"Low-Lands", written while the Pynchon was an undergraduate at Cornell University and first published in "New World Writing" 16 (1960), is an explicit parody of T S Eliot's "The Waste Land". But further, "Low-Lands" evinces another influence: the writings of Cervantes, in particular "Don Quixote de la Mancha". Pynchon studied with Vladimir Nabokov at Cornell. During the 2nd semester of the academic year 1951-1952, Nabokov was visiting at Harvard where he delivered his famous Don Quixote lectures. Although no evidence explicitly documents that Nabokov gave the Cervantes lectures later at Cornell, the Russian novelist is likely to at least have included references to the Spanish masterpiece in his Cornell courses. In any case, Pynchon's writings in general reveal his voracious reading, and, in particular his interest in Hispanic literature. The mature Pynchon, looking back at "Low-Lands" wrote, "In a way this is more of a character sketch than a story... Oddly enough, I had not intended this to be Dennis's story at all -he was supposed to have been a straight man for Pig Bodine.". Dennis Flange, Pynchon's protagonist, is an unhappily married former "competent [naval] communications officer" who is quite unceremoniously thrown out of his house by his practical wife Cindy because of his poor choice of friends and lack of interest in his job. Dennis then stays overnight at the town dump with some of his unsavory friends; whereupon, he meets the beautiful gypsy midget Nerissa, with whom he decides to stay "for a while, at least". As is the case with Don Quixote, the character of Flange dominates the loose plot; as Pynchon comments, "his fantasies become increasingly vivid, [and] that's about all that happens". Yet "Low-Lands" clearly shares with Cervantes' novella, "La gitanilla", a pronounced fairy tale atmosphere.
Used availability for Thomas Pynchon's Low-lands
April 1978 : UK Paperback