Tagging Resembles Muted Post Horn From Postmodernist Novel by Pynchon
Vandals tagged the UCSB campus and parts of Isla Vista over Thanksgiving break, making use of a symbol found in the 1966 Thomas Pynchon novel The Crying of Lot 49.
The symbol, which resembles a trumpet, was spray-painted in red at various locations, including South Hall, Manzanita Village and the Daily Nexus advertising office. The graffiti also included the word “trystero” on some locations, while the tag in front of the Nexus advertising office included the acronym, “ASUCSB.”
The UC Police Department collected reports of the vandalism over the weekend and took pictures of each individual incident in a bid to later charge the offender or offenders with the maximum number of possible offenses. So far, no suspects have been named.
In the postmodernist novel, The Crying of Lot 49, protagonist Oedipa Maas encounters the symbol, a rare instrument known as a muted post horn, in various locations. These discoveries lead her to alternately believe and disbelieve in the continued existence of the Tristero organization - an underground postal service supposedly defeated in the 1700s by the era’s dominant mail-carrying company, Thurn und Taxis. While Tristero was a fictional organization created by Pynchon, Thurn und Taxis actually existed in the 18th century.
According to the novel, Tristero’s followers are said to deposit messages in camouflaged containers labeled W.A.S.T.E, which stands for We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire - a clever ruse that allows the group to utilize regular garbage cans for their clandestine purposes.
The book enjoys cult status and has followers on various Facebook groups, some of which are dedicated to bringing down Thurn und Taxis. Popular British rock group Radiohead references the W.A.S.T.E motif at its merchandise Web site, and Pynchon himself has made two cameo appearances on “The Simpsons,” usually depicted as a man with a paper bag over his face.
Additionally, professor Alan Liu’s 2007 Spring Quarter class, English 25: Introduction to Literature and the Culture of Information, included the book in its syllabus.