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Against the Day

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,848 Ratings  ·  607 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 1085 pages
Published November 21st 2006 by Penguin Press HC, The
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Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas PynchonThe Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas PynchonV. by Thomas PynchonMason & Dixon by Thomas PynchonAgainst the Day by Thomas Pynchon
Ranking the works of Thomas Pynchon
5th out of 9 books — 187 voters
Ulysses by James JoyceFinnegans Wake by James JoyceThe Sound and the Fury by William FaulknerMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleGravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Most Difficult Novels
74th out of 344 books — 1,674 voters

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Community Reviews

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Nov 08, 2014 Geoff rated it it was amazing
Like all great things, Against The Day refuses summary. By its length and complexity, the sheer amount of Time it takes to get through, the concentration it requires to keep track of its multitude of characters, its encyclopedia of settings and events, its fascination with emerging ideas, scientific advances, political movements, technologies, its exploration of a wide variety of metaphysics and religious ideas, its globe-spanning survey of world events at the turn of the last century, by its ve ...more
It had been some time since the Chums of Chance had last visited Candlewood University, and as soon as they were on terra firma they made their way directly to Professor Vanderjuice's office. The Professor, who was in the process of calibrating what looked like a complex optical instrument, welcomed them effusively. "Randolph! Miles! Lindsay! Darby! Chick! How wonderful to see you!" He gave Pugnax's head a pat, receiving a friendly growl of recognition from the canine savant, and exchanged manly ...more
Mar 01, 2008 Oriana rated it it was amazing
Update the second, March 08
Well, well, well [she says, much subdued, pensive; not at all her normal, boistrous, effusive self].

Here we are, March 1, 2008, and I have just closed the cover of Against the Day.

I suppose it's hard to even talk about a tome like this, a thing of this range and scope and breadth. I'd really like to use all the superlatives I can, and then invent new words to describe Pynchon and what he does, because he really is like nothing else ever. In fact, I've been saying that
[written 2008]

The early reviews I read of Against the Day were all a little bewildered, and gave me the distinct impression that a lot of reviewers had tried to skim-read this huge novel so they could get their articles written in time. It's not an easy one to write up at all. It's very long, very busy, and you come to it with all kinds of preconceptions, just because it's Pynchon and although he's only written a few novels they all seem to be masterpieces.

For people who have been following him
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 05, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)
A bewildering book. Reading this is like standing on a sideline watching the turn of the century. Pynchon is right there beside you and flipping through the scenes showing you how the common people in that era behaved through his eyes. This is definitely not a history book yet there are real-life characters, e.g., Tesla, Kovaleskaya, and even himself (Pynchon), or real world events, e.g., 1893 Chicago World's Fair, World War I, etc. Still, the bulk of the story is fictional and only uses history ...more
Mar 15, 2010 tim rated it it was amazing
Against the Day, for me, is pure reading bliss. Pynchon effortlessly conjures up magic and grace, stretching them through a full spectrum of absurdly strange situations. His characters often lack depth, but he more than makes up for that in many other ways, not least of all with the shear beauty of his prose.

Of the thousand-and-one topics within this book, my favorite themes dwell on light, time, parallel universes, and dimensional transcendence. Anarchy may be the most prevalent thread found th
Ian Not His Real Name
Dec 30, 2015 Ian Not His Real Name rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: followers of Sofia, Yashmeen and Ljubica

A Rhapsody of Exquisitely Mindful Pleasures

"Nobody ever said a day has to be juggled into any kind of sense at day's end."
[Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"]

Most authors inadvertently encourage us to be lazy readers. They make it too easy to read their fiction. We expect authors to comply with conventions of story-telling, a manageable number of characters, a narrative arc, a sense of relevance and progress towards a conclusion, a climax, a goal, a
(Update, 3/23/13: finally plodded my way to the end of this thing. Review still stands.)

First things first: I haven't finished Against The Day yet. I'm on page 752, which is more than 300 pages from the end. But 752 of this book's pages, with their tiny print and their relatively homogeneous content, are enough to solidify one's judgment several times over. It's possible that the ending will cause me to reconsider some of what I'm about to say, but given what I've seen so far, I doubt it.

I want
Dec 05, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing

Go read Geoff's review here:

Then go read Theroux's great review in the WSJ -

" If there is an inevitability to arrival by water, he reflected, as we watch the possibilities on the shore being progressively narrowed at last to the destined quay or slip, there is no doubt a mirror-symmetry about departure, a denial of inevitability, an opening out from the point of embarkation, beginning the moment all lines are singl
This is a very difficult book to assail and digest but worth it for me to see how the pomo master keeps up with the scene of post-postmodern he has spawned. The wonderful new weird I can’t get enough of (such as the three M’s of Mitchell, Murakami, Mieville), and others I keep trying (like DeLillo and Lethem). I bring these others up to convey that if you like them, this may be worth the ascent.. There is something in it for most readers (mystery, espionage, fantasy, historical fiction, family s ...more
Eddie Watkins
Sep 29, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
This might very well end up being my favorite Pynchon novel. But I don't know, since if I were to become a one-author-reading hermit all of Pynchon's novels would be there with me, as they are the hands-down most rereadable novels I've ever read (with Nabokov a close second).

I would place this next to Gravity's Rainbow as his two most ambitious novels, but there's something about Against the Day that I like better. In many ways it's like reading a massive young-adult novel, there's just such a s
Nate D
Some works are so densely, elaborately planned and plotted that any map to their intricacies would necessarily be longer than the work itself. This, I think, is the justification and promise of post-modern literature, with works reaching further in all directions and via as many tools as possible. Against the Day is one such work: almost any given line or action may upon study be split, like light through a prism, into a full spectrum of significant motifs.

And so Against the Day serves as a refr
Jun 14, 2013 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: samizdat
During those simpler, happy times (the Democrats assumed control of the House and matters appeared to be changing)I pre-ordered the novel with my happy local bookseller. It arrived really early, well before its publication date and I was four thousand miles away from home.

The bulky block of lore was scooped upon return. My friends had selected Against The Day for our winter read and I read the novel in two lengthy slogs, finding it necessary to reread several sections. Some of my friends weren't
Mar 29, 2016 Stian rated it it was amazing
... maybe in some other world things would’ve been different, but here and now, in this one, Reef huddled down into his chair by the fire, the noise from the saloon downstairs where he’d been playing cards all night reaching his ears but hardly bothering him, though he did for a second think of the scum sitting down there playing on, never giving in, because why give in? why be cautious? you miss all the shots you never take anyhow. Maybe there’s a point to it.

Reef took up his book and looked a
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Alexander Theroux's review of Against the Day in the Wall Street Journal, November 2006:

"Against the Day -- the phrase seems to allude to the apocalyptic conditional: In the familiar scriptural locution, the day itself was the eventual one of "judgment and perdition of the ungodly men." But let's not make too much of it. There is simply too much going on in this wide-ranging, encyclopedic, nonpareil of a novel to reduce it all to something as small as the apocalypse.

"Against the Day is Mr. Pynch
Jul 01, 2013 Rayroy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One day I’ll get around to writing a review for this, my favorite book I’ve read, I’m part of small group of people, a group of readers that have read all off Thomas Pynchon’s novels, I should be happy that I reached this accomplishment, and I am, but also depressed about the whole thing, “Against The Day” and all of Thomas Pynchon’s work were the ultimate escape from the soul sucking, bleak, horribly lost, greed filled , over sensationalized media era of time we call now, it’s why I read so mu ...more
Léonard Gaya
This is a rather long read, but I, for my part, will be brief. It takes more than a thousand pages for the Chums of Chance to fly over the Chicago World Fair, Colorado's railroad and mining facilities, London and Venice and Vienna and Shambhala and the North Pole, anarchists and dynamite freedom fighters, gunslinger in Nochecita, a sexy aristocrat named Chirpingden-Groin, photography and conjuring, electromagnetism and alchemy, vectorial and quaternionist mathematicians, Professors Renfrew and W ...more
Mar 04, 2013 Drew rated it really liked it
Not much to say about this one, despite its classic status and gargantuan size. It's typical Pynchon, with a little less paranoia and a little more anti-industrialism. The side effect of this is more clarity in the writing--critics apparently caught onto this and called it Pynchon's "most accessible book." I wouldn't say that, necessarily, but I would say that when you write about paranoia, your writing is automatically going to be a bit murkier than it might otherwise be, since you can never kn ...more
Mattia Ravasi
Feb 29, 2016 Mattia Ravasi rated it it was amazing

The most epic, heart-warming, heart-breaking, majestic, hilarious, dreadful and inspiring piece of fiction I have ever read. If you took Once Upon a Time in the West, a couple of Final Fantasies (the good ones), the whole of HP Lovecraft's production, Verga and Hardy and Zola and such topnotch realists, and at least three or four more secret ingredients - and then gave it all to the world's greatest fiction writer to turn into one single unif
Pynchon at his most accessible yet lengthy(so long I kept thinking I was being reminded of another novel and realizing it was an earlier section). A million intersecting ideas, characters, and plots wrapped in ribald humor and paranoid speculation, reading sometimes like H.G. Wells meets Cormac McCarthy tied all together with a flair of Dante, Conrad, and Borges. One of Pynchon's best, up there with M&D, G.R. and V.(all initials...I win). Pynchon parodies and pastiches L.A. noir, gothic west ...more
Michael William West
Mar 13, 2014 Michael William West rated it really liked it
Shelves: america
In the process of absorption, a melancholy drop in literary RPM as I put Against The Day away for now, it's enormous physical presence returned to form a symbolic shape, a load-bearing stone on a bookshelf somewhere. The last stand of ATD was Pynchon throwing a crazed orchestra of new and weird characters, jokes ('The Burgher King') and exposed tracts of pseudo-narrative; even a love and sex story. All following the Tunguska Event, the colour shift, the settling down into the safest and most fam ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
One thousand two hundred twenty (1,220) pages in fine print, a high 4.04 average rating in goodreads. Let's see first the metaphors and what-nots it provoked among the brave souls who had read and reviewed it:

1. Mikey Stewart (3 stars) - (his first sentence): "Good lord, where to start?"

2. Oriana (5 stars) - "It's like, instead of reading a book, you're like reading a chunk of a river...this one is like a million rivulets, each slipping overunderthrough one another, that you follow for a second,
This was excellent, so much so that I was tempted to add it to my ever-growing list of favorites (query: if your list of favorite books exceeds a certain number, say, 100 or so, are they still your favorites, or does it at some point just become a list of books you really like? Like have 18 best friends or something; surely "best" implies a very small number? But I digress).

In the end I didn't add it, though I think it is definitely in the running for best Pynchon novel, because it started to b
Jose Luis
Jun 21, 2015 Jose Luis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bueno, me alegro de haber hecho el esfuerzo de terminar, pasada la pájara del ecuador del libro. Superé esa sensación de que la prosa crecía descontrolada como un tumor, carente de 'centros’ y conseguí encontrar algo parecido a un sentido (o varios). También he superado mi (mala) lectura de El arco iris de gravedad, de manera que me lo apunto como relectura. Pero bueno, Contraluz:

A veces tenía la sensación de ir en una montaña rusa, con oasis de aburrimiento, bien por repetitivos y monótonos, bi
Jun 11, 2015 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some adjectives to describe ‘Against the Day’: Historical; futuristic; fantastical; gritty; witty; epic; adventurous; philosophical; lusty, scientific; learned; surreal; dense; playful; sociological; hallucinogenic; relentless; ambitious; funny, theological and licentious.

Some areas touched upon by ‘Against the Day’: Quantum mathematics; European anarchy; American anarchy in the old west; English anarchy of a sort Conrad wouldn’t quite recognise; Boy’s Own Stories; the union movement; families;
Jul 30, 2008 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
It took me a month to finish this book, and when I was done with all 1,085 pages I had expected to feel relieved, even ebullient. Instead, I was kind of sad it was over.
This is a beautiful, moving book, very sad but also very silly.

It's one of the easiest Pynchon books to understand, along with Mason and Dixon, and one of the easiest to get through, in part because it doesn't have large sections that are really really sad and twisted, as is the case with Gravity's Rainbow and V (one of my all-t
Justin Evans
Dec 04, 2013 Justin Evans rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
If you're reading this, you might want to read the book; if you're sensible, you'll be a bit wary of diving right in, because, as every review is contractually obliged to note, it's a bit long. So here are some books I'm really glad I read before this:

i) The World that Never Was, by Alex Butterworth
ii) Anarchism, by George Woodcock
iii) Hobsbawm's Age of Revolution/Capital/Empire
iv) Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian (American West in the 19th century)
v) Henry James, in general (for the American a
Feb 21, 2008 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the children of dictators everywhere
Shelves: literature
If you've been hoping that a major new novel wd come out that presents anarchists as heros, then this be it! &, after 5 or 6 wks of reading its 1,085pp off & on I FINALLY FINISHED IT TONIGHT. Now reading it isn't even remotely close to accomplishing something like getting Mumia Abu-Jamal out of jail, but it still feels like an accomplishment anyway. If Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons" (1861) was the 1st novel w/ an anarchistic protaganist (the main character, Rudin, was drawn partly from th ...more
Jun 28, 2007 Jim rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Counterfactualists
Against the Day is a book of terrorists.

Bomb huckers, outlaws and anarchists lurk everywhere and—surprise, surprise—nearly all of them are likable. Against the Day is like a Louis L’Amour novel in reverse but instead of the saga of the Sackett family moving westward, endlessly crossing the frontier, Pynchon’s Traverse’s travel from West to East, hurling themselves against the tide of history and humanity and into the teeth of American enterprise during the time when her fortunes were being made
Jan 26, 2011 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, aere-perennius
AtD blasted me away with its scale and swath(e). The fact that he was able to keep that giant mega-ball rolling, doubling, wrapping it all up at the end still amazes me. I've said this other places, but GR is Pynchon's most important novel (to date), M&D is my favorite (oh, the ending Sir, the ending), but AtD is his BEST. Pynchon absolutely doubles down on his paranoia, his doubling, his funk and sizzle. He circumnavigates the globe detailing, explaining, entertaining, and just riffing on w ...more
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Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. is an American writer based in New York City, noted for his dense and complex works of fiction. Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known today: V. (1963 ...more
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“Laboring through a world every day more stultified, which expected salvation in codes and governments, ever more willing to settle for suburban narratives and diminished payoffs--what were the chances of finding anyone else seeking to transcend that, and not even particularly aware of it?” 18 likes
“There are stories, like maps that agree... too consistent among too many languages and histories to be only wishful thinking.... It is always a hidden place, the way into it is not obvious, the geography is as much spiritual as physical. If you should happen upon it, your strongest certainty is not that you have discovered it but returned to it. In a single great episode of light, you remember everything.” 16 likes
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