This is probably the biggest cache of details from Pynchon’s personal life to surface . . . well, ever. Not that there’s much competition.
Photo of Pynchon’s right hand at the link.
Phyllis Gebauer was at the event to discuss the books, her friendship with Pynchon — whom she calls “Tom” — and the collection, which she hopes will fund scholarships to the UCLA Extension Writers Program where Gebauer has taught for more than two decades.
Gebauer talked to Pynchon extensively about the gift. “When Tom lived in L.A. he did a lot of research at the UCLA research library,” she said. “He likes the idea of these books being used to fund scholarships.” The two spoke on the phone for 90 minutes Tuesday, she said. Pynchon followed up with a fax, which Gebauer read to Wednesday night’s audience.
. . .
In the early 1960s, Phyllis was a Spanish teacher in Seattle, married to Fred Gebauer, a mechanical engineer doing work at Boeing he couldn’t discuss. At a party celebrating a mutual friend’s new piano, the two met Pynchon, a technical writer working for another part of Boeing. Pynchon and Fred clowned around by reaching into the piano and plucking out the Yogi Bear theme song on its strings — “which did not delight the host,” Phyllis Gebauer said Wednesday night.
. . .
The couple had moved several times in just a few years when Fred took a job at NASA — another one he couldn’t discuss — and, after being in Houston just a week, they bumped into Pynchon after a concert. “Phyl, Fred, what are you guys doing here?” she remembers Pynchon calling to them. The coincidence was the kind of thing that might happen in one of Pynchon’s books — but in Pynchon’s world it would have been the result of a deep and complex conspiracy.
The reconnected friends spent a lot of time together. In her mini-memoir, titled “Tom and Us,” Phyllis writes that Pynchon and Fred used to shoot toy rockets off the roof of their Houston house. She recalls that more than once she’d be talking to Pynchon on the phone, hand it over to Fred when she left for one of her graduate school classes — and she’d return hours later to find Fred still sitting in their knotty-pine lined family room, still talking to Tom on the other end of line.