Friday, December 15, 2006


I am ashamed to admit that I have only ever read two Thomas Pynchon novels--and the two "easy" ones at that (The Crying of Lot 49 and Vineland). So I decided to take the plunge and picked up his mammoth new book Against the Day (and am 400 pages into it--out of a total of 1,100+) and am enjoying it immensely. Granted, Pynchon is not an easy read, or at least not to get started reading, but once you get into the universe, it's a actually a lot of fun. Helping matters is an online Pynchon wiki of annotations I found, plus a discussion blog. (I seem to be progressing through the book faster than either of these two online sources!)

I would describe what the book is about, but that's not an easy thing to do. It is set between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the onset of World War I and concerns two families--the plutocratic Vibes and the Colorado mining Traverses. The patriarch of the former arranges the murder of the patriarch of the latter (because he is believed to have been dynamiting the mines owned by Vibe), and a son's quest for revenge. There are also subplots involving Nikola Tesla, various quests for something called Iceland spar, or a kind of double-refracting crystal that creates ghost doubles and multidimensional maps for finding lost cities. There is a sublot involving a British group of pre-New Age-y spiritualists called the True Worshippers of the Ineffable Tetractys (or T.W.I.T.--Pynchon is nothing if not a satirist) and everything is connected via the Chums of Chance, a group of teen adventurers out of (a parody of) early-20th-century boys' adventure stories (like Tom Swift) who travel around the world in a high-tech airship called the Inconvenience. Doubles and "evil twins" abound; a couple of competing physicists are named Renfrew and Werfner (check the backward spellings) and there are of course parallels to the present day. I have no idea where all of this is going yet, but it's a fun journey. So far.

Buoyed, I picked up Pynchon's V. and Gravity's Rainbow and added them to my book pile.

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