David Lentz's Reviews > Mason and Dixon

Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
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Jun 20, 11


The genius resident in this mighty and "prolifick" work is off the charts, lacking borders, bounds and limits. "Mason & Dixon" is a picaresque Iliad by a supremely gifted and inventive storyteller. The "electrick" writing on each of the 773 pages is luminous beyond belief. The characters are deeply human "comick" and "mystick" figures who consistently extend the wit of their banter well beyond the first or second brilliant repartee of each stretch of dialogue. The "vistos" of wild American colonial landscape in both city and countryside, on land and "oceanick", in royal and humble society in Pynchon's Great Chain of Being are breathtaking. The dialogue is intelligent and witty and often hilarious. Meet Franklin, Col. Washington, Penn, Calvert, Boswell and Dr. Johnson -- all in the mileux of their day -- in adventures high and low. "Mason & Dixon" is an American Human Comedy written in the style of Fielding in "Tom Jones" or Sterne in "Tristram Shandy" or Barth in "The Sotweed Factor." An intricate and elegantly woven story line awaits those who must have one. High science and political intrigue of the day abound for those who love reading 18th century American history. Most of all, the writing quality is so evenly elegant throughout this opus maximus that its supreme and sustained intelligence is the signature of a writer of Nobel Prize stature. Pynchon's body of work, including "V." "M&D" and "Gravity's Rainbow," are sufficient evidence of the breadth of his literary gifts. Only a handful of writers in this era are capable of writing metafiction at this lofty level -- Gaddis, Gass, Theroux, Barth, Donleavy and Bellow. Is Pynchon as brilliant as Nobel Laureate, Bellow? Pynchon is, at least, equally worthy. Few novels have so much going for them on so many levels. "Carpe carpum." Do yourself a favor and seize this brilliant, carping novel: someday its cover shall bear the seal of the Nobel Prize for it is a "magnetick" American Iliad -- a shimmering and timeless Flower of Light.
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