed by the reclusive Pynchon. “In a world of constant acceleration, Mr. Pynchon somehow manages to remain five steps ahead at all times.”
If praise for Pynchon were only limited to this quintet of artists, it would still be a heady song. But the world’s ongoing heralding of Pynchon as one of the artists for our time is raucous, lively and utterly deafening. Much of the fervor surrounding the 69-year-old author centers not only on his books, but also on the impenetrable air of enigma that surrounds the man himself. Pynchon has never given an interview, has been photographed publicly only a few times, and lives, according to many, a hermitic existence. This level of personal intrigue, coupled with the author’s penchant for conspiracy and code-laden narratives, has long been a game of intellectual marksmanship among fans and academics alike who piece together textual clues, biographical tidbits and urban legend to craft a portrait of the author many call God. Or Dog, as the case may be. (Pynchon himself has been known to refer to the Almighty as Dog, and author Knipfel, for one, believes the key to Pynchon’s genius may lie in the author’s ability to convincingly conjure the canine. “Mr. Pynchon does dogs better than anyone,” Knipfel says. “Consider Zoyd’s dog, who opens and closes Vineland, or the various dogs who romp through Gravity’s Rainbow, or even Mason & Dixon’s Learned English Dog. They’re perfect. He captures Dogness — the Platonic Form of Dogness — in a way no one ever has before. To my mind, that’s the key to his genius.”)
What we know about Pynchon, for sure: Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. was born May 8, 1937. He spent two years in the U.S. Navy. He studied engineering physics and English at Cornell University, where Lolita author Vladimir Nabakov was one of his professors. Pynchon graduated in 1959 with a degree in literature. After college, Pynchon was hired as a technical writer at Boeing, the aerospace juggernaut, then developing its surface-to-air missiles. In 1963, Pynchon published his first novel, V., which was awarded William Faulkner Foundation’s Award for best first novel of the year. And then, for all intents and purposes, Pynchon disappeared. He has lived in Southern California, Northern California, Mexico City and, currently, reportedly, New York. He is married to his agent, Melanie Jackson, with whom he has a young son, Jackson. He has published five novels and one story collection, V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), Vineland (1990), Mason & Dixon (1997) and Slow Learner (1984), respectively. The Penguin Press will publish his sixth novel, Against the Day, in December. Critics and academics aren’t the only ones who love his books, which are often unlikely bestsellers. They have inspired legions of obsessive admirers, collectors and followers throughout the world.
That’s essentially everything we know for certain about Pynchon. Which hasn’t stopped his global following from concocting some truly intriguing, if barely rooted in reality, theories about who Pynchon really is, and why he insists on flying under the radar. What people think they know about Thomas Pynchon: He is J.D. Salinger; after all, have you seen them in the same place at the same time? He had loose connections to Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of JFK. He was part of the CIA’s program to unleash LSD and other psychedelics on the baby boomer generation. He is a member of the cult rock band The Residents.

…as to this last assertion, I know The Residents, and they do not include Pynchon physically among them. Go ask Homer. When you’re ten feet tall.

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