In an attempt to slow down in my reading of ATD, I have been trying to distract myself in some way. But why should I want to try to slow down at all? Well, it is entirely possible that I was not in my right mind when I made the decision, but just before the blessed holiday season, I came to the conclusion that I needed to slow down on my reading of that vast tome because, well… Because as I approached the eponymously named Part 4, I felt as if I were engaged in a car chase from some hit action show in the 1970s, in which the laws of physics are ignored with blithe condescension.
Here’s a thought I just had. To collate and then read all of Pynchon’s works chronologically. It would go something like this: GR flashbacks of Katje’s ancestor, Franz van der Groov, on Mauritius (1750s) M&D (1761–69, 1786) ATD and then the flashback sections of V interleaved, leading up to the prewar sections of GR (1893–1944) the bulk of GR (1944–1945) the rest of V (1951–52) L49 (±1965) the middle of Vineland (±1969) (Inherent Vice (1971)) the L.
I highly recommend this review. It is spoilerish, if that’s a concern as you read through Against The Day yourself. This is exactly how it feels to trawl and drift through the book: There is no narrator quite like Pynchon. The other evening I was up late with this book and it hit me, there in the deep quiet after everyone had gone to bed, that he’s really most like an all-night DJ, spinning his favorites, talking about them, riffing on this and that and not really caring too hard who’s listening.
We have been Netflixing Monty Python’s Flying Circus over the last few weeks, and it has been a fascinating experience to come into contact once again with something so formative for me. Apropos of my earlier comments about the two forms of comedy, I have been paying special attention to the things I am laughing at. It tends to be one of these: satire, slapstick, absurdism, music, or archeology. By archeology, I mean rediscovering the source of some verbal signature or other that I had long since internalized.
Well, it is finished. After a 12-hour marathon yesterday, I completed the last volume of Á la recherche du temp perdu. I’m still a bit dazzled at the moment, not to mention more than a little exhausted. It may be some time before I can post anything resembling a debrief or final essay. For the moment, I will say that it was extremely rewarding, and that it is a profound work on every level — in its exquisite details, its discursive meanderings, its macrocosmic themes and ideas — which has changed, permanently, how I engage the world and myself.
Okay, so Pynchon’s newest is now listed at Amazon as having 1120 pages, rather than the 992 as previously reported. I finished MD. It was magnificent. Once Mason & Dixon begin the work of drawing the Line, the story takes several staggering turns, involving (among many other things) various nested fictions, not unlike The Saragossa Manuscript. There has only been a handful of books that, when I finish them, I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to start over again from the beginning.
We are staying home today, and we will not turn on the radio, the tv, or the ringers on our phones. It was a crime against humanity, not against some culturally contingent economic theory. Security derives from universal liberty. I am free only so long as everyone else enjoys the same freedom. I live in a country of drooling morons who have forgotten this. (Liberty is expensive, and is often not worth the trouble: people don’t seem to value it.
Climbing thru Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, (MD) and have been for roughly the last month. It’s been interrupted by a number of other texts, including The Wandering Scholars, by Helen Waddell, and the incandescent Consolation of Boëthius, and if I don’t get a move on, there will be other seasonal reads (esp. Tripmaster Monkey) to divert it. At the end of July, I finished Vineland (VL) for what apparently was the first time.
Will Ferrell recalls the first time he realized his destiny in life. “I remember in elementary school when I first learned to run into a door, kick up at the bottom and snap my head back,” he says. “I don’t know where I learned it, but I would get huge laughs from the other kids.” (2019 note: the link is long dead) My mother sent me the link to this profile because it reminded her of my early propensity for exactly that trick, which works best with rattly screen doors.
I don’t know if I can stand the wait. (See this, and this as well.) So much for the pattern; up until M&D, his books alternated between encyclopedic, historical sprawls and shorter, “contemporary” things focussing on NoCal. But the newest thing, said to be called Against the Day, is nearly a cool grand (992 pp), and judging by what few descriptions there are (including Pynchon’s own blurb), it is every bit as vast as the Big Three.