Against the Day?

Conversational Reading has an interesting discussion about the forthcoming Pynchon book. All the lit bloggers have been in a flurry about Against the Day being solicited on Amazon. But are we actually going to read it?

Now, I'm a fan of Pynchon, and someone who defends him to his detractors. I've read Gravity's Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49, Slow Learner and Vineland (which is a good book, damnit). But there's this sense where maybe Pynchon hasn't grown very much; all his books seem to in some way hit the same notes, notes that he and his cohort of post-modernists were all hitting very hard in the seventies. I didn't read Mason and Dixon because it struck me as an elaborate rehash of Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor. Against the Day, from Pynchon's own description on the Amazon page, should by rights be a good book:

The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics, and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses, and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx.

Right on, right on. And yet, somehow, I'm just not sure if I want to wade through another 900 page book by the man, even with Groucho Marx. People who picked up the "Pynchonesque" mantle, like David Foster Wallace and Mark Danielewski, are interesting because of the way they evolved from Pynchon, in the way they extended and mutated his ideas and created new things out of them. This strikes me as something Pynchon himself seems to have failed at.

Yet, I'll hold off for the reviews. If there's a consensus that this is the Pynchon book that breaks to mold, well then it'd be something to see.

Comments

to be or not to be a fan

i don't quite get this, eric. or maybe i don't get your definition of 'fan.' i mean, to me a fan is somebody who will find anything by their 'hero' to be worth checking out. so, when you say you are not sure that you want to 'wade through' (now that's a weighty phrase) another Pynchon book it seems to me that you are not a fan, though you might once have been one.

[nice to see a serious fellow like yourself, though, calling himself a fan. i'm too much of a snob to admit that, even though i'd have to say i'm a bit of a fan of bela lugosi, having just picked up the serial 'the whispering shadow'].

a second thing is that if you don't read it you won't really be able to see if he is breaking new ground or just being himself. (and, you know, sometimes an author is breaking new ground to himself although to the reader it might not seem like that).

i've just been reading chandler's letters and one of his tragedies seems to be that people had immitated him so much that he became over-acutely aware of what a chandler book was and became a little obsessed with living up to his own reputation instead of just 'going for it' or daring to break new ground (though even here he felt he was moving in a new direction in his later books).

I think I'll admit the

I think I'll admit the definition of "fan" I'm using is pretty loose, and a far cry from the original meaning of "fanatic." Maybe I'm using the word too loosely, but I do really like Pynchon's work. Also, reading the reviews that have been coming out I do think I would really like his new book, too. Some are saying it's the capstone to the project he's been working on his whole career, and maybe that's just what it needs to be. I'll probably read it eventually, it'll just take a while before I can clear my plate off to read what's basically like three normal-sized books in a row.