Trevor's Reviews > Against the Day

Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
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's review
Jul 19, 2009

bookshelves: aborted-attempt-may-give-another-s, to-read

** spoiler alert ** Need to pick this one back up... I was loving it, but got waylaid by school reading years back and left off at page 700-something. Looking at it now, I realize that I've lost most of the plot threads and will need to at least skim (probably just hunker down and reread) the bulk of the novel to figure out what the hell is going on. Once I finish Gravity's Rainbow, I might give it another go. After that book, ATD oughta feel like light reading...

(Here're some of them spoilers.)

From what I remember, this is a--relatively--straightforward story. The characters here are some of Pynchon's best, particularly the Traverse clan. Webb's murder at the hands of Deuce Kindred and Sloat Fresno is one of the most tragic and grotesque scenes I've read from the man (not to mention laced with horrible irony, considering what happens with Webb's daughter Lake). Kit has a cool story, too, but I still don't really understand what Quaternions or Vectors are, which bogged down his narrative for me (although his shady obligations to the Vibe empire and his quirky romance with Yashmeen Halfcourt are vintage Pynchon). The Chums of Chance are of course great, sort of an elaboration on the hilariously disturbing end to Baby Igor's film Cashiered from The Crying of Lot 49, one of my favorite bits from that book. Plenty of other weird Pynchonlia as well: time travel, sentient ball lightning, sand submarines, and, of course, plenty of silly songs and kinky sex.

There is also a description of a sunrise in here that literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, an experience I believed impossible at this point.

As a side note, the school reading for which I abandoned ATD was John Dos Passos's U.S.A. Trilogy, another panoramic Modernist tale of heroic anarchists, evil industrialists, international intrigue, and the sinister lead-up to World War I. It's more overtly political, more formally structured, and much less idiosyncratic than Pynchon's latest epic (published, as it was, well prior to the psychedelic era that seems to have so left its mark on TRP), but the two realities blend remarkably well, and it's highly recommended.

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