Gravity’s Kindle: Thomas Pynchon’s back catalogue digitised at last

In what hopefully isn’t a portent of his impending death, Thomas Pynchon has joined the likes of Ray Bradbury in finally consenting to have his works made (legally) available as e-books after long refusing to authorise such a move. The legendary American author of Gravity’s Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49 and Mason & Dixon will see his seven novels (the aforementioned three, as well as V., Vineland, Against The Day and Inherent Vice) and one book of short stories, Slow Learner, available in digital format from today, his publisher, Penguin Press, has told the New York Times.

His reason for doing so? Much as we’d like to think it was an acknowledgement that anyone likely to read Against The Day probably doesn’t have the upper body strength to be able to hold its 1085 pages upright, according to Ann Godoff – president and editor in chief of Penguin Press – the truth is far more pragmatic: ‘I think he wants to have more readers. Every writer wants to have as many readers as they can possibly get.’ Speaking of ‘a great desire to have all of Tom’s books in digital format now, for many years’, she added ‘he didn’t want to not be part of that.’

Not wanting to ‘not be part of that’ was, of course, by no means a foregone conclusion for an author so famously reclusive that even his two guest appearances on The Simpsons see him drawn with a paper bag covering his face, and whose voice, Simpsons aside, has only been heard in the mainstream media in a promotional video released to YouTube in advance of the 2009 release of Inherent Vice.

Godoff, however, was quick to assure long term fans of literature’s most famous hermit – at least, now that J.D. Salinger’s dead – that this sudden willingness to embrace changes in technology won’t see the author throwing himself wholeheartedly into press junkets or anything: ‘I don’t think this will change his public profile, in terms of him being out there in public. In fact, I know it won’t.’

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