The Crying of Lot 49 is widely recognized as a significant contemporary work that frames the desire for meaning and the quest for knowledge within the social and political contexts of the ’50s and ’60s in America. In the introduction to this collection of original essays on Thomas Pynchon’s important novel, Patrick O’Donnell discusses the background and critical reception of the novel. Further essays by five experts on contemporary literature examine the novel’s “semiotic regime” or the way in which it organizes signs; the comparison of postmodernist Pynchon and the influential South American writer, Jorge Luis Borges; metaphor in the novel; the novel’s narrative strategies; and the novel within the cultural contexts of American Puritanism and the Beat movement. Together, these essays provide an examination of the novel within its literary, historical, and scientific contexts.
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