But can she juggle flaming torches, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?

Rachel Donadio begins her consideration of the many extra-textual pressures placed on writers these days with one of my favorite Roz Chast cartoons, Thomas Pynchon’s Evil Twin” (the caption: “Mud-wrestle in my underwear on national TV while holding up a new copy of my book? NO PROBLEMO!”).

Chast perfectly captures the grotesquerie of today’s publishing circus, in which writers — and certainly publishers — are grateful for anything that helps a reader hear that one small voice in the cacophony of the zillion-square-foot megastore. It’s enough to make one wonder whether a notoriously reclusive writer like Pynchon would ever find readers if he were starting out today. After all, he wouldn’t do the morning talk shows or give readings, and he doesn’t even have a jacket photo, let alone look like Johnny Depp — at least not as far as we know.


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