The Sentiment of Loss
Thomas Pynchon writes elegant prose, which is often profound and sometimes heartbreakingly beautiful. Some of the more poignant sentiment in the early pages of ATD regards loss -- the loss of barely-known kindred spirits and sons or brothers long loved. If one searches the text for less literal examples of "loss", the pages of this, at times, sorrowful book will likely reveal such examples. Here are a few of the more literal examples:
- pp. 87-88 (Webb Traverse)
- Across the Ohio in a hill town whose name he soon couldn't remember, there was a dark-haired girl Webb's age whose name, Teresa, he would never forget. They were out wlking the wagon ruts, just beyond a fenceline the hills went rushing away, the sky was clouded over, it might've been between rain showers, and young Webb was all ready to unburden his heart, which like the sky was about to reveal something beyond itself. He almost did tell her. They both seemed to see it coming, and later, heading west, he carried with him that silence that had stretched on between them until there was no point anymore. He might have stayed, otherwise, snuck off from the wagons, headed back to her. She might have found a way to come after him, too, but that was a dream, really, he didn't know, would never know, how she felt.
- p. 106 (Mayva Traverse)
- 'I'll never see you again.' No. She didn't say that. But she might've, so easy. A look from him. Any small gesture of collapse from his careful, young man's posture back into the boy she wanted, after all, to keep.
- p. 137 (Constance Penhallow)
- She looked to every horizon, taking her time, saving south for last. Not a wisp of smoke, not the last, wind-muted cry of a steam siren, only the good-bye letter waiting this morning on her work-table, held now like a crushed handkerchief in her pocket, in which he had given her his heart -- but which she could not open again and read for fear that through some terrible magic she had never learned to undo, it might have become, after all, a blank sheet.
- p. 191 (Lake Traverse)
- Lake came back to the cabin once to get some of her things. The place echoed with desertion. Webb was on shift, Mayva was out running chores. All her brothers were long gone, the one she missed most being Kit, for they were the two youngest and had shared a kind of willfulness, a yearning for the undreamt-of destiny, or perhaps no more than a stubborn aversion to settling for the everyday life of others.
- p.317 (Dahlia and Merle Rideout)
- They had been in and out of each other's arms so often, she had no uneasiness with good-bye abrazos. Merle, who had a sense of the bets on the table here, knew he better not spook her now. Neither of them had ever had much interest in breaking each other's heart. In theory they both knew she had to move on, though all he wanted right now was to wait, even just another day. But he knew that feeling, and he guessed it would pass.
- p.373 (Wolfe Tone O'Rooney)
- ...watching the fall of night, 'weightless as a widow's veil,' observed the young Irishman, 'and isn't it the curse of the drifter, this desolation of heart we feel each evening at sundown, with the slow loop of the river out there just for half a minute, catching the last light, pregnant with the city in all its density and wonder, the possibilties never to be counted, much less lived into, by the likes of us, don't you see, for we're only passing through, we're already ghosts.'
In his long, thoughtful review of Gravity's Rainbow in the NY Times Book Review of 11 March 1973, Richard Locke wrote:
"In all of Pynchon's books there is also an element of soft lyrical sadness, a longing for a tryst with a lost love. But this tenderness is most often inextricable from a drift into passiveness, self-pity, withdrawal, emotional impotence, or it is the feeling that links victim and executioner."