January 30, 2008

Stop the Presses: Art Garfunkel thinks Thomas Pynchon is "Fraudulent"

I always love when public figures are asked to say their favorite books. All of a sudden we're in college again, judging people by their reading lists. Obama tastefully claimed he liked Toni Morrison & Herman Melville. H. Clinton went for Little Woman & The Poisonwood Bible. Mitt Romney, alarmingly, "revealed in an interview that his favourite book was Battlefield Earth, by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard". Whoa...

This is all from a short piece in The New Yorker's Talk of the Town, about how many big books Art Garfunkel has read. He makes two rather sweeping statements about American Literature which deserve consideration:

I tried Gravity's Rainbow, & I thought it was fraudulent.

Paul [Simon], after all, is one of our greatest writers.

There's some truth there, that Simon has some great lyrics, & that Pynchon's novels contain high levels of artificiality. And, GR, after all, is the king of unread college bookshelf books. But overall, I'll dare to disagree, that Pynchon is a greater writer than Paul Simon, even if the latter has, with his ubiquitous words, moved far more people.

We think it's easy
Sometimes it's easy

But it's not easy
You're going to break down and cry

We're not important
We should be grateful
And if you're wondering why...

-Paul Simon, "Love"

And speaking of fraud, if you never saw this, during the "plagiarism" scandal surrounding Ian McEwan-Face's Atonement - (turns out he used historical sources for his historical novel! What is Literature coming to!) - Thomas Pynchon sent this type-written letter to the media (click on the image to read it larger):

And, Gravity's Rainbow also made the news this week, photographed inside Tom Stoppard's satchel, alongside Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise. (Word has it that Mr Ross hit the Colbert Report last night, but I haven't seen it yet.) I wonder if Mr Stoppard found any of those books to be fraudulent? And, where do I get myself one of those nifty satchels!

1 comment:

Bubbler said...

Those certainly are some bold statements. To suggest that Paul Simon should achieve apotheosis in the writerly realm is a bit heretical, considering that his craft is most ardently that of Songwriting, and not of writing per se. I could most definitely endorse his work as that of the greatest of songwriters, but when you take his words outside of the song, they fall apart like when you try to come up with a non-existent word in Scrabulous. His words require the strategic backing of well-strummed guitars, if not synths, bass, and drum. Then, and only then, his words gain deep and revelatory meaning.
Pynchon, on the other hand, requires no backing except a well-focused and piercing intellect. Like the finest of whiskeys (with only a slight amount of rocks or chilled water), appreciating Gravity's Rainbow requires the utmost of concentration. Mr. Garfunkel inadvertently defined only himself in using that adjective against GR, for he has simply revealed that he is unable to process sublimity.