Connecting those who Pynchon loves to those who love Pynchon.
Mistrust – new professors always make students uncomfortable, but Clover seemed especially susceptible to such hostility. His huge army jacket, hanging as though uncomfortable off of his thin form, and small rounded tortoise shell glasses which were balanced precariously close to his face marked him as some sort of Vietnam war protester, or a person who happily joined OCCUPY but refused to understand the movement’s impermanence. A smart student, one who had fringed such protests, could imagine him still sitting on the Quad, rallying support, long after everyone had forgotten the 99% argument and moved back to the comfort of their warm homes and clean laundry.
He began the class by repeating words, mostly words without meaning, or whose meaning one could get through life without ever needing to know; “SYZYGY” and “Thermodynamics” seemed amongst his favorites, he let everyone know that he could spell them by writing them out in large falling letters across the chalkboard. He would randomly scan the crowd for students who had one eye on the open window. “Are you high” he would scream, not wanting a reaction as much as a ‘yes’ answer, he seemed to believe that bonding over drinking or drugs would be the peak relationship that one can have with a student.
Clover wanted his students, an awkward mixture of neo-hipsters and try-hard geeks, to read Thomas Pynchon, an author whose prose was tedious each sentence lasting at least ten lines before fading into slipping into the realm of the forgotten- technically a place buried deep in the frontal cortex of the human brains, an area that can be cut out – leaving the patient tolerably mentally intact. Words written on notepads were highlighted, defined and then crossed out and the circular nature of Pynchon’s work manifested itself in the cold box that is Olson 101. Students received nicknames, possibly out of affection, but more likely as a strategy to aid Clover’s memorization of titles that he would never truly need to use out of the context of concrete walls and chalkboards. Quasi-intellectuals threw up excited hands, hands that you would expect to see belonging to informed bodies, but proved to be owned by those who could only mouth mere repetitions of definitions- proving themselves as a series of failures.
Pynchon, on the projector and in the student’s hands, seemed more baffling than enlightening and each mouth in Clover’s audience wanted to be the one to open and inspire- but as the afternoon progressed and the light outside the windows, impossibly small squares of light that one might associate with prison cells and basements, faded everyone grew more comfortable with the concept that the texts were not meant to be understood. The writing was purposefully overwrought and the meaning was both ambiguous and concrete enough to confuse and please an audience.
Who needs to read Pynchon? Not newspaper writers- they don’t have enough space. Not Physics professors- they have too much knowledge. Only English professors and students- those who feel comfortable pretending to understand.