Being quite the Thomas Pynchon fan, I was intrigued to find out a documentary about him is available. Thomas Pynchon: A Journey into the Mind of [p.] is written and directed by Donatello Dubini and Fosco Dubini. Although just recently released on dvd, the film was made in 2001 and originally released in the UK in 2003. I hadn’t realized that the documentary was nearly 8 years old when watching it and was initially disappointed that it didn’t include more recent material.
Given the fact that so little is know about Pynchon’s life, I didn’t know what to expect from the documentary. The biographical aspects that the film covers will be familiar to any Pynchon fan: his time in the navy, his job at Boeing, his trip to Mexico. There’s nothing new here except some far-fetched speculations by some of the interviewees.
Also, Pynchon fans will be interested to see some of the people from Pynchon lore: Jules Siegel, an old friend of Pynchon’s, Chrissie Wexler, one of Pynchon’s early loves, George Plimpton who wrote one of the earliest reviews of V. and “Professor” Irvin Corey who infamously accepted the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow on Pynchon’s behalf.
Because of the lack of biographical information about Pynchon, the film spends a good portion of the first hour also placing Pynchon’s work into the context of the times. Most interesting is the information about the CIA’s involvement of LSD and the protests against the Viet Nam War. The film also includes some interesting archival footage, especially of Peenemünde and the Mittlewerk factory. Unfortunately, some of the footage feels like filler.
Although there were no new revelations for me in the first part of the film, I was more or less enjoying it. However, the last 20 minutes or so focuses on two men obsessed with getting a current picture of Pynchon. One, Richard Lane, scrutinizes a CNN clip that supposedly captures the reclusive writer. The other, James Bone, stalks Pynchon to get his picture. Frankly, I don’t care what he looks like and was very put off by these so-called fans. If they had any real respect for the writer they would allow him to enjoy the privacy he so famously seeks.