Against the Day, for me, is pure reading bliss. Pynchon effortlessly conjures up magic and grace, stretching them through a full spectrum of absurdlyAgainst 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 throughout, but an equally prominent theme, if only slightly less obvious, is the search for Shambhala—both the mythological kingdom said to be hidden somewhere in Inner Asia, as well as the invisible spiritual equivalent located within the Self.
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.
Regarding light, one character sums up Pynchon’s curiosity with it when he says: I want to reach inside light and find its heart, touch its soul, take some in my hands whatever it turns out to be, and bring it back. One distinctly memorable scene involves an encounter with a tree in Mexico full of giant luminous beetles all flashing on and off together in unison. While watching these magnificent creatures, the observer somehow realizes (I won’t pretend I can convey the same magic Pynchon does, so you will just have to take this at face value) one of the illuminated beetles is his soul, and that the other beetles of light on the tree are the souls of everyone he has ever known. All together these synchronized strobing souls make up one complete radiant soul in the same way that light is indivisible.
Light is living tissue. As the brain is the outward and visible expression of the Mind.
Pynchon has even more fun exploring the nature of time. For what mission have I here, in this perilous segment of space-time, if not somehow to transcend it? Most of the book takes place in the years leading up to WWI. Using the knowledge of the day, Pynchon bombards the reader in mathematical theories on vectors and quaternions in an attempt to push the boundaries of three-dimensional space. All this leads up to his attacks on the so-called ‘forth dimension.’ Even wondering if we can look at the ‘forth dimension’ as if it were time, when it is really something of its own, and ‘Time’ is only our best imperfect approximation.
When dissecting and reassembling time, Pynchon seems to place a keen interest in manipulating it for the reader’s benefit and joy. Pynchon is something of a mystic and trickster. Whatever the number of n dimensions it inhabited, an observer would need one extra, n + 1, to see and connect the end points to make a single resultant. Pynchon must somehow reside in, or frequently visit an extra dimension from the norm. How else is he able to bring back to consensus reality seemingly endless accounts from other realms, parallel universes, and multiple dimensions, all while transporting the reader along with him into those very same worlds?...more
Showcasing a wide spectrum of erudition from quantum mechanics to the occult, RAW ushers the reader through ideas challenging to the mind and the statShowcasing a wide spectrum of erudition from quantum mechanics to the occult, RAW ushers the reader through ideas challenging to the mind and the status quo, yet manages always to keep it fun. His unique sense of humor, deep wisdom, and contagious positivity will be greatly missed. ...more
The earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight.
During a recent trip to the local bookstore, a discount stack of Lonesome Dove caughtThe earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight.
During a recent trip to the local bookstore, a discount stack of Lonesome Dove caught my distracted eye. Picking up a copy, I randomly flipped through to read three separate passages. And like an amnesiac, I promptly forgot all about the books I sought to find in the first place. Because this here was the book I didn’t know I needed to read right now.
At its core is a simple enough story—an epic cattle drive, not long after the Civil War, from southern Texas to northern Montana—but there’s nothing simple or subtle about the effects the various undercurrent narratives had on me.
As wild and raw as the vivid landscapes were continuously invoked, it is with the characters where this novel truly excels. Among a handful of major characters, I often forgot many of them were constructs made of words. That they seemed more real than the sum of a limited amount of words continually amazed me. Even minor characters came to life quickly and lingered long after exiting stage left, leaving behind solemn shadows.
Death and humor are doled out abundantly and in roughly equal measures, striking a necessary balance. For as commonly as death occurs, it often occurs violently. Not quite with the same force-fed frequency as found in Blood Meridian, but at times on the same level of intensity. That’s where the humor here helps temper the unexpected and ubiquitous death.
More than a good deal of this book’s humor emanates from one, if not the main character—Augustus McCrae. A man…I mean, a fictional character not likely to leave my thoughts anytime soon. Crowding around Gus in this harsh and brutal world are many other prominent characters, not least of all a couple of especially strong-willed women woven into the essence of this long tale.
As long as this story may be, it reads more like a novella, so quickly do the pages fly by. And when the last page passes, it passes by without complete closure—highlighting the way we all experience life outside these books. Life coming and going, surrounding everyone until abandoning us one by one. As though death were life’s joke on us all....more
If you have not yet read Jim Dodge, start with Fup, the "fable that became a fable." Fup sets the perfect tone for Stone Junction and introduces a recIf you have not yet read Jim Dodge, start with Fup, the "fable that became a fable." Fup sets the perfect tone for Stone Junction and introduces a recurring, if minor character in the later. Both stories are deeply moving, full of insight, and written with incredible heart and humor. I also recommend saving the great introduction by Thomas Pynchon until the end, as he gives away plot points that are better left as undiscovered surprises....more