In Absentia

Welcome to Absentia, a tourist trap dedicated to the absence of Thomas Pynchon. This building is sort of a local landmark, best known for Thomas Pynchon never having lived here, worked here, or even visited. And also—this is not really proven, but I personally think it’s true—Pynchon doesn’t even know this place exists. And we’re trying to keep it that way. So ix-nay on the ynchon-Pay ommunication-cay, if you know what I ean-may (wink).

Absentia does coffee and gifts and stuff, but our purpose is deeper than that. Our goal is to draw your attention to TP’s absence as best we can. We strive to make his total lack of presence (and, in most cases, lack of any sort of association, even indirectly) feel a little closer to home, not just for us here at Absentia but for people the world over. So tell your friends. Unless you’re friends with Thomas Pynchon, in which case don’t tell him. Tell other people though–ones that don’t know Thomas Pynchon.

Over there you’ll find the American postmodern literature library, which you’ll note is conspicuously missing any of Pynchon’s works. We’ve also included some cookbooks, because Pynchon doesn’t write those.

And here we have Pynchonless memorabilia: this is a photo of Irwin Corley, a comedian Pynchon asked to accept the National Book Award on his behalf. Since Corley was well known for being where Pynchon wasn’t, we feel we have a special association with Mr. Corley. These 8×10’s are signed–not by Corley, but by my friend Heather, who hasn’t read any of Pynchon’s books and doesn’t plan to. There’s a certificate of avoidance on the back, so you know it’s authentic. Photos are $10.

And this is the infamous Paris Hilton “Party Lash,” available only while supplies last. We stock the lash because we have it on very good authority that wherever Paris is, Pynchon is not. Noted book critic Arthur Salm went on the record, saying  Pynchon is “on a frequency so out of phase with that of the prevailing culture that if Pynchon and Paris Hilton were ever to meet… the resulting matter/antimatter explosion would vaporize everything from here to Tau Ceti IV.”

To accommodate that eventuality, we’ve put a picture of Tau Ceti IV just outside the front door. If Pynchon ever does happen to wander in, everything on the premises will be destroyed (Pynchon included), restoring the Pynchonless condition we stand on.

You’ll note we’ve got Family Guy playing on the television. We always do. Reruns only, of course. Family Guy plays at the same time as The Simpsons, in which Pynchon had a cameo. By sticking to this channel we further ensure zero possibility of exposure to Pynchon’s voice, image, or any sort of discussion or involvement of his work or himself.

And I know, I get it, you’ve seen Family Guy before. Everyone has. But I know you haven’t seen this before.

What we have here is a copy of “Eve, the Common Muse of Henry Miller & Lawrence Durrell.” Never heard of it? Didn’t think so. It was originally self-published by the obscure Beat poet Tom “Tiger Tim” Tinasky. This little tract isn’t interesting because it’s valuable. It’s not even particularly well-written. It’s interesting because of the Wanda Tinasky letters.

Back in the 80’s, the Mendocino Commentary and Anderson Valley Advertiser received a series of letters from a bag-lady named Wanda Tinasky. Wanda Tinasky was, of course, a pseudonym; the letters were suspiciously literary, considering their humble provenance. In the letters, “Wanda” rails against local politicians and discusses a novel she’s writing about the San Francisco Beat scene.

A few years later, Bruce Anderson, editor of the Anderson Valley Advertiser read Vineland, a Pynchon novel set in Northern California. The style bore a strong resemblance to the Tinasky letters. Wanda also described her job at Boeing, where Pynchon had also worked years before. Rumors started to circulate, and people started to speculate. Could Pynchon have been the original writer of these letters? Years later, Pynchon publicly denied these claims, speaking through his wife and publicist. But the story was too juicy to put down.

It wasn’t until 1998 that professor Donald Foster brought forth strong evidence that Tom Hawkins wrote the Tinasky letters. The timeline made sense: Tom lived in Mendocino county, worked for Boeing, and violently killed his wife and himself around the same time the Tinasky letters stopped coming.

We don’t know for certain that Tom wrote the letters. But even if he didn’t, even if Thomas Pynchon was Wanda Tinasky all along, it is safe to assume that Pynchon did not write Tom’s earliest, least acclaimed, least well-known work. That’s why we have it here. It’s nfor sale, but you can hold it if you want.

That concludes the tour. Feel free to take a look around, let me know if you want any of that coffee. No alcohol, of course; the rent and insurance is cheaper that way. And you know how feel about inherent vice.