Midnight Pub

Against the Day


The current ranking of my favorite Pynchon novels is:

1) Gravity's Rainbow

2) Mason & Dixon\*

3) Against the Day

4) Bleeding Edge

5) Vineland\*

6) Inherent Vice

As always my liking seems to be simply correlated with how big the book is. I have not read 'V' and I do not plan to read 'Slow Learner'.

\*If you want to get started reading Pynchon novels, I suggest these as the more fun and linearly readable. Take your pick between a long one and a short one.

Against the Day:

a book review from someone who is not an expert in literary analysis; I just read the things.

It's a novel set before WWI (they are each, fundamentally, about a specific era of history. That's the main thing to know about it, and as much coherent plot as it has.)

If you're familiar with Pynchon novels, it's as always trippy, complicated, incoherent, hallucinatory, conspiratorial, paranoid. In fact I'm getting bored of it: Pynchonic whimsy for everyone, all the time. That's the reason it's down on the list.

This is the most dark, disturbing, and difficult Pynchon novel (yes, more than Gravity's Rainbow, set in WWII). This is the most cosmically horrifying book I have ever read. This thing exudes evil. Certainly much more than Lovecraft, Poe and co.. Fantastical elements in Mason and Dixon are far-fetched and conspiratorial, but when it comes down to it solid, almost plausible, friendly, and fun: magnetic anomalies, the electric eel, George Washington smoking 'hemp', the automaton duck, giant vegetables...

(I use `fun' relatively; there is always an exploration of violence, colonialism, genocide in these novels)

In Against the Day, the haunting is of a different nature. Time and space slipping to reveal: a trip through Hell. An ancient entity from under the ice, razing cities. An infiltration of lost/manipulative(?) time travellers. Premonitions of the battlefields of WWI. A seepage of the infernal.

Everything is slipping, or course, because of the suggestive gateway opened by the new physics and the new mathematics: imaginary numbers, quaternions, aether (or no aether), relativity, spacetime, light, birefringence, bilocatio, new dimensions, parallel worlds.\*\* Makes me wonder if the European mind wasn't losing a grip on reality for sometime before the great shock of WWII or even WWI.

\*\*As a physicist, I'm actually not all that impressed here: the speculations are, of course, clearly fantastical, and not often even plausible enough to be interestingly suggestive and confusing. But the mix of ideas is used to powerful literary effect nontheless.

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~stargazer wrote:

I had trouble with asterisks in one of my posts, I just left them as bullet points. A way to escape them or change the character used for bullet points would be great.

~coldwave wrote:

One way or another I'm having syntax problems ... I've tried to escape my asterisks, it 'worked' to stop them from becoming bullet points but the slash is not invisible

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