Thomas Pynchon works according to his own inner rhythms and has a reputation for obsessive reclusiveness that is probably surpassed among top writers only by J.D. Salinger, the king of literary hermits. But unlike Salinger, who hasn't published anything for decades, Pynchon wrote a best-selling book, "Vineland," five years ago. And now he plans to publish a new novel with Henry Holt, the publisher says.

"Vineland" and Pynchon's previous book, "Slow Learner," a collection of early stories, were published by Little, Brown, but his editor there, Ray Roberts, now works at Holt and has brought the author with him, said William Strachan, Holt's editor in chief and associate publisher.But that's about all Strachan could say about his famous author, who receives publicity for shunning publicity. "We don't know what the new book is about," he explained. "He has mentioned that it may be on a certain subject and I can't say what that subject is because he asked me not to." At the same time, Strachan added, "He could tell me that the book was about X, and I wouldn't know what he really meant or how he was going to use it."

Roberts wouldn't discuss it, either, and the publicity department at Holt referred calls to Strachan. "I don't know how they work together, and Ray won't talk about it," Strachan said. "He's respecting the author's wishes."

"Vineland," Pynchon's first novel since "Gravity's Rainbow" in 1973, got glowing reviews and remained on the New York Times best-seller list for 13 weeks. Pynchon, also the author of "The Crying of Lot 49" and "V," is known for books about chaos, entropy and conspiracy theorists who turn out to be right. He is so elusive that the last known published photograph of him was taken for his high school yearbook. Strachan said he didn't even know where the author lives. "I guess some people know, but I don't," he said.

When will the new book be published? Good question. "We can't say," said Strachan. "I don't know."