Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pynchon and popular music



In August Dr Barry Lewis gave a paper at the International Pynchon Week held at Durham University. Barry spoke about how Thomas Pynchon's engagement with popular music is close to obsessive. He has written liner notes for albums by Spike Jones and Lotion; bands such as Benny Profane and Yoyodyne have raided his works for their names; and he has even provided an Amazon ‘playlist’ for the music mentioned in 'Inherited Vice'. What is less known is the small canon of popular songs that have been inspired by his works. The most famous of these, perhaps, is 'Sailing to Philadelphia', a duet between Mark Knopfler and James Taylor that neatly encapsulates the relationship between Mason and Dixon, the eponymous subjects of a 1997 novel by Pynchon. Knopfler described this song as "my three-minute take on a three-year book". There are many other such transformations from printed word to recorded song, and these were explored in the Durham talk.

Barry will be giving a talk on Pynchon and popular music at the English Research Seminar on Wednesday 4th December 2013.

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