Thomas Pynchon - Against the Day

catalog

Well-known member
Oh yeah but as well as all those others, i've got to read finnegans wake first.

I do think pynchon is an excellent writer, but I agree with what you said in the Joyce thread about the difference between Joyce and pynchon

This is partly what I was getting at re: Joyce mentioning lots of mundane things alongside the cosmic. It feels stable despite the scope, complexity and experimentation. Deleuze's "piece of fresh land". Nothing's solid in what came after. Once you get to Burroughs, Pynchon etc, it's all in pieces.

I like what I would call the "process" element of Joyce, where its rooted in very ordinary day to day stuff. Although maybe that goes out the window with the Wake.

Whereas when I read pynchon, I feel quite strongly that it's all inside his head, he's making it up as he goes along. It's great, he has a lot of good things to say, the flights of fancy and the tying of the maths to the spiritual are very enthralling, but you can get lost because of that issue.

And, more importantly got me I suppose, you care about the characters less.

Like one of the chums if chance, in the opening section, has this quirk where he's very obsessed with grammar and pronunciation being correct, it's a tic of his. But the next time you meet him, several hundred pages later, that side of his character doesn't really come into play, as though Pynchon has forgotten about it, or it no longer serves the story.

So as a result you find it hard to get a solid picture of these people.
 

version

Warehouse Operative
Mason & Dixon resolves that by having two very strong lead characters whilst retaining the encyclopedic thing. I think you'll like it.
 

catalog

Well-known member
Sounds good actually. There are central characters in against the day that are very well drawn, particularly the traverse family, but he does love adding a new person constantly.
 

version

Warehouse Operative
There are loads of characters, but it all revolves around the two surveyors and their line, so it doesn't have the sprawl of something like GR. It's following one thread, for the most part.
 

catalog

Well-known member
On the time travel tip, it's interesting to me that in the supposedly limitless world of the Internet, the most common control actions used on Web browsers is consistently the "back" button.
 

catalog

Well-known member
Yeah, couple of weeks ago. Good book. Sort of tailed off a little towards the end, after the high point in the middle, but there was still a lot of gold.

I made a lot of notes with the intent of posting it all but haven't done so yet.
 

version

Warehouse Operative
Finally started it.

I'm assuming the title's an approximation of this from Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History,

The awareness that they are about to make the continuum of history explode is characteristic of the revolutionary classes at the moment of their action. The great revolution introduced a new calendar. The initial day of a calendar serves as a historical time-lapse camera. And, basically, it is the same day that keeps recurring in the guise of holidays, which are days of remembrance. Thus the calendars do no measure time as clocks do; they are monuments of a historical consciousness of which not the slightest trace has been apparent in Europe in the past hundred years. In the July revolution an incident occurred which showed this consciousness still alive. On the first evening of fighting it turned out that the clocks in towers were being fired on simultaneously and independently from several places in Paris. An eye-witness, who may have owed his insight to the rhyme, wrote as follows:


Who would have believed it!
we are told that new Joshuas at the foot of every tower,
as though irritated with
time itself, fired at the dials
in order to stop the day.
 

woops

is not like other people
Finally started it.

I'm assuming the title's an approximation of this from Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History,

The awareness that they are about to make the continuum of history explode is characteristic of the revolutionary classes at the moment of their action. The great revolution introduced a new calendar. The initial day of a calendar serves as a historical time-lapse camera. And, basically, it is the same day that keeps recurring in the guise of holidays, which are days of remembrance. Thus the calendars do no measure time as clocks do; they are monuments of a historical consciousness of which not the slightest trace has been apparent in Europe in the past hundred years. In the July revolution an incident occurred which showed this consciousness still alive. On the first evening of fighting it turned out that the clocks in towers were being fired on simultaneously and independently from several places in Paris. An eye-witness, who may have owed his insight to the rhyme, wrote as follows:


Who would have believed it!
we are told that new Joshuas at the foot of every tower,
as though irritated with
time itself, fired at the dials
in order to stop the day.
Sounds like a bit of a stretch to me
 

luka

Well-known member
im fairly sure pynchon is not the sort to read benjamin with any degree of serious engagement. hes a fact man, which is why the books are so hollow.
 

version

Warehouse Operative
Well, history, time travel and revolution are major themes of the book, the title is more or less word for word the end of that eye-witness quote about revolutionaries firing on clocks and at time and Benjamin's whole constellation of History thing seems applicable to at least GR.

I don't buy the fact man thing either. If that were all he was then he wouldn't write fiction.
 

luka

Well-known member
i very much doubt hes able to read benjamin in any meanginful sense is all im saying. hes not got the brain for it.
 

luka

Well-known member
no idea, ive never read him apart from the bit about walking stoned around mairselle not being able to decide what to have for dinner
 

version

Warehouse Operative
was a bit irritated with it at first, found the steampunk stuff twee, but it took off once it got into the dynamiters and detectives and now I'm loving it. the bit with the lovecraftian thing being dug up out of the ice and laying waste to the city seems a pretty obvious commentary on 9/11.

shackleton and eliot's 'extra man' gets a mention too.
 

version

Warehouse Operative
I like them all, but I think V. and GR are perhaps the only ones which really put him in that Joyce - Melville - Borges sort of territory and that's in large part due to their proximity to modernism. The later stuff feels lighter, more plastic, less invested in the Classics.
 

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Warehouse Operative
“The brothers traveled as far as Mortalidad, the stop nearest Jeshimon, then, because of who might or might not be looking, they said goodbye with little more than the nod you give somebody who’s just lit your cigar for you. No gazing back out the window, no forehead creased with solemn thoughts, no out with the pocket flask or sudden descent into sleep. Nothing that would belong to the observable world.”

I love that last line, it reminds me of Joyce’s ineluctable modality of the visible, although maybe thats a totally different thing.

But it just made me think about that idea of the power of leaving no trace, keeping something secret from visibility.

This comes up over and over, so many mentions of people and objects going unseen or managing to slip to the side of the visible. I'm only around 200 pages in and I've lost count how many times someone or something's been described in those terms, that and things and people slipping between worlds.

One of the reasons the emphasis on the railroads makes sense is he seems to be presenting this idea of times and worlds operating in parallel and lines being switched between.

Also, this is likely to make anyone who's seen Twin Peaks: The Return think of the Trinity test,

"Lateral world-sets, other parts of the Creation, lie all around us, each with its crossover points or gates of transfer from one to another, and they can be anywhere, really . . . . An unscheduled Explosion, introduced into the accustomed flow of the day, may easily open, now and then, passages to elsewhere . . . . "
 

version

Warehouse Operative
@Mr. Tea

There's a Uyghur character in this one called "Al Mar-Fuad" who wears a deerstalker and hunting tweeds and has trouble pronouncing his 'R's.
 
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