Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, "Against the Day" 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, ...
Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, "Against the Day" 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, Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all. With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx. As an era of certainty comes crashing down around their ears and an unpredictable future commences, these folks are mostly just trying to pursue their lives. Sometimes they manage to catch up; sometimes it's their lives that pursue them. Meanwhile, Thomas Pynchon is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-fact occurrences occur. Maybe it's not the world, but with a minor adjustment or two it's what the world might be.
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Thomas Pynchon's first book in almost 10 years is...what we've come to expect. Against the Day is a sprawling narrative that includes over 100 characters and covers time travel, advanced mathematics, mining sabotage, a gang of boy scout-like zeppelin-riders, and much more. It's dense and convoluted, just like everything Pynchon has ever written, but this feels different. He's more settled in this novel, maybe due to his age, but the plot feels more like a regular book than a typical Pynchon head-spinner. His characters are as rich and colorful as ever, breaking into song for no reason, walking through walls that aren't really there, performing complex zeta-functions on the bottom of beer bottles...you get the idea. While anyone discovering Pynchon should start with The Crying of Lot 49, this is a welcome addition to his catalog.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-10-30 Knotty, paunchy, nutty, raunchy, Pynchon's first novel since Mason & Dixon (1997) reads like half a dozen books duking it out for his, and the reader's, attention. Most of them shine with a surreal incandescence, but even Pynchon fans may find their fealty tested now and again. Yet just when his recurring themes threaten to become tics, this perennial Nobel bridesmaid engineers another never-before-seen phrase, or effect, and all but the most churlish resistance collapses. It all begins in 1893, with an intrepid crew of young balloonists whose storybook adventures will bookend, interrupt and sometimes even be read by, scores of at least somewhat more realistic characters over the next 30 years. Chief among these figures are Colorado anarchist Webb Traverse and his children: Kit, a Yale- and Gottingen-educated mathematician; Frank, an engineer who joins the Mexican revolution; Reef, a cardsharp turned outlaw bomber who lands in a perversely tender m?nage ? trois; and daughter Lake, another Pynchon heroine with a weakness for the absolute wrong man. Psychological truth keeps pace with phantasmagorical invention throughout. In a Belgian interlude recalling Pynchon's incomparable Gravity's Rainbow, a refugee from the future conjures a horrific vision of the trench warfare to come: "League on league of filth, corpses by the uncounted thousands." This, scant pages after Kit nearly drowns in mayonnaise at the Regional Mayonnaise Works in West Flanders. Behind it all, linking these tonally divergent subplots and the book's cavalcade of characters, is a shared premonition of the blood-drenched doomsday just about to break above their heads. Ever sympathetic to the weak over the strong, the comradely over the combine (and ever wary of false dichotomies), Pynchon's own aesthetic sometimes works against him. Despite himself, he'll reach for the portentous dream sequence, the exquisitely stage-managed weather, some perhaps not entirely digested historical research, the "invisible," the "unmappable"-when just as often it's the overlooked detail, the "scrawl of scarlet creeper on a bone-white wall," a bed partner's "full rangy nakedness and glow" that leaves a reader gutshot with wonder. Now pushing 70, Pynchon remains the archpoet of death from above, comedy from below and sex from all sides. His new book will be bought and unread by the easily discouraged, read and reread by the cult of the difficult. True, beneath the book's jacket lurks the clamor of several novels clawing to get out. But that rushing you hear is the sound of the world, every banana peel and dynamite stick of it, trying to crowd its way in, and succeeding. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2007-04-30 Looking to add 42 CDs to your collection in one fell swoop? Possessed of 54 hours of free time that desperately need to be filled? Look no further than this audiobook of Pynchon's latest literary behemoth, a product so ridiculously outsized it deserves a Pynchon book of its own to celebrate it. Hill is to be commended for making his way through the 1,100 pages of Pynchon's novel, traipsing all the way from the union-busting American West of the 1880s to the WWI-era Balkans, shifting accents and deliveries with aplomb along the way. While it is hard to imagine anyone mustering the energy to listen to all of Pynchon's admittedly brilliant late career masterpiece, Hill admirably meets the challenge, although he occasionally makes the mistake of emphasizing the book's comedy over its deep moral and intellectual seriousness. At 54.5 hours long, though, a little extra comedy is probably a necessary accoutrement. Simultaneous release with the Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 30). (Feb.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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