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Against the Day Paperback – October 30, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
The Seattle Times sums up critical reaction to Against the Day best: "Like Bruegel's painting 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,' this is a portrait of mankind's attempt to transcend our mortalityor at least push up against its very edge." Thomas Pynchon's previous novels, including V., The Crying of Lot 49,and Gravity's Rainbow, tested boundaries as wellnot only of our own human understanding but of the fiction craft itself. This newest offering contains familiar elementsa whimsical humor, an erudite intellect, leftist ideals, and a sense of historical logic. Despite its magnificence, however, Against the Day tested most reviewers' patience (especially Michiko Kakutani's). The novel's length, digressions, and intellectual complexity will not please everyone, but those who stick with it are, well, probably smarter than the rest of us.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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My word... Pynchon's gift for language and presentation is just so fun to jump into. This book won't be everybody's taste, but the tale was very rewarding and will no doubt find a safe and deserved place in the history of storytelling.
"...there was a kind of general assumption around the shop that laboring men and women were all more or less evil, surely misguided, and not quite American, maybe not quite human. But here was this hall full of Americans, no question, even the foreign-born, if you thought about where they had come from and what they must've been hoping to find over here and so forth, American in their prayers anyway..."
The language is beautiful of course and the plot just dense enough to keep readers hooked. The pages *are* full of some very long sentences, but readers with patience and fortitude will not be disappointed.
This is my first Pynchon read and I was apprehensive at first due to the following things I had heard (none true, so far about ATD) about Pynchon:
-the language is difficult
-the format is confusing/alienating
These things are not entirely true, from my perspective. After reading the first half of ATD, I can safely say that anyone who's had a decent run in with the likes of William Faulkner or James Joyce can expect to find no difficulty reading this latest Thomas Pynchon novel.
While yes, there are somewhere around 100 notable characters, Pynchon has their lives and behaviors overlapped in such a way that makes them easy to remember. As a reader, I find myself becoming intimately acquainted with many of the characters. Many of them are so dynamic that it really is difficult to determine what exactly is going to happen next, who will next cross who's path, etc. Many characters are related (larger families like the Traverses and the Vibes account for a large part of the novel's plot) Characterization is truly an exciting element of the novel and very well done by the author.
For the first 100 pages or so, I was wondering if the science-fiction elements that I perceived early on would dominate the novel. While sci-fi doesn't dominate the novel, Pynchon has created this incredible other-world in which certain characters are able to habitate and many other characters seek fervently. I thought maybe that this would get tired and at least appear tacky, but there's a heavy mist that covers every inch of fantasy in this book, making things much more mystical and appealing--and after all, the Earth is only so big. Pynchon runs the Earth through a nice big hunk of Iceland Spar and now we as readers are able to enjoy not only the known Earth as setting for ATD, but also some alternate dimensions. All sorts of strange inventions are mentioned (I won't spoil it for anyone yet to read the book) and many modern physical laws are broken.
Historically, the book covers from roughly 1890 to 1920 (roughly, mind you). Some of the details seem pretty well-researched, though it seems also that Pynchon has created certain details with similarity to their actual real-life counterparts, though differing in minor amounts. The regional landscapes are incredibly described. There is very good continuity, with regard to temporal and cultural details.
The plot, generally, involves a battling between what I'd call high-capitalism and slippery anarchism.
Here are some themes:
History/Perception of History
There's an extensive Cameo made by Nikola Tesla, which make the book interesting. The book's first pages include a disclaimer warning that inference to likenesses between characters and real-life figures is discouraged, but this to me almost seems more a flag denoting the opposite. Ultimately, it will be the readers who decide, though it is easy enough to look back in time to see exactly what literary fiction does in terms of sending a message about the world's state of affairs.
Overall, this book exceeded my expectations and has proved to be pleasant reading, rather than the constant challenge (though yes it is challenging from time to time) that I had expected. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in literary fiction.