Jay Meehan: Old quotes home
Obviously I’d been following him from the front, no mean feat for us non-linear types, because there he was in the Fiction aisle of Dolly’s Bookstore and I had gotten there before him.
Thomas Pynchon’s work had long been a fixture of my Sundance Film Festival wanderings, only this was, as far as I know, my first actual sighting of the man himself, if indeed that is what it was.
When trying to kill time creatively between screenings or panels or Music Cafés during past fests, I would slip into Dolly’s, grab Pynchon’s latest, flip it open anywhere, and digest a few holy paragraphs. As novelist Richard Powers put it succinctly, "reading is the last act of secular prayer."
I never did it with "Inherent Vice." That particular book, I snatched up in hardcover at a Sun Valley bookshop the week it was published while en-route to Stanley and, the following weekend, a music fest up in Challis.
Recently, it’s been the hardcover version of "Bleeding Edge," his "9/11" novel. It got so that most anytime I found myself on Main Street, Film Fest or not, I would enter the bookshop and mosey on over to Fiction, both for subconscious prayer purposes and to see if a paperback version might have slipped through security.
And that’s where I was hanging when this white-haired dude sporting a thick red-and-dark-gray wool plaid shirt and levis came in behind me, tilted his head, and busied himself reading from the spines of dust jackets.
Partial row after partial row, never once intruding upon the space of the portly gray dude, the stranger squinted, finally ending up in the lowest rows in a full squat, his head aligned ninety-degrees from the perpendicular.
The only reason I thought it might have been him is because I recalled an old Salman Rushdie quote that went something to the effect that "Thomas Pynchon looks exactly like Thomas Pynchon should look. He is tall, he wears lumberjack shirts and blue jeans. He has Albert Einstein white hair and Bugs Bunny front teeth."
Now that was this guy all over, only his teeth were hidden by a mustache bushy enough to have been cultivated in the mountains outside Culiacan. But what would Pynchon be doing in town, anyway? It being the beginning of Sundance 2015: Week 2 might have had something to do with it
Then in general release, the film "Inherent Vice" hadn’t yet made it up the hill from Salt Lake, by any stretch, and anyway, all the screens in these parts had long been spoken for. Could he have been an "indie" film buff on the lam from studio fare? Possibly! Certainly, none of his readers had yet been able to establish geographical limits to his curiosity.
Suffering from my usual festival-induced sleep deprivation, and willing to accept most any notion whatsoever, for whatever reason, most probably pedantic, I attempted to keep the paperback cover of "Bleeding Edge," which I already knew I was going to buy, directly in his line-of-sight as he went through his quite studious squat-thrust routine.
Two thoughts came to mind about then and they were somewhat related. The first was that I was still breathing in a rather normal fashion. This was notable due to my history of acute pulmonary disorder when in close proximity to those whom, for whatever reason, I put upon a pedestal.
The second, triggered by a nearby copy of "Pattern Recognition" and the fact that I could no longer recall what film was up next on that day’s schedule, was that old axiom, "Time moves in one direction, memory in another," which, as it happened, was my second-favorite William Gibson quote after "The future has already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed yet."
The more I thought about it, the more I hoped that my lumberjack buddy wasn’t Thomas Pynchon after all. It was kind of like never wanting the mystery of the disappearance of Everett Ruess to be solved. I would miss the inherent irony in the romance of the void.
Which brings us to the David Foster Wallace quote, "The great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates." (It was hard to miss the catalogue-sized copies of "Infinite Jest" reposing in the same alcove.)
OK, I cop to it. Guilty on all charges! Film festivals and bookshops do that to me. Can hardly wait to slip into Dolly’s during Sundance 2016. Who knows, maybe the ghost of J.D. Salinger will make an appearance.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.
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