If there is a legitimate American heir to James Joyce, it would appear to be Thomas Pynchon, and it is probably no accident that some of the same academic minds that have devoted years to the explication of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake have also turned their attention to Pynchon's fiction. He has steadfastly avoided personal publicity, and little is known of him other than that he was born in Glen Cove, New York, and graduated from Cornell, where he took Vladimir Nabokov's famous course in modern literature. George Plimpton (N.Y. Times) has commented, "Pynchon's remarkable ability includes a vigorous and imaginative style, a robust humor, a tremendous reservoir of information (one suspects he could churn out a passable almanac in a fortnight's time) and, above all, a sense of how to use and balance these talents." In 1963 Pynchon won the Faulkner First Novel Award with V V (1963). The main character, Benny Profane, is determined to learn the identity of a woman identified in the diary of his late father only as "V." Mary McCarthy suggests that the book could rank as "one of the most encyclopedic founts of fact in the history of the novel," with its detailed descriptions of a nose operation, the intricacies of British espionage in the Middle East, the history of Malta, and similar abstruse subjects. The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) is the story of how Oedipa Maas discovers a world within her world, an antiworld, an adversary world---or perhaps a world that she has invented in her imagination. The novel makes use of information and communications theory a la Norbert Wiener, among other subjects. Here again the symbolism, the commentary on the United States and on human isolation are intricate and masterly---though some reviewers found the book overingenious and maddeningly dense. With this book, Pynchon won the Rosenthal Foundation Award. Gravity's Rainbow (1973), winner of the National Book Award for fiction in 1974, is considered Pynchon's greatest fictional achievement to date. In part a fictional elegy and meditation on death, it is an encyclopedic work that jumps through time and is loaded with references to a multitude of topics ranging from light bulbs to a schematic history of German thought. The novel was enthusiastically received by most reviewers, with Edward Mendelson announcing (Yale Review) "that few books in this century have achieved the range and depth of this one." After a hiatus of over a decade, Pynchon published his latest novel, Vineland (1990). Although favorably reviewed, it has not made nearly the impact of his earlier work. Pynchon won a MacArthur Foundation Award in 1988. Perhaps the most reclusive of all American writers, he gives no interviews, allows no photographs of himself, and keeps his address secret.