One of the great things about Thomas Pynchon’s books is that his plots are full of symbols. In the novel “V,” the symbol V emerges in a number of odd, hilarious and mysterious ways—characters, a geographical destination, the intersecting paths of narrative threads. In “The Crying of Lot 49,” the symbols for Trystero, the muted post horn and the W.A.S.T.E. receptacles, appear all over California. “Gravity’s Rainbow” had the esoteric symbolism of the mysterious rocket the Schwarzgerät, which was symbolized with something resembling cross hairs. Symbols make appearances in other Pynchon novels such as “Mason & Dixon,” “Vineland” and more recently “Inherent Vice,” too.
Trystero’s muted post horn, above all others, is the most memorable and subversive of all Pynchon’s symbols. Survey the streets, stickered doors and walls, the interiors of bathrooms, and you might catch sight of the Trystero symbol. For the byproduct of Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49″ is that Trystero, despite being fiction, almost seems alive; as though it could exist or be made real.
In a sense, the Trystero graffiti has made it real. On several occasions I’ve in gleefully written or painted the musted post horn on street advertisements and in bathrooms. There’s a knowing humor to being part of its continual reappearance 50 some years after the book was originally published: an understanding that you are part of something strange and subversive.
And so it is with a high degree of calculation that the Penguin Press’s marketing team (spurred by Pynchon perhaps?) has placed several Trystero stickers across various cities with information that links to a unique URL that allows Tristero members to send a message through the Tristero system.
In this age of Internet censorship, the idea of Trystero takes on a great resonance. Trystero’s hidden, subversive postal services seems to inspire an Internet system beyond control of states.
I leave you with an excerpt from “The Crying of Lot 49″ that seems rather appropriate:
“Either Trystero did exist, in its own right, or it was being presumed, perhaps fantasied by Oedipa, so hung up on and interpenetrated with the dead man’s estate. Here in San Francisco, away from all tangible assets of that estate, there might still be a chance of getting the whole thing to go away and disintegrate quietly. She had only to drift tonight, at random, and watch nothing happen, to be convinced it was purely nervous, a little something for her shrink to fix. She got off the freeway at North Beach, drove around, parked finally in a steep side-street among warehouses. Then walked along Broadway, into the first crowds of evening. But it took her no more than an hour to catch sight of a muted post horn.”