When I was finishing my Ph.D., I thought a great deal about the kind of dissertation-length project that would hold my interest … and even be fun. I had done my master’s thesis on Tom Robbins. That was a topic that made it a little easier to write my first long paper. But a dissertation might be five times the length of my thesis. First I thought about Nabokov, who I had been spending much of my time reading and studying. By the time I found a suitable topic (something about the philosophical treatment of time in his novels as I recall), I realized it had already been written by someone else. And in retrospect, that seems like a good way to make some great novels seem pretty boring.
I settled on Thomas Pynchon, a long-time favorite. I was always taken with the strange character names. So I decided to compile a dictionary of all of them. I brought together as many readings as I could find and offered my own interpretations and ideas. Overall, the process was pretty fun … well, as fun as writing a dissertation can be. While I tried to get it published, I added all the names from Against the Day,* which had been published in the meantime. Finally, McFarland brought it out in 2008 as a slim and somewhat pricey paperback. You should buy it just the same. I have lots of new notes and names, and now there is another novel, Inherent Vice.* Someday, I really should prepare a new edition. Don’t look for it in the near future, though.