Daily Archives: August 21, 2009

Frye and Pynchon


Thomas Pynchon in an episode of The Simpsons

A note from Bob Denham:

According to Robert Murray Davis, Thomas Pynchon took Vladimir Nabokov’s course in the novel at Cornell and somehow discovered what Northrop Frye called “Menippean Satire,” a work based on the root meaning of satire, “satura,” medley, mixture. [“When Was Post-Modernism?” World Literature Today 75, no. 2 (Spring 2001): 295-8.]

Frye also cites Pynchon in a discussion about paranoia in Creation and Recreation.

Today in the Frye Diaries, 21 August




[73] [Peter] Fisher claims the reason Westerners can’t get any charge out of Buddhist monks is that the average scholar to them is not a seeker of wisdom but a scribe: it’s a question of class.


Still in Massachusetts, Frye attends a cocktail party where he relays a greeting from Ned Pratt to Mark van Doren.  He then gets into an unpleasant conversation with a “mural painter named Bradford” who claims Blake “was a fourth-rate painter” with appeal only to “li’erary people.”  Although he eventually manages to slip away, Frye’s evening, while interesting, seems to go from bad to worse with drink:

[562]…Well, I drank several Manhattans & we moved on to the Thurbers. There I had a lot more drinks & dinner — well, supper — wasn’t served until very late, so I got horribly sick and had two long agonizing sessions in the can puking my guts up… Apart from that I enjoyed talking to James Thurber [pictured above], who told me all about Harold Ross, who seems to be a strange and attractive mixture of toughness and innocence — possibly a much stronger character than Thurber himself, who seems to me to have the insecurity of someone from central Ohio, who’s still trying to adjust himself to the big, bad city.  Now how in God’s name — I’m not drunk now — did I manage to compose a sentence like that, plopping one clause after another like horse turds and who-whoing like an owl?

The party goes on till five and “the conversation turns bawdy and often abusive.” Even so, Frye finds Thurber “completely charming and appealing.”

Tomorrow: dealing with a hangover