Thomas Pynchon: Some little-known facts

(Michael Okoniewski / Associated Press; Dan Burn-Forti / Getty Images)

Thomas Pynchon has avoided the limelight his entire career -- he sent a stand-in to accept his National Book Award in 1974, and, as far as we know, hasn’t been photographed since his stint in the Navy in the 1950s. But tucked within the quiet stacks of the Huntington Library is the Stephen Tomaske Collection of Pynchonalia, which provides rare glimpses into the author’s life. Tomaske was a UCLA librarian who dedicated himself to gathering the most comprehensive collection of Pynchon material he could.Here are some tidbits.

1. Pynchon wrote a column for his high school newspaper called “Voice of the Hamster.”

2. The world Pynchon created for “Voice of the Hamster” was full of characters with silly names -- J. Fattington Woodgrouse, Rafeal Faggisducci – just like his novels.

3. His first book, “V.,” had a number of alternate titles before it was published, including “Low Lands,” “Down Paradise Street,” “Of a Fond Ghoul,” and “Dream Tonight of Peacock Tails.”


4. Another alternate title Pynchon suggested for “V.” was “Blood’s a Rover” from the poem by A.E. Houseman; James Ellroy used it as a novel title in 2009.

5. Pynchon’s wife (literary agent Melanie Jackson) and her sisters all have first names that begin with the letter M.

6. The founder of Springfield, Massachusetts was William Pynchon, Thomas Pynchon’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, who came to America in 1630.

7. Pynchon’s SAT numbers are revealed in a document that appears to be an academic record from Cornell. How did he do? 700 verbal, 690 math.