Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: "Against the Day" by Thomas Pynchon

I took a big risk and started 2016 off by reading what will be the longest, and I bet hardest book I will read all year in Thomas Pynchon’s epic Against the Day. I have a long history reading his books, and a lot of it is not good. From being confused in high school by The Crying of Lot 49 and later on by V, to absolutely hating Bleeding Edge and kind of liking Inherent Vice, Pynchon is writer who greatly divides his audience. But I am glad to saw with this monster, clocking in at 1085 pages, is the best book of his I have read to date. It has the same problems most of his books have, which I will get to later, but what emerges as you read this is something clearly seen here that is hidden in most of his other books, or maybe I just wasn’t careful enough to see it. A plot explanation is not just hard but impossible. It deals with a series of events stretching from the 1893 World’s Fair to just after World War I, and involves two families, the Vibes and the Traverses, one seemingly, whether intentionally or unintentionally, oppressing the other, the discovery of a clear mineral with mystical powers and a group of explorers, called the Chums of Chance, who fly around in a hot air balloon and might just be a fictional creation in the story, or something much more. Yeah, I don’t get it either. It has a lot of characters to keep track of, some who only appear in one scene or two and speak in ways that make it impossible for you to identify with. Some people like it; I find it needlessly convoluted and a bit pretentious. But what makes this book different is that Pynchon’s sense of humor is displayed extravagantly, from funny song interludes, to weird sex, smart puns and dirty jokes that had me laughing out loud more than a few times. I can’t give this book my full recommendation, since I know many aren’t as patient with books as I am, but if you are up for a challenge, a challenge with some surprising rewards hidden inside, this book is the right mountain to climb.

Rating: 4/5

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