A sentimental story of a penguin named Misha, and a young girl named Sonya is horrifically complicated by human and adult machinations such as burglars being dismembered by land mines, fateful obituaries written by the protagonist Viktor Alekseyevich Zolotaryov, and Russian Mafia hits, which all help blur the boundaries between Viktor's total denial of his precarious position on this planet, and his fondness for pet Misha, Sonya (a co-conspiritor's daughter), and newfound friend Sergey.
On the most obvious level, Viktor's dealings with his work, and the subsequent problems that arise from that work, make up the meat of the book. On another level, the penguin Misha, who just happens to appear waddling through the madness and "pops" up at the most opportune times creates a surreal comedic relief, while the precocious, endearing character of Sonya helps keep us warm inside, despite the cold Russian winter that seems to seep into the story and off the page with an unrelenting chill.
As we fear for what may be in store for our newly formed and curious family, the story edges closer to the thin ice, and we hear a creaking, but as with all good literature, things are probably not what they seem, and endings are not so tidy. Death and the Penguin is a fairly easy read, but don't let that fool you, as there is much going on between the lines, and it says just enough about the human condition and human nature to foment reflection without being didactic.
Vineland has also been on my reading list for a while, and I'm currently winding my way through it's "out-there" maze. This is not Pynchon at his best, but a fun read as usual. I would actually rank it 3rd on my list of Pynchon novels I've read so far, with Gravity's Rainbow first, followed by The Crying of Lot 39, then Vineland and then Mason & Dixon. I'll have to reserve final judgment until I completely finish it.
Oh yeah, also just picked up Patrick Mcgrath's Blood and Water and Other Tales, and read the first story, The Angel, with it's killer ending all bizarre and fucked up and meaningful and which has me all excited to get to the next story. I got the paperback for $1.00 + shipping off Amazon Marketplace. That place is amazing, and you can find just about any book you're looking for on the cheap. While the pages are yellowed, it's still in good condition and who really gives a fuck about that anyway, as the content is what it's all about.