Posted by: Yorgos | June 23, 2010

Text 39 – What does it mean to be a Pynchonite?

At a pub in Lublin, Poland, a large group of tourists were watching England playing against the United States. You could hear shouts and cheers or jeers at every shot, goal, or missed chance, but if you could come closer, you would listen to people talking about Thomas Pynchon. These people weren’t just tourists, after all; they were Pynchonites (or Pynchonists, if you will) taking part in a conference dedicated exclusively to one of the most important living American authors.

I was proud to be part of that jolly group, which came to Lublin to enjoy another International Pynchon Week (IPW), held every two years somewhere in Europe with the help of Pynchon Notes, a journal “dedicated exclusively to one of the most important living American authors”. I have been to very few conferences and I have spoken to even fewer: three in total. However, two of those times have been in IPW conferences and I must admit that if every conference is like that, then it’s worth being an academic.

For some reason, though, I don’t think that every conference is like that. A Pynchon conference is an anarchist conference, where, like anarchist golf, the rules are meant to be thought of on the spot, the introductions before a presentation are of the same length (a mere five seconds) for accomplished professors and undergraduate students, where each opinion bears weight, but doesn’t avoid scrutiny, where people will ask you questions because they actually want your opinion and not because they want to disagree with you in a concealed way.

To go for a drink after each tiring, yet intellectually stimulating day, meant to try to avoid talking about the one who must not be named…and to fail completely. There are jokes revolving around Pynchon that only a Pynchonite would understand and yet these jokes easily find their place among this crowd. By the way, you don’t have to be a speaker to be heard or to be a Pynchonite. If you have read him, you’re one of us (gooble gobble, we accept you, we accept you, one of us). My friend, Martin, is a prime example (he has also written a wonderful account of the presentations at the conference in his blog; unfortunately he had to leave early so he couldn’t complete the Chronicles of the IPW). He was among the crowd in Munich, where the previous IPW was held, but he voiced his opinions and they were heard; he came back two years later with one of the most interesting presentations of the conference.

I am not sure if there is coherence in this post. Its goal was to state that the IPW was a huge success. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction over how perfect this trip to rural Poland was. Who would have thought that a conference can be more fun than a school trip and still accomplish its goals of enriching the content of Pynchon studies around the world. And when I say around the world, I actually mean it. I think Africa is the only continent I haven’t seen a Pynchonite from, but I can’t really be sure, since I don’t remember all of them.

Two years from now, the conference will be held in Durham, UK. I hope I’ll be able to be there, either as a speaker or among the enthralled crowd.


  1. Campanile=C Boys+Pynchon+Lublin+George Humming John Williams=Great times

  2. sounds fun!

  3. Dum dum dum dum dudum dum dudum (that was the imperial march, by the way).

    Tara, it was great…more than fun. I wish you were around; it reminded me of the times we had in Edinburgh (or after).

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