Loads of Learned Lumber

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thomas Pynchon, _Against the Day_ (I)

I BEGAN READING this in January of 2007, a few months after it came out. I got about two hundred pages in, found it interesting enough, but somehow it got to the bottom of the pile, drifted into "dormant" status on my reading list. May 2008, back at it, got another hundred pages further, then the same thing happened. May 2009, another hundred pages and... same thing.

Some time in 2009 I read William Logan's utterly Loganesque takedown of _Against the Day_ in VQR and very nearly lost heart. Did I really want to commit to completing my reading of a nearly 1100-page novel that, if Logan was right, was mainly a self-indulgent, exhausted jumble?

But second thoughts arrived. What, am I taking my cues from William Logan now? Surely things haven't come to that. So, May 2010, back to it -- basically, a hour a day. And I finished today.

And I can certainly say I enjoyed it. Then again, I enjoyed Mason & Dixon while I was reading it, but later found almost nothing of it had stuck with me. The opening section, when M. & D. are in South Africa for the Transit of Venus, seems to me one of the best things Pynchon has ever done, and the account of the changeover to the Gregorian calendar in England was echt Pynchonian, but the rest of it just evaporated, basically. So will Against the Day linger in my mind, or not?

This will have to be continued, I see.

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