Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying Of Lot 49 is not as long or as dense or as otherwise inaccessible as the novels that make up the fat part of his canon. It’s the one you read if you didn’t quite feel like committing to V or Gravity’s Rainbow, and it’s the one a savvy professor would assign in a college literature course if that professor wanted the students to read most or even all of the book as assigned. As it happens, I have read this book twice. Once, with pretty much negligible returns, for pleasure, and then again in just such a college literature course. I wrote at least one paper about it, and the mere thought of it chills me to the bone. It is an American classic, and was instantly understood as such.
I was not a great student, of Pynchon or, honestly, of anything else, and I didn’t love the book. I bring it up here for two reasons. The first reason is that I remember the name of the book’s heroine, Oedipa Maas, because she shares the same last name as a galoot who flamed out with the New York Yankees in the 1990s, and whose Upper Deck rookie cards still haunt my childhood home. The second reason is that I remember every one of Maas’s baseball peers from that era—every middle-relief hump, every mustachioed lothario, every platoon-y dork—better than I do anything about Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying Of Lot 49, an American classic and a book I have read twice.
Look: my mind is going, shrunken by the daily attritions of age and reckless use and ravaged to ruin by life online. But what is left after all that is mine, and it’s not quite nothing just yet. I have it in me to Remember Some Guys, still, and I have this video as proof. I was joined in this Remembering by the excellent Evan Drellich, who covers the Red Sox for NBC Sports Boston. He did very well, although he kind of let Scott Scudder’s eyebrows get to him a little bit and was persistently confused by the fact that these cards—they’re from Topps’ elegant 1992 set—did not include stats for seasons that players had not yet played. I also continue to pursue the dangerous game of taunting grouchy old pitchers on video. If this is the one that gets my ass kicked by Goose Gossage, so be it. I won’t remember it very long anyway.