That relentless sobbing? It's the parcel numbered seven squared.

In this scene from Thomas Pynchon's 1965 novel
The Crying of Lot 49, our hero, Oedipa Maas, has had a bad time of it and decides to go to her shrink, Dr. Hilarius, who had previously attempted to convince her to take part in an experimental program to dose suburban housewives with LSD and other psychedelic drugs. Dr. Hilarius, an eccentric but seemingly harmless man, has apparently succumbed to a fit of paranoia and is wielding a WWII rifle, having shot at six people; Oedipa is locked in his office with him, he has admitted to performing (and attempting to atone for) experiments designed to produce "experimentally-induced insanity" on Jews in Buchenwald, and hapless police have just arrived to take Dr. Hilarius into custody.

Then she saw that Hilarius had left the Gewehr on his desk and was across the room ostensibly trying to open a file cabinet. She picked the rifle up, pointed it at him, and said, "I ought to kill you." She knew he had wanted her to get the weapon.

"Isn't that what you've been sent to do?" He crossed and uncrossed his eyes at her; stuck out his tongue tentatively.

"I came," she said, "hoping you could talk me out of a fantasy."

"Cherish it!" cried Hilarius, fiercely. "What else do any of you have? Hold it tightly by its little tentacle, don't let the Freudians coax it away or the pharmacists poison it out of you. Whatever it is, hold it dear, for when you lose it you go over by that much to the others. You begin to cease to be."


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