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Against the Day

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  4,373 ratings  ·  568 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
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Published December 15th 2006 by Tantor Media (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

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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
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
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
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 05, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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

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
(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
Eddie Watkins
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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;
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,
Jun 28, 2007 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sentimental Surrealist
The word on the street about this - Pynchon's longest book by a good three hundred pages - is that it's his most accessible. Granted, this word started kicking around the Pynchon cult before the more fitting candidate Inherent Vice came out, so maybe this point is now moot, but I'm a little divided on that. On the one hand, Against the Day is a big book. We're talking almost eleven hundred pages of this sucker. Furthermore, it's eleven hundred pages of Pynchon, which means the usual: bizarre con ...more
Jose Luis
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
Marcus Mennes
May 23, 2007 Marcus Mennes rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with strong median nerves
At 1085 pages, accommodating hundreds of characters, locales, sub-plots, digressions, etc., "Against The Day" isn't exactly summer beach reading. I bought my copy the day it was released (Nov. 21, 2006) and started reading that day. I'm currently (May 23, 2007) on page 892. This pace doesn't reflect a lack of desire, or even time, but rather a cautious appreciation of this book. I figure writers gamble and devote years of their lives preparing a book, while the reader invests mere hours, or days ...more
Feb 21, 2008 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Apr 08, 2008 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: eggheads, Gnostics, heretics, anarchists, occultists
Recommended to Steve by: Pynchon is among my favorite writers
Shelves: thomas-pynchon
Against the Day is unlike any other book I have ever read, and one that defies review. Thomas Pynchon’s latest epic tips the scales, packed with 1,086 pages of wonderful characters, marvels, and a tapestry of themes. Ostensibly a novel of revenge, AtD is also (among many other things) an extended rumination on various kinds of light, from the mundane to the esoteric. As the title implies, this is no glorification of spiritual Illuminism so much as a cautionary tale about excesses of light set ag ...more
IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan... Nope. Throwing in the towel at page 600. Without question the most frustrating book I've ever read (or not, since I didn't finish it). I've set this thing down at least a dozen times. And the stretches are growing longer between the returns. Even got it as an e-book so it wouldn't dislocate my wrist while commuting to work. On top of that I hate math, so whenever TP would embark on one of his lengthy math discussions (and there are quite a few), my eyes would st ...more
Justin Evans
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
Apr 28, 2008 Daniel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody who feels like they can handle 1085 pages of distilled awesome.
Like all Pynchon novels I've ever read, this one completely defies encapsulation. I can either wave my arms helplessly and mumble "you should just read it" or I can say "this book was about X and Y" and then feel all dirty, like I have to write to the author and formally apologize.

Like most of Pynchon's work, Against the Day doesn't have your typical central plot followed by a small group of protagonists. Instead, there are broad themes embodied by a large cast of irregularly-appearing characte
Is "As they came in low over the stockyards, the smell found them, the smell and the uproar of flesh learning its mortality—like the dark conjugate of some daylit fiction they had flown here, as appeared increasingly likely, to help promote" the best sentence Pynchon ever wrote?

It's gotta be that, or:

"'[S]pheres of influence' modified to toruses of Rocket range that are parabolic in section...
"...not, as we might imagine, bounded below by the line of the Earth it 'rises from' and the Earth it '
John Pappas
Giant, ambitious, all-encompassing, messy, disorienting, anti-authoritarian, violent, skeptical, gleeful, sincere, and ironic, this may be the great American novel, and any of the supposed flaws an individual reader might feel exist in this text serve to render it, as one character states toward the end of the novel, "music which can not be marched to." And while that discordant, polyphonic, Ivesian song of these early twentieth century unionists, industrialists, anarchists, businessmen, Pinkert ...more
Leo Robertson
Is it ok if I get a lil’ pretentious on your asses?

(What am I talking about, this is a Pynchon review, it’s almost compulsory! In fact, the above could be P’s tagline- I’ll call his agent and set up an… oh yeah, I forgot.)

Reading this book is a lot like travelling along the Riemann zeta function that Pynchon seems so fond of. Locally, we travel small coherent distances, moving round a logical path, but when we zoom out and observe the story globally, we see how convoluted and complex it really i
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Against the very long day! 2 6 Jul 25, 2015 11:22PM  
Neal Stephenson Similarities? 5 101 Feb 07, 2014 03:34PM  
Study Guide for ATD 1 39 May 02, 2013 05:01AM  
  • The Tunnel
  • Carpenter's Gothic
  • You Bright and Risen Angels
  • Women and Men
  • The Public Burning
  • Darconville’s Cat
  • Bartleby & Co.
  • Chimera
  • Take Five
  • The Successor
  • Celestial Harmonies
  • The Gold Bug Variations
  • A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel
  • The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll
  • Warlock (Legends West, #1)
  • Larva: A Midsummer Night's Babel
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
More about Thomas Pynchon...
The Crying of Lot 49 Gravity's Rainbow Inherent Vice V. Mason and Dixon

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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?” 19 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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