The force of Pynchon's attention to myriad cultural contexts and multiple perspectives does not seem to be that all of
them are potentially self-invalidating, but rather that they are mutually validating. Again, words for Pynchon are most
fascinating insofar as they are allusive along multiple vectors of signification. Many of his peripheral
characters do fear
a perceived degradation of language and a comcomitant epistemological instability, a fear similar in many ways to
Pym's. (In fact, in The Crying of Lot 49, there is a sense in which the
males even die from it.) But the source of Oedipa's own psychological distress is less clear.
She told him, quickly, using up no more than a minute, what she'd learned about The Tristero, what had happened to
Hilarius, Mucho, Metzger, Driblette, Fallopian. "So you are," she said, "the only one I have. I don't know your name,
don't want to. But I have to know whether they arranged it with you. To run into me by accident, and tell me your story
about the post horn. Because it may be a practical joke for you, but it stopped being one for me a few hours ago.
I got drunk and went driving on these freeways. Next time I may be more deliberate. For the love of God, human life,
whatever you respect, please. Help me. (Pynchon, 177)"
With an author like Pynchon, who's syntax is so precisely vague, and who's allusions are so carefully constructed, it
is of utmost importance to scrutinize the text with as much precision. It is fascinating, then, to note that Oedipa never
actively seeks out the Trystero (after leaving Driblette's dressing room, she says "I went in there to talk about
bones, and instead we talked about the Trystero thing" (Pynchon, 80)). Throughout the entire book, Pynchon maintains a
careful ambiguity around the true sources of her anxiety and her need. Her paranoia seems not to have
the same source as Pym's mania, or Hilarius' psychosis, or Mucho's depression. Rather, Pynchon's language leaves
open another quest for Oedipa. In all these men, she seeks one who can love her, without
fear, without anxiety, without obsession for the legacy of who knows what, and most importantly, without dying. When she
calls Arnold Farb, she begs for a vague "help". But what she wants to know is not
whether the Trystero exists; she wants to know if Pierce set her up to be seduced and/or disappointed by a trail of
men. Even at the last, as she awaits the crying of lot 49, she focuses on the man and not the symbol. The Trystero
only manipulates Oedipa indirectly by determining the fate of every man in the book. In that final scene, Oedipa
finds herself in a cult-like ceremony, surrounded by men in black with "pale, cruel faces" (Pynchon, 183). These are
the fragile devotees of that flat symbol, the posthorn, who wait for it to be sold to them with unswerving obeisance. But
Oedipa waits only for a man, a man who will take responsibility for the whole ridiculous charade.
Thus Pynchon demonstrates through this scene (and many others) at least two kinds of communication breakdown. First the men in
black do not communicate with God, or with their origins, through the symbol, and second, Oedipa does not communicate with any of
them. In large part, she does not communicate with any of them because they are so obsessed with the symbol, and because the revelation is, at the last, deferred. However,
despite Pynchon's fascination with and embrace of a plurality of encoded meanings, it is not an unproblematic embrace.
There is evidence in both V and The Crying of Lot 49 to support the conclusion that it is precisely
plurality which causes communicative entropy to happen. Pynchon's slippery prose, as well as his myriad characters and
plots, make his novels difficult reading. His pages are packed with what can best be described as noise:
"But it seems that these - " he shrugged - "noisy attempts to devise political happiness: new forms of government, new
ways to arrange the fields and workshops; aren't they like the sailor I saw off Bizerte in 1324." Stencil chuckled.
Mehemet's recurring lament was for a world taken from him. He belonged to the trade routes of the Middle Ages. According
to the yarn he had in fact sailed the xebec through a rift in time's fabric, pursued among the Aegean Islands by a
Tuscan corsair which mysteriously dropped from sight. But it was the same sea and not until docking at Rhodes did Mehemet
learn of his displacement. And since had forsaken land for a Mediterranean which thank Allah would never change
In this passage, Pynchon's narrator slips unnoticed between the perspectives of Herbert Stencil and the Muslim
skipper so effortlessly that the reader barely notices. But what of the "rift in time's fabric"? Is this language from
the mind of the skipper? It doesn't sound like it. Is it Stencil or the narrator? Who can tell? In these passages, it is as though
no one ever thinks for themselves, and yet the narrator does not think for them either. All the thoughts and perspectives
not placed solidly between quotations simply float together in an amorphous consciousness. Then there is the "xebec",
the sailor "off Bizerte in 1324", the shifts between the Aegean, a Tuscan, Rhodes, the Mediterranean. These bits and pieces
rarely provide a place to land, a single image to cling to. Pynchon does not show the Aegean. He simply refers to it. It
is barely there and then it is gone. Nothing is allowed to sink in. The details are too numerous and too ephemeral. These
are Pynchon's encodings - places, dates, nicknames, references to things that may never have existed, all collected in
a single soupy consciousness. To what message do
they reduce?. If they do not decrypt to a theme or a set of themes, then what?