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Too much hammering going on

"Information. What's wrong with dope and women? Is it any wonder the world's gone insane, with information come to be the only real medium of exchange?"

I thought it was cigarettes."

Thomas Pynchon. Gravity's Rainbow, p. 262.

1. Abundancy

The first article on Pynchon's work in an academical journal was published the same year V. was hailed by many reviewers in the popular press as an extraordinary first novel (1). Today the Tenth International Pynchon Week is organised. Between December 1963 and June 2010 one can identify at least 2,000 scholarly articles on Pynchon and his works, and over 400 Ph.D. dissertations, in at least 27 languages. It is not unlikely that Thomas Pynchon is the most intensively studied contemporary American author (2). Quantifying (and ultimately, qualifying) secondary bibliographical information on Pynchon has become a task comparable to Oedipa Maas trying to decipher the world.

2. Dialogue

A statistical constant in the so-called "Pyndustry" is that about 15 percent of all scholarly articles are reviews of other articles or studies. Furthermore, articles point to literary theories and other articles. Finally, articles and studies have a story: they can be expanded, excerpted, translated or reprinted. By mapping secondary bibliographical items efficiently it might be possible and interesting to compute this critical dialogue and create a "history" of Pynchon criticism.

3. Relational Databases

The concept of relational databases is a practical application of the set theory in mathematics, and originally developed in 1969 by E.F. Codd. Basically it structures information in rows (called tuples or records), and records in tables. These tables are optimised using a system called normalisation which defines the relationships between the tables. It took another decade to commercialise a computer language called SQL or Structured Query Language, that allowed to organise information in a relational way. Computerised library catalogues at the time were by definition structured in a non-relational way -they still are- and created from the librarian"s point of view, and not the user"s. This was "solved" by using very expensive "raw" computer processor power: search engines.

4. A Possible Model for a Secondary Bibliography

By making a complete distinction between the data (content) and the way the data are presented (form), by applying a stringent set of definitions ("What is a monography"; "What is an article", etc.), we think it is possible to create an interactive method to build and use an online bibliographical system that is extremely small (26 tables containing over 14,000 records measure in total less than 3 megabytes), high in performance and low in server processor use. Statistical queries can provide the necessary information to compute the criticism dialogue. While this is not important to the non-programmer, other users can consider this database on secondary items concerning Pynchon"s works a useful tool.

The functionalities of this Pynchon bibliography can be illustrated with an Internet demo.


Hoffman, Frederick J. “The Questing Comedian: Thomas Pynchon"s V.” in: Critique 6.3. (Winter 1963-1964): 174-177.