Peter Coviello

Sep 28, 2022

Vineland Reread

Columbia University Press 2021

Vineland is hardly anyone’s favorite Thomas Pynchon novel. Marking Pynchon’s return after vanishing for nearly two decades following his epic Gravity’s Rainbow, it was initially regarded as slight, a middling curiosity. However, for Peter Coviello, the oft-overlooked Vineland opens up new ways of thinking about Pynchon’s writing and about how we read and how we live in the rough currents of history.

In Vineland Reread (Columbia UP, 2021), Coviello reads Pynchon’s offbeat novel of sixties insurgents stranded in the Reaganite summer of 1984 as a delirious stoner comedy that is simultaneously a work of heartsick fury and political grief: a portrait of the hard afterlives of failed revolution in a period of stifling reaction. Offering a roving meditation on the uses of criticism and the practice of friendship, the fashioning of publics and counterpublics, the sentence and the police, Coviello argues that Vineland is among the most abundant and far-sighted of late-century American excursions into novelistic possibility. Departing from visions of Pynchon as the arch-postmodernist, erudite and obscure, he discloses an author far more companionable and humane. In Pynchon’s harmonizing of joyousness and outrage, comedy and sorrow, Coviello finds a model for thinking through our catastrophic present.

Interview by Christian B. Long.

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