Now let’s get this straight: Reclusive, postmodern cult novelist Thomas Pynchon has written the liner notes for Spiked! (Catalyst/BMG), a CD reissue of 18 works by bandleader Lindley Armstrong ”Spike” Jones? Well, yes, and it’s not as bizarre as you might think. Pynchon and Jones actually have a lot in common.
Just compare Pynchon’s five zany, egocentric, cacophonous, and chaotically brilliant published works (V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow, Slow Learner, Vineland) with the musical concoctions of Jones (”The King of Corn”), who from 1940 until his death in 1965 deconstructed popular songs, punctuating them with weird vocal effects, whistles, pistols, cowbells, and saws, among other things. So, is this merely a serendipitous pairing of an avant-garde literary visionary with a musical one? Well, no.
In the introduction to Slow Learner, a 1984 collection of his early stories, Pynchon reveals that Jones’ music made an impression on him in boyhood. Enter Catalyst executive producer (and Pynchonite) Tim Page, who recalled the writer’s penchant for Jones and approached him through his agent. ”I didn’t expect to hear back,” says Page. But he did, receiving 3,000 words of what he calls ”the best liner notes I’ve ever read.” (Example: ”Kids admired (Jones’) records for nearly the same set of reasons grown-ups did-the rudeness, the grace of execution, the sheer percussive dementia.” When asked if he tampered with the notes, Page nearly drops the phone, managing to utter: ”I think it would be presumptuous to edit Thomas Pynchon.”