High Literature Goes Pulp

Diesel Brentwood Bookseller Thomas Bailey reports:

Whether it was the need for an extra buck during a time of economic misfortunes, side-stepping progressively unforgiving critics, personal relief from esoteric verbosity and heavy subject matters, or simply the desire to work in genre and create something fast and wild without being anchored by expectation, both Denis Johnson and Thomas Pynchon, winners of the National Book Award, have produced two of the more interesting books of their careers.

However, each book makes a point to keep it interesting; not only in content but also in packaging. Johnson’s Nobody Move takes after the ever-so-popular fashion of mysteries and thrillers reshaping their dust jackets to give them some new edge only to subject them more to rips and tears by punching bullet holes into the front and back. The jacket wounds hint at the sexy graphics that lie beneath, ever congruous as any good mystery’s plot.

On the other hand, Pynchon’s Inherent Vice both embodies and distances itself from typical best-seller packaging. The cover is dripping with cartoonish imagery of the free and easy beach life that’s eerily rendered through heavy airbrush and digital composites. While many publishers cram the fronts and backs of books with praise from comparable authors or news sources, not a word can be found on this book. Just a “picturesque” sunset of arbitrarily filtered waves, lazy gray beach and Easter pink glow in the horizon.

Regardless of the reasons for writing these comparatively accessible books, they not only succeed in maintaining the idiosyncrasies of their authors but also provide the perfect impression of being well read while lounging on the beach or catching the next flight out of LAX.

Take that Dan Brown!

(For a taste of Inherent Vice, listen to Pynchon narrate the opening passages here.)


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