The new Paul Thomas Anderson film (he dropped the “P.T.” around the time ofThere Will Be Blood, though few in the media have chosen to follow suit) was, from the start, a thing. Anderson is Hollywood’s current crown prince, the golden boy made good—a short film made when he was 23 got to Sundance; his first feature film, Hard Eight, was shot when he was 26 and featured Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson at the height of their powers; and his 2007 film, There Will be Blood, is often considered one of the most important films of the first decade of the 21st century. Every new Anderson film is an event.
So when news leaked a few years ago that Anderson would adapt a Thomas Pynchon novel, his buzz turned into a roar; if anyone can top Anderson in that crucial Venn diagram of fanboy worship and critical acclaim, it’s Pynchon, whose novella The Crying of Lot 49 launched a million secret-society stick-and-pen hipster tattoos, and whose Gravity’s Rainbow is hailed as one of the American literary masterpieces of the 20th century despite the 1974 Pulitzer Prize committee calling it “unreadable,” “turgid,” “overwritten” and “obscene.”
Pynchon, to put it mildly, keeps to himself. He is famous for his media reticence—there have been no photos taken of him in decades, and he does not grant interviews. And yet, he is far from a Luddite. His fiction suggests a man infatuated with pop culture. He has, for example, appeared on The Simpsons, drawn with a paper bag over his head to mock his public persona (or lack thereof). His 2009 novel, Inherent Vice, is loaded with all the latest and greatest, from both the story’s 1970 setting (the Manson trial, surf rock) and its 2008 writing period (the book has shades of the decade’s housing crises). And rumors of the invention of what would become the ubiquitous Internet are threaded throughout. But despite their ability to keep a metaphorical finger on the cultural pulse, not to mention the presence of copious amounts of violence, sex and drugs, none of Pynchon’s books have made it to the screen—until now.