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Slow Learner: Early Stories Paperback – 16 Feb 1995

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (16 Feb. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099532514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099532514
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Pynchon is the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Slow Learner, a collection of short stories, Vineland, Mason and Dixon and, most recently, Against the Day. He received the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.

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Review

"Possibly the most accomplished writer of prose in English since James Joyce... Sentence by sentence he can do more than any novelist of this century with the resources of the English-American language" (London Review of Books)

"Anything from the most monstrous talent in the post-war West should be pursued in earnest. I've eaten two copies already" (Time Out)

"Thomas Pynchon is the Gargantua of modern fiction... In Slow Learner he breaks cover for the first time with a remarkable open handed portrait of the writer as a young man" (Sunday Times)

"Pynchon at his best" (Guardian)

Book Description

A collection of early work from one of America's most acclaimed writers.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ian Shine VINE VOICE on 24 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
I've had "Gravity's Rainbow" sitting dauntingly on my shelf for too long to mention, so when I saw the attractively slim `Slow Learner' on the cheap I picked it up as a quicker route into the world of Pynchon. All I really knew about him was his secrecy, his refusal to be photographed, and his apparently precocious genius.
"Slow Learner" is a collection of his early work, and by his own recognition in the introduction (which offers a fascinating insight into the development of the author, how he not only developed as a writer but how he develops his work, even today - Pynchon puts a big emphasis on character, seeing it as the root from which fiction MUST grow) is far from his greatest work. Having not read any of his other books, I obviously was unable to see how the early Pynchon finally came through in the later Pynchon, but it was still offered a brilliant view into the mind of a young writer, most notably the almost ventriloquial adoption of different voices and styles.
"Under the Rose", the fourth story in the collection and the one which Pynchon says he likes the most today, I found unpalatable in its inferior imitation of Graham Greene (again, Pynchon acknowledges this in his introduction), although perhaps this was highlighted by my having only read Greene's "The Quiet American" a few days before. Otherwise, there is a large reliance on the beat generation (Kerouac's "On The Road" is one of Pynchon's favourite books), notably in "Entropy".
I didn't find it a bad collection, but at the same time it didn't particularly grab me, although it's not there as a showpiece book. I think once I've got through "Gravity's Rainbow" and another couple of Pynchon's tomes, a return to this slim volume might be much more interesting and rewarding.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. Bull on 10 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
I am a big Pynchon fan and if you ever want to read his work, but were put off by the novels being over 600 pages long this is the book for you. All five of these short stories seem to encapsulate bits of the later work. That said probably the most interesting part of the book is Pynchon’s introduction, where he slates the stories for a number of reasons, giving a sort of master class for idiots like me who have pretentious to become writers.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Guy Van Driessche on 22 April 2001
Format: Paperback
The most striking thing about this collection of stories is the almost palpable presence of the author. Starting with the foreword (the only time mister Pynchon ever spoke to his readers directly!), and the all to meaningfull title, as if to excuse himself for the humbleness of these stories compaired with the later work. True as this may be, most of these stories are of an almost Salingerian freshness, simple in their construction, but multilayered in dimension... Very readable, but as dense as most of his work. In short: if you haven't read these, you won't appreciate the rest of the work of Thomas Pynchon.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Shillam on 13 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sturdy and strong. Will probably be able to withstand a good few years of strenuous use. Even if input weight on it will continue to support me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A pathology of the young Pynchon, with a delightful intro 2 April 2001
By Yaumo Gaucho - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
After reading Pynchon's excellent, self-deprecating introduction to these stories, it is difficult to read the stories without searching for, and finding, elements of writerly clumsiness and naivete. The effect is similar to that of reading James Joyce's "Stephen Hero": the realization that even great writers were human in their youth.
I think of the preface to this book as the main body of the text, and the stories as figures and appendices elaborating on what Pynchon means when he criticizes his former self. I would not recommend this book for the intrinsic literary value of the stories -- they're not all that great, especially when compared with the Pynchon we more readily know. But as an essay about how not to write short stories, with some illustrations provided, or as a bit of Pynchon autobiography, Slow Learner is magnificent.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Fascinating Introduction 12 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For those who find Thomas Pynchon frighteningly intimidating (and who doesn't?), a perusal of these stories will quickly bring The Man down a few notches where you can be certain that he once (once, long ago) was human.
The stories, presented chronologically, are also a testimonial to an astounding learning curve, a man who in very little time learned from his mistakes. And there are mistakes: at times you may find yourself chuckling at the young Pynchon's overwriting or callow viewpoints. Yet these are still the works of a budding genius (my favourite, bar none!) and there glimpses aplenty.
But don't buy the book for the stories alone! No no no! The candid introduction by Pynchon is the real gem here and, for all those Pynchonites, worth the price of admission.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Pleasing, and Unlike Pynchon 30 Oct. 2004
By James Igoe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read The Crying of Lot 49, as well as material about Pynchon, so expected a tough read, but found this collection of short stories surprisingly light, although the final story was excellent, thoughtful, and moving. As for the introduction, mentioned by someone as the worth of this book, he is nearly right, as it was an absolute pleasure to read, both light and witty; it wa so good that at times I simultaneously laughed and cried.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"When are we getting a color TV, Dad?" 11 Jan. 2007
By Aco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Well I am pleased that I finished another Pynchon work. Having read V., The Crying of Lot 49, and now Slow Learner-I have avoided the gigantic Gravity's Rainbow, which comes after 49 in order, mostly out of intimidation...

Slow Learner seems to have been produced out of a public interest in Pynchon, perhaps out of the void of 10 years since Rainbow, as something to give us all, ever awed by his labrinthine worlds and layered stories.

Though made up of five stories written from 1959-1964, and published in the Cornell Writer, New World Writing, the Kenyon Review, The Noble Savage 3 and The Saturday Evening Post, there is a sixth tale, the introduction, in which Pynchon shares his analysis and criticism of his works and his earlier self. It is a terrific piece, and suits the experience by pre-empting the stories' weaknesses with his exposure of them.

Without going into them I'll just say that I enjoyed the first three very much, The Small Rain, Low-lands and Entropy. Entropy in particular was a layered, manic visceral fiction that manages to incorporate meta-physics with phychology and neurosis. I did not like Under the Rose, as I found it confusing, pre-occupied with itself and it's twists and I couldn't get into it's rhythm and so finished it in bunches. The glaring aspects of his style become annoyances here, the bizarre names, the digressions into the past, elaborate memories...The Secret Integration though is clearly his most mature, skillful work, with a haunting conclusion that resonates deeply.

I feel the better for reading these works. I know he is a master of sorts, his style and execution are awesome, as well his reputation shrowded in mystery. I recommend this book....
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Pynch of early Pynchon 11 Feb. 2008
By Dick Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I agree with other reviewers that the fun of this book lies in Pynchon's thoughts of these early efforts. It made the reading of them much more enjoyable. It also made them seem better then they really were, since I realized they were not to be judged in the same light as his later works. So, the fifth star was for his honesty.

This is a recommended read for any reader interested in the entire works of Pynchon.
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