NOTE: Inside parenthetical citations: [P] = material from Pynchon’s draft; [S] = passage from Kirkpatrick Sale’s draft
“Minstrel Island” by Thomas Pynchon & Kirkpatrick Sale
“Minstrel Island” is an unpublished, unfinished musical (it’s also been referred to as a “science fiction musical” and “operetta”) written by Thomas Pynchon and his friend John Kirkpatrick Sale while they were attending Cornell University. The materials — one folder of handwritten and typed notes, outlines, and draft fragments from sometime in the spring of 1958 — are in the collection of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Austin.
The incomplete state of “Minstrel Island” allows us to observe something about the process that Thomas Pynchon and Kirkpatrick Sale followed as they tried to turn an idea into a piece of writing. The following note sets out to demonstrate, as much as possible, the order in which the material was completed, something that allows us to discern at least one of the differences between Pynchon’s and Sale’s artistic sensibility.