Ask a Book Question: The Twenty-sixth in a Series (Next from a Recluse)

September 19, 2004 | 2 min read

Well, after the Gabriel Garcia Marquez scoop, I suppose people are expecting the impossible from me. Lou writes in with this question:

what of thomas pynchon? we last heard that he was working on a novel about a russian female mathematician but that was a couple of years ago. should we begin to wait for years more?

See what I mean? Thomas Pynchon, more than Don Delillo, more than J.D. Salinger, is the literary world’s greatest recluse. Accordingly, new information about him or his writing comes into this world at a rate of no more than one speculative tidbit per year. Pynchon’s notorious silence has spawned legions of Pynchon watchers who eagerly attempt to conjure meaning from the crumbs. I have a feeling that the only person on the face of the earth who knows when the next Thomas Pynchon book will come out and what the next Thomas Pynchon book will be about is, of course, Thomas Pynchon. Still, I can at least reprint the full rumor that you cite in your question, (which dates back to 2000) for what it’s worth:

The German Secretary of Culture, Michael Naumann (who not long ago worked in NYC for Henry Holt, Pynchon’s publisher) told recently on radio that Pynchon is working on a new novel. The setting: Goettingen early in the 20th century; the heroine: young female mathematician from Russia who belonged to the circle around David Hilbert. After a while the Russienne falls in love with another colleague.

Whether or not the Russian mathematician really is the subject of Pynchon’s next book, chances are the reading public won’t get a ton of advance notice. One thing I realized when I was working at the book store was that unlike movies where there is a tangible news-generating build up (on set reports, previews, etc.) there is not typically a public element to the creation of a book. And though most books first appear in publishers’ catalogs and (less frequently) in quickie season preview articles in newspapers and magazines, plenty of books are simply released when they are ready, having been written by authors in the privacy of their own homes. That new Garcia Marquez book is a good example. So, don’t be surprised if the next thing you hear about Pynchon’s book is the story announcing its impending arrival in stores.

created and edits The Millions. He is co-editor of the collection of essays The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, called "funny, poignant, relentlessly thought-provoking" by The Atlantic. He and his family live in New Jersey. If you'd like to correspond, please don't hesitate to email.

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