Thomas Pynchon (pĬn´chən), 1937–, American novelist, b. Glen Cove, N.Y., grad. Cornell, 1958. Pynchon is noted for his amazingly fertile imagination, his wild sense of humor, and the teeming complexity of his novels. He is sometimes grouped with authors of black humor (such as Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller), who turned from realism to fantasy to depict 20th-century (and, in Pynchon's case, 21st-century) American life. His early novels include V. (1963) and The Crying of Lot 49 (1966). His masterpiece is the complex and often obscure Gravity's Rainbow (1973, National Book Award), which displays his diverse erudition. Set in London during World War II, it is a discursive rumination on war and death. In 1984, he published a collection of early writings, Slow Learner. His later novels are Vineland (1990), the witty and encyclopedic Mason & Dixon (1997), the sprawling Against the Day (2006), the psychedelic 1970s sleuth tale Inherent Vice (2009), and the wild, 21st-century New York investigative saga Bleeding Edge (2013).
See studies by T. Tanner (1982), P. L. Cooper (1983), D. Seed (1988), S. C. Weisenburger (1988), J. Dugdale (1990), A. McHoul and D. Wills (1990), J. W. Slade (1990), J. Chambers (1992), H. Berressem (1993), A. W. Brownlie (2000), A. Mangen and R. Gaasland, ed. (2002), N. Abbas, ed. (2003), H. Bloom, ed. (2003), and D. Cowart (1980 and 2012); I. H. Dalsgaard et al., ed., The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Pynchon (2012).