Saturday, November 18, 2006

Everything, dropped

Against the Day, the new novel by Thomas Pynchon, arrived this morning. I tried to put off starting the book, but couldn't help myself, and now, 100-some pages in, I'm beginning to suspect that I am basically lost to the world.

Pynchon's manages, as usual, to jam as many references together as possible while simultaneously parodying historical literary genres low and high, but his writing here has a remarkable smoothness. The book opens with "another" serial adventure of the "Chums of Chance", wildly but virtuously out-Swifting Tom as five chums are found half a mile up in the air in The Inconvenience, a hydrogen-filled balloon en-route to the 1893 World's Fair. (The aerial opening recalls both the screaming missiles of Gravity's Rainbow and the gentler snowflakes in Mason & Dixon. (Like M&D, ATD also features a sentient dog.)) The boys loyally follow the Charter of the Chums, which is nothing less than the 19th century version of Star Trek's Prime Directive... With airships, anarchists, psychic antigravity, pre-relativistic physics, and surprising ethnological encounters, I'm having a blast in the novel's pre-20th century landscape, and am not a little disturbed by its familiarity.

More later.

2 comments:

sfmike said...

Criminy, I still haven't read "M&D." I envy you your pleasure.

sfmike said...

Just bought the book, which came out in the United States today, and read the first 50 pages with extreme pleasure. "Gravity's Rainbow" and "Mason & Dixon" are frankly too difficult and dense for me in their language (I'll leave them to the PhD candidates), but this is written in the language of "V" "The Crying of Lot 49" and "Vineland." And it's 1,000+ fugging pages. I'm in heaven.