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Meet Your Neighbor, Thomas Pynchon


It's hard to imagine that, whatever the response to his next effort, Pynchon would ever resort to hawking it on a book tour, his recent bout of visibility aside. But strangely enough, Cups magazine, the free café weekly, reported recently that a book tour is just what Pynchon is thinking of doing. " 'Maybe I will do a book tour for the next book,' " Cups quotes another Holt author, Steve Erickson, quoting Pynchon.

Which brings a little yelp of laughter from Lottchen Shivers, Holt's marketing director. "Oh, I doubt it," says Shivers.

It's irresistible to try and envision, however. "What would they do with him on a book tour—put a bag over his head like he's in the witness-protection program? Alter his voice so he sounds like Henry Kissinger?" asks one writer.

"You would try to get him on 60 Minutes or 20/20 the night before the book comes out," muses a publicity director at a major publishing house. "You would do the Times, Time, and Newsweek. I could see him doing a radio interview—maybe 'Fresh Air' with Terry Gross."

"Is this where I'm supposed to say something really cheesy like, 'We'd put him on the cover, but only if he'd pose with Pamela Anderson Lee?' " asks Mark Harris, senior editor at Entertainment Weekly. "We would line up with every other American magazine that covers culture. We'd do a dignified story."

But there are those who feel that Thomas Pynchon on a book tour would be a debacle. The 10,000 who swarmed Rockefeller Center for Howard Stern's Private Parts would hardly show up for the man who is, essentially, the anti-Stern. "A book tour would be very ill advised," one literary agent says. "It's a very sophisticated thing to be into Pynchon, and the people who are would find a way to be above it all. If you read and understand his books, you wouldn't want to see him in person."

And what, really, would be the point of it? "I'm not interested in his high-school photo or if he shops at Zabar's," says Jeff Seroy, director of publicity at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. "It doesn't matter whether he's sexy or gives good sound bites, or can tell Oprah about his pain. There's such integrity to him and his work. He's like what the Japanese call a national living treasure."

Like the skyline of New York itself—everywhere and nowhere, really. And maybe that's the way it should be. In his Slow Learner introduction, Pynchon writes of once catching sight of the real-life model for the character Pig Bodine in V.—a man he had never met, but who "had become a legend."

"It's pleasant to recall that our paths really did cross," wrote Pynchon, "in this apparitional way."


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