Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Culture Shock

By Blake de Pastino

JULY 28, 1997:  It seems I spoke too soon. Just as Weekly Alibi went to print with a column about the famously elusive novelist Thomas Pynchon, The New Yorker reported that he had finally been found. Actually, the discovery took place back in June, when an investigative reporter for London's Times Sunday Magazine declared that he'd not only tracked down the hermetic writer, but had even snapped a blurry, Big Footesque photograph of him skulking down a Manhattan street. (The author was described, just for the record, as a "large man with glasses and a silvery mustache" and was wearing a black parka with the hood pulled up. In June.) But the beauty of it is, few Americans would ever have learned of the exposé, had it not been for Pynchon's publisher Henry Holt. A week after the Times piece ran, Holt's lawyer sent them a rabid letter, demanding that the reporter not only cease and desist, but that he also destroy all prints and negatives he has of the novelist. Some veiled threats of legal action were also thrown in, just to up the ante. And--wouldn't you know it--all of this happened amid the release of Pynchon's latest novel, Mason & Dixon, his biggest if not best work since Gravity's Rainbow. Maybe it would be cynical to say that Holt has pulled off the greatest publicity stunt of the year. But if nothing else, it has become a bizarre pop-culture case that--had it happened to anyone else--Pynchon himself would probably appreciate.


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