Promoting Pynchon

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Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon

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The author has popped his head out recently, albeit in some quirky ways. Two years ago, he made a couple of cameo "appearances" on The Simpsons —playing himself with a paper bag over his head and poking fun at both his propensity for privacy and his previous works. "It's absolutely his voice," recalls Simpsons writer-producer Al Jean, who personally coached each recording session in New York. "When we did the first one, he half-joked that if he did two he could join SAG."

Last July, an page announcing the new novel appeared with a description written by the author. After blogs started buzzing, the notice quickly disappeared. Was it viral marketing? A hoax? No one is saying.

Now the listing is back up, and the Pynchon-penned teaser is downright tantalizing: "Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Gottingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all. With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred."

Some bookstores around the country are holding "Pynchon Nights" and others may schedule special events around the new book's release. But Penguin is deliberately keeping hands off such hoopla. "We're respecting the author's choice for us to stay apart from these things," says the Penguin rep. "Oh my god, that book will sell itself — there's a built-in audience of his fans," says Charles Day, marketing manager at the popular West Hollywood, California retailer Book Soup. Day expects to trumpet the release with large window displays, staff recommendations, and prominent placement of the hefty volumes near the cash register.

"The fact that he has a dedicated following makes up for him not doing The Today Show," says Michael Russo, manager of St. Marks Bookstore in New York's Greenwich Village. "The morning his last book came out, we had people outside our doors waiting for us to open. It wasn't like a line for a Rolling Stones concert, but it's the kind of interest only a few authors can generate."

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