Friday, November 17, 2006

Against the Day

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day (
which is being released on Tuesday, November 21. Alreadt, reviews are appearing (, and most reviewers seem annoyed at the complexity of the novel, and they way it seems to resist easy characterization.

Pynchon has never been an easy read. I remember my own frustrations with Gravity's Rainbow over 30 years ago. I ended up reading the first 5o pages three times before I had enough of a grasp of his thematic and narrative threads to finish the novel. However, unlike most fiction I have read, lines and scenes from this novel remain in my head to this day. Pynchon was the first American novelist to achieve the scope and gravitas of a Tolstoi or a Dostoevsky in his fiction (Neal Stephenson is the second). Reading his work requires patience and effort, readerly qualities not particularly common in the age of Ridalin.

Chronologically covering the years from 1893 until just after World War I, Against the Day covers a period of particular historical importance to our own time. Modernization and globalization and industrialization all emerge as forces during this time, and the modern psyche is born, along with Futurism, literary modernism, and science fiction. Virginia Woolf, who chronicled the same period in much of her fiction (particularly in her highly underrated novel The Years), has argued that around 1910 something happened which altered our global consciousness. My own academic dissertation on the Manifesto genre seems to revolve around this period of time, a time I think we inadequately understand. I can't wait to get Pynchon's take on it.

Pynchon's novels are complex and difficult, but I never feel that his writing is complex for its own sake. Rather, it seems to be complex like life--messy, not always thematic, with narratives that multiply and intertwine. Not a reductionist art, not a monologue, or even a dialogue, Pynhon'c work is inherently a multilogue.

I'm looking forward to the next four months--I predict I will reach the finish line around March 21.


Post a Comment

<< Home