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The contemporary reader, of course, is not especially unfamiliar to detective fiction. Over the span of literary tradition, this genre has tempered our expectations of culprits, conspiracies, and central characters. In The Crying of Lot 49, however, Oedpia upends these expectations: she’s a 28-year-old republican housewife married to a DJ, tending to her garden and attending Tupperware parties for fun; while reconciling her ex-boyfriend’s will, she is drawn out by her intuition to investigate a conspiracy. Being a woman situates her in a unique position of power, and she skillfully takes advantage of people who think she’s a boring housewife. She assumes different roles like the granddaughter and naive student to access information otherwise inaccessible. Indeed, Oedpia is an anti-detective, shrewd and cunning, and yet she loosely connects evidence, symbols and signs to sustain her delusion of the Tristero. There is always something slipping from Oedpia’s grasp so she can never uncover the truth; the reader becomes cognizant that Oedpia senses don’t aid her ability to understand. Paranoia besets Oedpia and fuels the plot. She continually tries to render meaning in the meaningless–in fact, the reader gets entangled in this same conundrum as we too are trying to find meaning in the odd (and conspicuous) names, and the strange events that unfold, among other seemingly important yet unimportant things. The central paradox of the book is this: the pattern is that there is no pattern. Even at the end of the book, after being constantly denied and being so close to uncovering the Tristero, Oedpia and the reader receive no closure on the conspiracy, adding to a tireless list of inconsistencies and dead-ends that typify the novel.

-Patrick Achis

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