Brow Beat

Thomas Pynchon Will Cameo in Inherent Vice—but Will We Recognize Him?

Thomas Pynchon guest starring on The Simpsons, 2004.

Thomas Pynchon.

Animation still courtesy 20th Century Fox

Paul Thomas Anderson has been very tight-lipped about his new movie, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, but today the New York Times got a very big scoop: The movie will feature a cameo from Pynchon himself. Anderson refused to confirm the cameo to the Times, but star Josh Brolin did:

“I don’t think anybody knew” Mr. Pynchon was on the set, Mr. Brolin said, confirming the cameo. “He came on as the kind of mercurial iconoclast he is. He stayed in the corner.”

Pynchon, of course, is famous for being “reclusive,” or more accurately just press-shy. He has never made a major public appearance, and it’s been decades since he’s consented to being photographed for publication.

This, of course, raises some serious questions about how we’ll recognize Pynchon at all. The only good, widely available photos of the Gravity’s Rainbow author are a half-century old, such as this one from his high school yearbook. (A few more recent photos of him have been published, but as far as I can tell none of them show a clear shot of his face. We totally know what his right arm and his back look like, though.) The novel is also packed with party scenes and men in disguises, and those scenes should provide Pynchon with ample opportunities to hide in plain sight.

My best guess is that that’s exactly what will happen, that it will be a sort of Where’s Waldo? book where Waldo has aged 50 years since we last saw him. Then again, Pynchon might just take a cue from his cameos on The Simpsons and appear with a bag over his head.

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