Against the Day

Against the Day

4.2 18
by Thomas Pynchon
     
 

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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year    

Spanning the era between the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, and constantly moving between locations across the globe (and to a few places not strictly speaking on the map at all),

Overview

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year    

Spanning the era between the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, and constantly moving between locations across the globe (and to a few places not strictly speaking on the map at all), Against the Day unfolds with a phantasmagoria of characters that includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, drug enthusiasts, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, spies, and hired guns. As an era of uncertainty 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.

Editorial Reviews

Steven Moore
Not for everybody, perhaps, but those who climb aboard Pynchon's airship will have the ride of their lives. History lesson, mystical quest, utopian dream, experimental metafiction, Marxist melodrama, Marxian comedy -- Against the Day is all of these things and more.
— The Washington Post
Liesl Schillinger
With Against the Day, Pynchon proves himself the heir to [H.G. Wells and Joseph Conrad], and a matchless fantasist of the real. The only prescription for salvation he offers is the same one a sheriff’s wife gives to the dynamiter’s troubled daughter midway through the novel: flight from reality. “Let go,” the sheriff’s wife explains. “Let it bear you up and carry you, and everything’s so clear because you’re not fighting back anymore, the clouds of anger are out of your face, you see further and clearer than you ever thought you could.”
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Descending in balloons on the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the do-gooding young Chums of Chance (part of a worldwide brigade) get help from White City Investigations' Lew Basnight. Lew is soon off battling anarchists in the American West, where bad guys Deuce and Sloat do in Webb Traverse, whose daughter marries Deuce and whose son is escaping this accursedness at Yale. Meanwhile, the Chums float through the center of the earth to the Arctic, where they are alarmed to discover a scion of the robber Barron-ish Vibe family excavating a dangerous artifact. And that's just a minuscule part of the action in this grand Wellsian fantasia from the author of Gravity's Rainbow, whose skewed look at history is a powerful act of imagination, bending the rules (with quartz translucence figuring in somehow) to reveal "worlds which are set to the side." Written in packed, densely detailed prose too dryly smart and ironic to be called Baroque, the narrative has its longueurs, and different readers will likely take to different story lines (this reader was partial to the balloonists). But pick up another book for a break, and it will seem relentlessly ordinary. Brilliant if sometimes exasperating, Pynchon's latest is highly recommended for any library that takes its fiction seriously, with the warning that it does not yield easy pleasures and should not be read on deadline. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/06.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"[Pynchon's] funniest and arguably his most accessible novel."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Those who climb aboard Pynchon's airship will have the ride of their lives. History lesson, mystical quest, utopian dream, experimental metafiction, Marxist melodrama, Marxian comedy- Against the Day is all of these things and more."
-The Washington Post Book World

"Raunchy, funny, digressive, brilliant."
-USA Today

"Rich and sweeping, wild and thrilling."
-The Boston Globe

"Audacious, bodacious, entropic, synoptic, electric, eclectic, entertaining, hyperbraining, high- roller, tripolar."
-The Philadelphia Inquirer

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101594667
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/13/2012
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
1584
Sales rank:
312,696
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"[Pynchon's] funniest and arguably his most accessible novel."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Those who climb aboard Pynchon's airship will have the ride of their lives. History lesson, mystical quest, utopian dream, experimental metafiction, Marxist melodrama, Marxian comedy- Against the Day is all of these things and more."
-The Washington Post Book World

"Raunchy, funny, digressive, brilliant."
-USA Today

"Rich and sweeping, wild and thrilling."
-The Boston Globe

"Audacious, bodacious, entropic, synoptic, electric, eclectic, entertaining, hyperbraining, high- roller, tripolar."
-The Philadelphia Inquirer

Meet the Author

Thomas Pynchon is the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow, Slow Learner, a collection of short stories, Vineland, Mason & Dixon, Against the Day, and, most recently, Inherent Vice. He received the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow in 1974.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
May 8, 1937
Place of Birth:
Glen Cove, Long Island, New York
Education:
B. A., Cornell University, 1958

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Against the Day 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are a lot of people who will have trouble with this book. Like previous Pynchon, Against the Day is an epic, with a large cast, covering a significant amount of time, and including a lot of background information. For people who want a 'good' read, i.e. emotional involvement, easy to follow plot, normal characters, etc. this book would not be the right choice. However, if you want an intellectual challenge, if you want to read artistic prose and like clever word usage, if you want to engage in an exploration of writing and enjoy uncovering numerous allusions and references, this book will not disappoint. Pynchon does not write for everyone and Sunday readers will not enjoy his work. Oprah won't choose it for her bookclub because house moms and semi-literate executives won't know what to do with it. It is elitist. It is intellectual. It is literary. If you don't like that, don't buy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely mind-blowing. There isn't one author living right now who comes close to the level of prose mastery that Pynchon commands. If you want character studies or fast plots, look elsewhere - but this novel makes you feel like you're five years old and learning about the solar system for the first time. Pynchon is a such an original, and so in a class of his own, that nobody ever knows what to say about him - but this is an awe-inspiring re-invention of the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AoifeMairead More than 1 year ago
Great book, loved it. Recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great reading
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
blueridgebard More than 1 year ago
It took me a while to remember, since I read Gravity's Rainbow long ago in my 20's, that the best approach to Pynchon is to accept that there are too many episodes and characters to hold in your head while you read his books and it is ok. What you need to know, you get through osmosis, and everything comes together in the end. What I like best about Pynchon is his humor. The two page exposition that results in a pun that would be missed if one weren't a physical chemist, or physicist, or whatever. No one can get them all, but when the aha moment arises, it is special. As others have said, Pynchon is not easy, but I find his work to be wonderful. Against the Day is a truly worthy precursor for Gravity's Rainbow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just haven't been able to bring myself to finish this one. Maybe I'm missing something, but it just isn't holding my interest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pynchon is certainly not for everyone...the same can be said of Champagne, First Class travel - and Flashman. If any of these rate in your book then this book might be just the thing! A Homerun!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Where was his editor? This would have made a good 400-page book. The only reason I read the whole thing is that my mother gave it to me. Don't waste your time like I wasted mine.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pynchon is supposedly one of our greatest writers. He certainly has a mastery of language and a vivid imagination. Yet, I have never been able to complete any of his books. Now I realize why. Pynchon does not know how to do people. It has been said that literature is character-driven and popular fiction is plot-driven. Pynchon's work is neither. His characters are as flat as paper cut-outs. Eventually you stop reading because you simply do not care what happens on the next page.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every night for the past week I¿ve been reading this book for as long as I can¿and I just made it to page 33. It puts me to sleep faster than 307 horse tranquilizers. One site called Pynchon one of the 4 most important authors of modern day. If that is true, then society has truly come to an end. Pynchon has a penchant for composing elegantly designed structures of wordplay, using outdated, that is to say antiquely quaint sentences conjoined by commas 'made popular by the late Abernathy Tinklyfeather and his assistant, the esteemed, though oft ridiculed Finian O¿Shaunesy-Deluctible', that being punctuation of a persuasion not entirely foreign to those of the mid to late eighteenth century, a curiously inviting time, steeped in wonderful perusals of literature, medicinal studies, and other arts du jour, in which many men who peruse such novels and novellas will soon realize they just read an unbelievably long paragraph that said absolutely NOTHING! See! I can write just like Pynchon. He spends more time making up funny names than creating a plot. He uses big words and long sentences to put his reader into a mind numbing coma. He is incorporating certain historical events that I am interested in, including Tesla, the Tunguska event, and others, but I will never know what he was going to say about them, because I can¿t read more than 2 pages per night without falling asleep, which means it would take me 2,160 days to finish. Mr. Pynchon, give me my money back. I can't believe anyone would let you put something like this on the shelves.