Against the Day

Against the Day

Book - 2006
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Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Gottingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.

With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.

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.

As an era of certainty comes crashing down around their ears and an unpredictable future commences, these folks are mostly just trying to pursue their lives. Sometimes they manage to catch up; sometimes it's their lives that pursue them. Meanwhile, the author is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur. If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction.

Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck.

- Thomas Pynchon

Published: New York : Penguin Press, 2006.
ISBN: 9781594201202
Branch Call Number: F PYN
Characteristics: 1085 p. ;,25 cm.


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Feb 23, 2015

Is the reclusive Thomas Pynchon our greatest living writer? No, that would be Philip Roth. He may be the most virtuosic and challenging though, with both his masterpiece "Gravity's Rainbow" and his historical novel "Mason & Dixon" among the most difficult books I've ever read. His 2006 opus, "Against the Day", is his longest (the hardcover runs 1,085 pages), yet it's surprisingly accessible; well, as accessible as a thousand page book that moves freely though time, geography, and history can be. This book has it all: airships, science, wars, politics, sex, Tesla, religion, songs, history, technology, the Chicago World's Fair, Bela Lugosi, Madame Blavatsky, sentences, big words, the labor movement, spies. . .It doesn't necessarily have the most coherent narrative and though I just read it, I can't really tell you what is was about. Along with "Inherent Vice" and "Bleeding Edge," it does seem to find late Pynchon in a more user friendly mode, although that should be taken with a grain of salt. It is impressive and highly ambitious, but I'm not sure how good it is.


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