The Crying of Lot 49

Uncertainty: Poe’s Means, Pynchon’s End

A statement becomes intelligible when its component elements integrate into a unified structure. Stories, then, would convey meaning insofar as they fufill the conventions and boundaries of their genre. Jacques Derrida, however, deconstructs this law of genre, explaining that inherent within it is the “law of overflowing, of excess, the law of participation without membership” (228 Law). As Derrida exposes the intrinsic contamination, blurring, and disintegration of the boundaries of genre—which could only have been echoes of traces of distinction from their origin—he posits différance at the heart of postmodern discourse. It is this sentiment of essential uncertainty which Thomas Pynchon perpetually explores in his pulsing novel, The Crying of Lot 49.

Edgar Allen Poe is credited with the emergence of the detective fiction genre, which runs counter to the genre of the marvelous. In the marvelous, the reader’s perception is unwittingly filtered through a narrative frame until appearances to the narrator are accepted as reality. In detective fiction, magic and mysteries are exposed as subjective illusions. The detective’s deciphering function enables the reader to observe through the other side of the lens apparatus, demystifying...

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