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Happy birthday, Thomas Pynchon!

May 8, 2008 |  4:44 pm

Thomaspynchon_2 America's second-most elusive author turns 71 today, if Internet sources are to be believed.

There's something charming about Pynchon's unwillingness to jump into the churn of literary culture, as many authors feel compelled these days to blog and respond to reviews and go on "Charlie Rose" and do book tours and read at festivals and talk to NPR book shows and whatever else they can to reach new readers. Without any of these things, Pynchon has built a devoted, even cult-like following.

This weekend, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Freebird Books & Goods held a pre-birthday bash for Pynchon fans; the lighthearted invitation sparked some controversy. Attendees on Sunday dined on items from "Gravity's Rainbow" and sent faxes (ostensibly) to the man himself.

The fax number is one trace of evidence that Pynchon lives and breathes. He's also written occasionally for the New York Times and, around the time of the publication of "Mason & Dixon" in 1997, was photographed in New York.

His most fun -- and unexpected -- engagement with popular culture was his appearance on the animated TV show "The Simpsons." Drawn with a bag over his head, Pynchon (allegedly) spoke his own lines, which included shouting to passing motorists, "Hey, over here, have your picture taken with a reclusive author! Today only, we’ll throw in a free autograph. But wait! There’s more!"

So I hold out hope that if he's watching TV (while not writing 1,000-plus-page dense and brilliant novels), he's also on the Internet. Wouldn't it be nice for Thomas Pynchon to google himself and wind up reading this birthday greeting?

Happy birthday, Thomas Pynchon!

Carolyn Kellogg