The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49

by

Thomas Pynchon

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Crying of Lot 49 can help.
Cohen is Los Angeles’s preeminent stamp expert who helps Oedipa inventory Pierce Inverarity’s stamp collection. Cohen identifies several of Inverarity’s stamps as complex forgeries, probably tied to the W.A.S.T.E. or Tristero mail systems. In fact, he identifies the Tristero symbol as a muted version of the Thurn and Taxis emblem, a post horn, and near the end of the novel he finds an article about Tristero’s move to the United States and a stamp that spells out the acronym W.A.S.T.E.: “We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire.” Essentially, Cohen gives Oedipa plenty of supporting details to fuel her conspiracy theory about Tristero. At the very end of the book, Cohen encourages Oedipa to go to the auction of Inverarity’s stamps because he believes C. Morris Schrift’s secret buyer might be from Tristero. Oedipa feels pity for Cohen because he is awkward and always leaves his fly down, and she finally works up the courage to tell him in this final passage. Cohen’s name is a pun on the Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan, to whom Cohen has no clear resemblance at all.

Genghis Cohen Quotes in The Crying of Lot 49

The The Crying of Lot 49 quotes below are all either spoken by Genghis Cohen or refer to Genghis Cohen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
).
Chapter 4 Quotes

“Then the watermark you found,” she said, “is nearly the same thing, except for the extra little doojigger sort of coming out of the bell.”

“It sounds ridiculous,” Cohen said, “but my guess is it's a mute.”

She nodded. The black costumes, the silence, the secrecy. Whoever they were their aim was to mute the Thurn and Taxis post horn.

[…]

“Why put in a deliberate mistake?” he asked, ignoring—if he saw it—the look on her face. “I've come up so far with eight in all. Each one has an error like this, laboriously worked into the design, like a taunt. There's even a transposition—U. S. Potsage, of all things.”

Related Characters: Oedipa Maas (speaker), Genghis Cohen (speaker), Wendell “Mucho” Maas
Page Number: 77-8
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“It’s time to start,” said Genghis Cohen, offering his arm. The men inside the auction room wore black mohair and had pale, cruel faces. They watched her come in, trying each to conceal his thoughts. Loren Passerine, on his podium, hovered like a puppet-master, his eyes bright, his smile practiced and relentless. He stared at her, smiling, as if saying, I’m surprised you actually came. Oedipa sat alone, toward the back of the room, looking at the napes of necks, trying to guess which one was her target, her enemy, perhaps her proof. An assistant closed the heavy door on the lobby windows and the sun. She heard a lock snap shut; the sound echoed a moment. Passerine spread his arms in a gesture that seemed to belong to the priesthood of some remote culture; perhaps to a descending angel. The auctioneer cleared his throat. Oedipa settled back, to await the crying of lot 49.

Related Characters: Genghis Cohen (speaker), Oedipa Maas, Pierce Inverarity
Page Number: 151-2
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Crying of Lot 49 LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Crying of Lot 49 PDF

Genghis Cohen Character Timeline in The Crying of Lot 49

The timeline below shows where the character Genghis Cohen appears in The Crying of Lot 49. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
American Modernity and Counterculture Theme Icon
Next, Oedipa visits Genghis Cohen, a local stamp expert whom Metzger has asked to evaluate Pierce Inverarity’s stamp collection. He... (full context)
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
Cohen shows her what he finds peculiar about one of the stamps: its is printed with... (full context)
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
Change, Redemption, and Marginalization Theme Icon
Because of the watermarks, Cohen continues, the stamps are clearly counterfeit. But he might still be able to sell them—someone... (full context)
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
Genghis Cohen notes that these eight forgeries span from 1893 to 1954, and he wonders if they... (full context)
Chapter 6
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
Change, Redemption, and Marginalization Theme Icon
Oedipa gradually gives up on the Tristero story. She does not follow up with Genghis Cohen, Mr. Thoth, or the publisher of The Courier’s Tragedy. She also tries not to talk... (full context)
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
Change, Redemption, and Marginalization Theme Icon
One day, Genghis Cohen calls Oedipa and asks her to visit. He shows her an old stamp with the... (full context)
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
American Modernity and Counterculture Theme Icon
Change, Redemption, and Marginalization Theme Icon
...the next few days—she visits a random doctor, who suggests that she is pregnant. Genghis Cohen calls with new clues, including an article about Tristero splitting up during the French Revolution.... (full context)
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
American Modernity and Counterculture Theme Icon
Change, Redemption, and Marginalization Theme Icon
Genghis Cohen calls Oedipa to explain that Pierce Inverarity’s stamps will soon be auctioned off, and some... (full context)
Conspiracy, Interpretation, and Meaning Theme Icon
Change, Redemption, and Marginalization Theme Icon
...mind and will be going to the auction. At the auction house, Oedipa meets Genghis Cohen, who admits that he wants to bid on some of the stamps himself. Cohen is... (full context)