Time and Publishers Weekly have broken the embargo on reviewing Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day. Much excitement and fascination ensues. PW gives it a starred review ("Knotty, punchy, nutty, raunchy"), Time hyperventilates at length.

Sorry, I'm going to bed. Maybe it's a great book. But I gave up on Mr. Pynchon round about Vineland, then tried again, only to endure the unbearable slog that was Mason & Dixon. Cartoony characters with punning names. Prose that grates, soars, rambles, bores. Clanking stories contrived to demonstrate a thesis. Or as Richard Lacayo rhapsodizes in Time: "the tantalizing music of Pynchon's voice, with its shifts from comic shtick to heartbroken threnody, its mordant Faulkneresque interludes, its gusts of lyric melancholy blown in by way of F. Scott Fitzgerald, its ecstatic perorations from Jack Kerouac. . . ."

. . . as well as his inability to leave out any joke (the dog's name is LED!!!), his willingness to fracture narrative or emotional sense for some abstruse scientific-philosophical point: The list goes on.

His best work remains The Crying of Lot 49. There's something to be said for the elegance of succinctness.

November 14, 2006 8:58 PM | | Comments (5)



Great work!

I do recommend Crying of Lot 49. It has all the tics but in a much more accessible, condensed format. It's really like a prologue to Rainbow, only with a contemporary setting and a Jacobean historical background. His main character, Oedipa Maas, despite the typically stupid name, is also somewhat sympathetic/real.

V. was my introduction and it's more lyrical and poetic, even tender, much less of a slog. I don't wish to be one of those who just gives up on him 'because he's difficult.' Hell, I love Donald Barthelme and David Foster Wallace. But Pynchon's prose style is kind of a garbage heap. And the jokes (there's a radio station in Lot 49 whose call letters are KCUF) are often just distracting.

Thanks for writing.

Jerome Weeks

I have the same issue with Pynchon. Gravity's Rainbow was my introduction, and I have since been told that it was the wrong book to start with. Although I've considered going back for another try, the hype surrounding the new one has an off-putting quality to it.

Mr. Ed:

Because I don't just "hate" Pynchon. As my post indicated, I think The Crying of Lot 49 is well worth reading. I used to love Pynchon in grad school. And in book criticism, the judgment isn't everything. It's the why. It's the reasoning.

Otherwise, feel free to go to this ridiculous site -- -- where they assign a weighted numerical value to each review (more important media sources are weighted more heavily through a formula they won't divulge; neither will they explain who's "important") and then they average them and assign a grade. That's all you'll need to know: Bob Woodward's State of Denial gets a 66.

Jerome Weeks

"There's something to be said for succinctness."

I couldn't agree more. So why not just type "I hate Pynchon" and hit the Publish button?


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