Thomas Pynchon’s Favorite Neglected Book


From the Modern Word website, a section devoted to the novelist Thomas Pynchon reprints his contribution to the December 1965 issue of Holiday magazine. Asked to name his favorite neglected book, Pynchon wrote of Oakley Hall’s novel, Warlock:

Tombstone, Arizona, during the 1880’s is, in ways, our national Camelot: a never-never land where American virtues are embodied in the Earps, and the opposite evils in the Clanton gang; where the confrontation at the OK corral takes on some of the dry purity of the Arthurian joust. Oakley Hall, in his very fine novel Warlock (Viking) has restored to the myth of Tombstone its full, mortal, blooded humanity. Wyatt Earp is transmogrified into a gunfighter named Blaisdell who, partly because of his blown-up image in the Wild West magazines of the day, believes he is a hero. He is summoned to the embattled town of Warlock by a committee of nervous citizens expressly to be a hero, but finds that he cannot, at last, live up to his image; that there is a flaw not only in him, but also, we feel, in the entire set of assumptions that have allowed the image to exist…. It is the deep sensitivity to abysses that makes Warlock one of our best American novels.

Note: Warlock has been reissued as part of the NYRB Classics series.

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