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Against the Day

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  6,479 ratings  ·  804 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
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Michael Finocchiaro I started with Infinite Jest but it took me a few years to get past the first 100 pages (although it was MORE than worth it once I did). I think that …moreI started with Infinite Jest but it took me a few years to get past the first 100 pages (although it was MORE than worth it once I did). I think that for a long Pynchon book, Mason&Dixon is more pleasurable (once you get past the 18th century diction) than Against the Day which although I loved it has so many Pychonian devices in changing perspective and time travel that a more linear story like M&D would be easier to start with. I have not read The Recognitions and am not sure I will so I can't say...Any reader of Pynchon has to cross Gravity's Rainbow at one time. I read it first and enjoyed it but preferred M&D and AtD to be honest. I also loved Bleeding Edge. (less)

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Michael Finocchiaro
I loved traveling along the four parallel storylines of this, the longest of Pynchon's books. I think I fell in love with Dahlia Rideout (sorry Kit). I wanted to be one of the Chums of Chance or at least read their books to my kid with the Hardy Boys. I wanted to have a whiskey with Lew Basnight (although I may have been terrified). I loved the bad guys and the good guys and really all the characters here. There was so much to enjoy, so much to think about, never a dull moment. Of all of Pynchon ...more
Sep 25, 2014 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
[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
Jun 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Feb 23, 2011 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,
An amazing book, describing a time of turmoil and discovery, showing the best and worst of mankind and individual men and women. This multifaceted story begins at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and ends after the world altering events of World War I. The world is moving into new areas; armies on horseback are giving way to men with machine guns. The wide open West of the United States is being increasingly hemmed in by wealthy industrialists who hire "goons" with guns to break strikes. In Euro ...more
Manuel Antão
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2006
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Dying-Off Readership: "Against the Day" by Thomas Pynchon

(original review, 2006)

Art is a social medium, a material medium, an intellectual medium, an economic medium: it consists of a great deal more than surfaces. Art that consisted only of surfaces - if such a thing were possible - would be of no larger significance than a crossword puzzle. This is true even of painting - the only art whose medium can be credibly represented as being
Mattia Ravasi
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: silver-keys
Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2016:

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
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 09, 2011 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
(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
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Against the Day is about a feeling. Feeling as if one is not in control of one's actions, as if one's life is constantly impaired by externalities. I think anyone who is even mildly paranoid will sometimes be under the impression that they are not truly in control of their actions.

"do what they tell you and take what they give you and don't go on strike or their soldiers will shoot you down."

We attempt to live meaningful lives, surrounded with the people who mean something to us, but there is a
Leonard 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
Apr 17, 2009 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
May 16, 2013 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 sing
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
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
I'm not sure that I can review this. Honestly.

I'm overwhelmed with the sheer sprawling immensity and lack of cohesion except for just a few special points... the big ones happening to be light and light's refraction, and anarchism.


Yeah. That's kinda my view, too. It's set up with seemingly hundreds of little scenes and build-ups starting all the way back to Chicago's World's Fair and ending after WWI and never staying in any place for very long. Want to globe-trot around the world? Hop
Eddie Watkins
May 01, 2008 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
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
As unfortunate as it is, Against the Day may be the last tome we see from Pynchon. It also just might be his best. It seemed to me, while reading it, that this was Pynchon trying to cover all of the themes, questions, and philosophical ideas he explored over the course of his career and wrap them up in one final doorstopper. I feel, personally, that he succeeded.

I was blown away by how refined the language seemed in this book. It was just as beautifully written and just as complex as Gravity's R
Aug 19, 2011 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
I can't even begin to write a review of this massive, impressive work. I found it extremely difficult but hypnotic. Although there were times I thought I'd never finish it, I couldn't put it down. Hopefully, I'll write a review in the future.

Just a few words, on reflection. The theme of day/night, light/dark was never clear to me (no pun intended) although the references to these topics are profuse and obviously have meaning. It seems, writing as a first guess, that the light is dangerous and th
Jan 26, 2011 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 whate ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books, 2016
... 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
May 18, 2010 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
Asher Deep
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What amazed me throughout this huge, baggy thing is just how tonally brilliant Pynchon's prose is here: it allows him to riff on everything from mathematics to cricket, music theory to telepathy, Aether to optics--interests too many to list here. And yet with all the madness going on, the prose at times almost imperceptibly shifts registers and presents a stunning passage (some of which might as well be out of a good old, traditional family novel) that knocks the reader's socks off. Amazing!
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
For anyone looking at the page-count and thinking 'F--- that!' please reconsider. While jam-packed with ideas and attractively-deployed disquisitions upon most imaginable subjects, this is as entertaining a great book as you may ever discover. It's a total blast and may well be the best way into Pynchon other than Lot 49.
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 western, ...more
Jan 11, 2013 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
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Against the very long day! 4 23 Oct 11, 2020 02:11PM  
Reading 1001: Against the Day - Pynchon 1 10 Dec 31, 2018 12:23PM  
Brain Pain: Discussion One - Against The Day - Part One, The Light Over the Ranges 2 63 Jun 21, 2016 07:23AM  
Brain Pain: Discussion Two - Against The Day - Part Two, Iceland Spar 1 19 Apr 18, 2016 08:35AM  

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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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