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New Revisiting Thomas Pynchon
At this stage in my life, going back to “big” books from my youth can feel like seeing old friends for the last time. There are exceptions: in late May I took in The Magic Mountain for the seventh time since 1971, and assuming I don’t peg out before the end of Trump’s second term, I imagine I’ll revisit it at least once more. But this third reading (I do not count my first attempt, in 1973, when I threw it across the room in frustration after a hundred pages) of Thomas Pynchon’s astonishing maiden effort, V., will likely be my last.

I picked it up anew—same copy; different room—five years after violently rejecting it that first time, and absorbed it in two daylong sittings, entranced. Seems to me that I read once more in the intervening forty years before I took it up again last week. It’s not an easy or an inviting novel. What particularly put me off at twenty-one (and Pynchon himself was just twenty-five when it was first published) was the alternation between the scenes set in 1956, which were initially rendered in broad slapstick, and the alternating historical (or “Stencilized”) chapters set variously in Alexandria and Florence (1898/1899), Paris (1913), South West Africa (1922), and Malta during WWII, the two narrative threads at last meeting and loosely intertwining. An early (favorable) reviewer of the novel admitted frankly that he could not describe it, comparing that undertaking to the attempt to nail a blog of mercury. I concur.

I had to take the thing on faith this time out, remembering that it had impressed me times past, because it’s not an easy novel to love, and indeed it was almost a slog through those first hundred pages or so, and then, at some point during the next hundred, it clicked again, commanding, if not my love (and I have loved many books, in a decent, manly, abstract way), my awed respect.

The Magic Mountain, which I also respect with a great deal more affection, is considered by many a daunting work, but I can readily understand Thomas Mann sitting down to begin it (or at least to take it up anew, since he returned after The Great War to a project he’d started before that conflict) with a pretty good idea of the course on which he was embarking. How Pynchon could possibly have had the whole of V. in mind when he commenced just sends me crosseyed. Perhaps he did not—perhaps the novel came out as a jazz improvisation. Whatever attended its conception and creation, it’s an astonishing work. Not for everyone by any means, but if you give yourself to V., she will stay with you.

(Of course, if you want to get your feet wet first, The Crying of Lot 49 is a much, much shorter book, and will give you a taste of Pynchon, even though he now deprecates the novel, his second, as a work-for-hire. Rereading that one after V. I was reminded by one chapter set in San Francisco at night of the 1996 film The Game, which also gives us a protagonist drenched in paranoia as he moves along the city streets.)

New “Mason & Dixon”
Fifth novel (1997) and, unlike the first three (I have not yet read Vineland), extraordinarily inviting, the faux-XVIII century narrative language notwithstanding. About three-quarters of the way through since taking it up on Tuesday. Enchanted. sample passage:
Does Britannia, when she sleeps, dream? Is America her dream?— in which all that cannot pass in the metropolitan Wakefulness is allow’d Expression away in the restless Slumber of these Provinces, and on West-ward, wherever ’tis not yet mapp’d, nor written down, nor ever, by the majority of Mankind, seen,— serving as a very Rubbish-Tip for subjunctive Hopes, for all that may yet be true,— Earthly Paradise, Fountain of Youth, Realms of Prester John, Christ’s Kingdom, ever behind the sunset, safe til the next Territory to the West be seen and recorded, measur’d and tied in, back into the Net-Work of Points already known, that slowly triangulates its Way into the Continent, changing all from subjunctive to declarative, reducing Possibilities to Simplicities that serve the ends of Governments,— winning away from the realm of the Sacred, its Borderlands one by one, and assuming them unto the bare mortal World that is our home, and our Despair.
(Note to Ashton: this is right up your alley. Copy to arrive before a fortnight elapses).

New Thou sayest: that is the most pellucid example of run-on-Sentences seen
in many a decade..
I. Mean. I *see* the author's theodolite atop the desktop of that virtual/reality stage-set via which the 'triangulation' Shall Free-Us-All© ..from the drudgery of enslaving poor neurons
to Do The Work.. [For Us] of feeling out of sight for the ends of Being and ideal Grace--to coin a phrase.

Thanks oodles: a one must indeed begin with +bias for an author who shares an appreciation of Caps-within! sentences (via whatever Century's perspicuity/relabeled weirdness)
-vs- that lexicographical-sameness addiction, smugly enforced by academe.

PS I did begin the sniffing-arround approach to Pynchon via those gladly-suffering inmates of Lot 49; alone, the artful send-up of So. Cal. places I've 'met' was worth the ticket-to-ride.

PPS In fact, at the institute: Houses there had "alleys" containing a few separate rooms. I was at one time ensconced within Up Your Alley (puns there flowed as the night-the-day, of course.)
Expand Edited by Ashton July 6, 2018, 05:45:08 PM EDT
New and another passage
“To rule forever,” continues the Chinaman, later, “it is necessary only to create, among the people one would rule, what we call...Bad History. Nothing will produce Bad History more directly nor brutally, than drawing a Line, in particular a Right Line, the very Shape of Contempt, through the midst of a People,— to create thus a Distinction betwixt ’em,— ’tis the first stroke.— All else will follow as if predestin’d, unto War and Devastation.”
New Jeez.. verbatim That should be the preface on every decent Congresscritter's spiel re a re-up in Nov
New Further to Pynchon: “Against the Day”
I’m about seven hundred pages into his 2006 novel Against the Day, with almost another four hundred to go, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a fucking hoot! I don’t think that I could at any point so far have provided a coherent account of any given preceding hundred pages—one doesn’t read the thing so much as surf it—but it’s chockfull of hugely entertaining anecdotes and set pieces, and Pynchon by seventy had developed into a prose stylist of no mean gifts. The rap (well, one of the raps) on TP has been that he needs an editor, but so far I wouldn’t have this dazzling yarn a page shorter. Sample:
Life in Göttingen appeared to proceed on its blade-twinkling way, wheelfolks on brand-new bikes crashing into each other or careering out of control and scattering pedestrians, beer-drinkers quarreling and bowing, preoccupied Zetamaniacs forever on the verge of walking off the edge of the Promenade being rescued by companions, a town he had never loved become all at once a place, now he was obliged, it seemed, to leave it, whose most quotidian detail shone with a clarity almost painful, already a place of exile’s memory and no returning, and here just to make that official was the angel, if not of death at least of deep shit, and nobody else seemed to notice…
More anon.

     Revisiting Thomas Pynchon - (rcareaga) - (5)
         “Mason & Dixon” - (rcareaga) - (3)
             Thou sayest: that is the most pellucid example of run-on-Sentences seen - (Ashton) - (2)
                 and another passage - (rcareaga) - (1)
                     Jeez.. verbatim That should be the preface on every decent Congresscritter's spiel re a re-up in Nov -NT - (Ashton)
         Further to Pynchon: “Against the Day” - (rcareaga)

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