On the Temptations of Comfort
The Poetics of Slothfulness in Pynchon
This paper investigates the relationship between the concepts of comfort and sloth. While we intuitively assume a proportional correspondence between the two – more comfort results in more sloth and vice versa – I draw on the writings of American author Thomas Pynchon to elucidate why such a straightforward conclusion fails. In fact, Pynchon points to many possible modes of sloth in different cultural contexts, which I label »Writerly Sloth«, »Readerly Sloth«, »Watcherly Sloth«, and »Laugherly Sloth«, that all individually bring about a characteristic form of comfort and discomfort. Following Pynchon's concise overview of the historical ramifications of the philosophy of sloth since Thomas Aquinus, I attempt to connect the poetics of slothfulness with specific events of US-American literature and politics from within their respective zeitgeists, such as the refusal to work during the heyday of Wall Street capitalism or watching TV in California in the 1960s.