Against the Day

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Overview

Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel 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, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.

With a worldwide disaster looming just a ...

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New York, NY 2006 Hard cover First Printing, based on Printers key, date on title page. New in new dust jacket. First edition. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. ... 1085 p. Audience: General/trade. Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel 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, postwar Paris, and silent-era Hollywood. One of only writers to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature twice. Read more Show Less

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Against the Day

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Overview

Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel 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, postwar 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. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.

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, the author 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-the-fact occurrences occur. If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction.

Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck.

--Thomas Pynchon

About 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 and, most recently, Mason and Dixon. He received the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.

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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.
Library Journal

Pynchon (Mason & Dixon) has once again produced a work of note. His portrait of a sizable number of characters living in the volatile period from 1893 to post-World War I is equally epic and surreal (and sometimes a bit confusing). It is multilayered and filled with foreshadowing and numerous interesting subplots. Strangely, it is at the same time sadly realistic and idealistic, intellectual and humorous (mostly droll), fictitious and historical. In other words, this is pure Pynchon as he illustrates the arc of the human spirit. The performance of reader Dick Hill is nothing short of masterly; his ability to convey emotion and believable accents over so lengthy and complex a work and yet hold the listener's interest is remarkable. Recommended for those with the patience to stick with the novel to the end, though often this may seem like a challenge.
—Scott R. DiMarco

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594201202
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/21/2006
  • Pages: 1120
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 2.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Pynchon

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

Biography

Thomas Pynchon was born in 1937. His books include The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Vineland, and Mason & Dixon.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 8, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      Glen Cove, Long Island, New York
    1. Education:
      B. A., Cornell University, 1958

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2007

    Masterpiece for some, incomprehensible for others

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2007

    A GREAT BOOK

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2012

    Great book, loved it. Recommended.

    Great book, loved it. Recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

    great

    great reading

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  • Posted August 7, 2009

    Approaching Pynchon

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2008

    Have read other Pynchon titles, but

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2007

    I want my money back!

    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.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    All the ingredients!

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2007

    Bloated Gasbag

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2007

    What does a recluse know about people?

    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.

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    Posted December 6, 2010

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    Posted June 4, 2009

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    Posted March 1, 2010

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    Posted October 24, 2012

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    Posted April 27, 2009

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    Posted October 25, 2010

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    Posted August 10, 2009

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    Posted March 12, 2012

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