Thomas Pynchon was born 80 years ago today, on May 8, 1937. The famous author hasn’t made an official public appearance in years and guards his privacy by keeping clear of cameras—there are only a few publicly available pictures of him in the world. But on this day fans of the author of Gravity’s Rainbow and The Crying of Lot 49 celebrate by bringing their own Pynchon out in public.
Pynchon in Public Day was started in 2011 by a group of fans connected with a podcast that discusses Pynchon’s work. According to the website, the celebration began with “Martin and Bill,” two early podcast contributors, “meeting up in a pub in England.”
Since then, Pynchon in Public Day has spread around the world. The simplest way to celebrate is to bring a copy of a Pynchon book out in public and read it. The theory goes something like: If the author doesn’t want publicity for himself, his fans can bring attention to his work. Some also pass out “a Pynchonian card, stick a Pynchon sticker or two,” the Los Angeles Times reported on a previous Pynchon in Public Day. According to the organizers, “Other activities include hunting for muted posthorn symbols, launching model V2 rockets and joining a grassroots alternate reality game based upon underground postal networks.” If you’re a fan, that all makes perfect sense.
Here are some celebrants:
Pynchon in Public Day is now more popular than ever, though, in honor of the writer, many participants choose to keep their faces shielded from view. It all seems a fitting way to honor both the man and his work: dense, unruly, frustrating, rewarding, and weird.