Abstract

Thomas Pynchon offers, in The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) and other novels [Gravity's Rainbow (1973), Mason and Dixon (1997)], the pun as an energy-generating alternative to entropy in its ability to multiply meanings, to proliferate "output" from a single source, a word, or an image. In Pynchon's usage, the pun, even more than Maxwell's Demon, defies the second law of thermodynamics: it actually creates energy, causing a word to do the work of several with minimal effort. A look into Pynchon's Puritan past sounds the historical possibilities of Lot 49, suggesting that Pynchon's puns reinscribe the sacred into the secular world, visiting a supernatural effect upon the world of physical laws to defy those laws and to create life out of the void.

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