Ever had that feeling of triumph when you finish a something that has taken you a long time to achieve. Well I felt that way when I read the last line of Pynchon’s latest novel ‘Against the Day’ I had bough the book in October and had been carting it around with me until yesterday (Jan 15th) To be honest whenever I finish a Pynchon novel I feel this way.
Do not get me wrong I ADORE Pynchon. His plots , use of slapstick and the dazzling language. The fact that no one beat him at his game still shows what a powerful writer he is. Saying that as Pynchon is now past 70 and his age is showing in his novels. There are both pros and cons to this and it is all in Against the Day.
As many critics have rightly noted this is Pynchon’s most accessible novel. It is very readable (by his standards of course) and plots are more linear and digressions less frequent. Like all of his novels the main focus is on man’s want to destroy and create the world he lives in and infused with this plot are revenge fuelled unionists, mathematical cults, a bunch of arial adventurers, a psychic detective and dozens of more characters, all interacting with each other and travelling to different lands, each on a search for self fulfillment and all taking place between the years 1890 – 1920. It is also his longest book, running at 1220 pages and, trust me he makes every use of it.
So far so Pynchon.
However one thing that is evidentally missing if the manic humour that pervades his novels. Other than the mayonnaise scene and a few minisicule bits here and there, the cartooney exaggeration of lore has nearly disappeared. This does not mean that ‘Against the Day’ dry in any way however that Pynchonian spark is simply not present. As a fan I was a teensy bit disappointed but if a person approached me asking which Pynchon novel would be the best to start with I would point him towards ATD as it is indeed suitable to for those who want to work through his books.
However I am extremely glad I read it for some strange reason I feel more complete (literature-wise) when I read his novels. Maybe because I constanly check wikipedia (in the past it was the dusty set of encyclopedias that reast on my shelf) learn something new with each segment and feel brainy? I honestly don’t know but Against the Day does certainly demand you to read it.