15 January 2007

'Chumps' report

This is my week to moderate a section of “Against the Day,” Thomas Pynchon’s latest heavyweight (literally) novel over at the rollicking, good-humored and, fortunately, forgiving Chumps of Choice group-read blog. You’ll find my 2,230-word post there.

Whew.

This book is nothing short of amazing. Fascinating. Compelling. Mind-boggling. Every single page is packed full of references to all kinds of arcana, that specialized knowledge or detail that is mysterious to the average person.

And boy, am I average.

As I finished reading up to and through my section, pages 81-118, I kept wondering, awestruck, who is this guy? Who is Thomas Pynchon? How did he do this? You can read all about him here, but I am convinced the last question is simply unanswerable.

Most artists – painters, writers, musicians, actors -- talk about that mysterious mind-shift they strive for (and only sometimes reach) that takes them out of this plane of existence and into some other mind-place and time, the place where knowledge, understanding, talent and imagination meet and meld, producing (if they’re lucky) an exhilarating burst of creativity.

Pynchon seems to live on this level all the time. He’d have to, to write “Against the Day.” He’s simply extraordinary.

In 2004 book critic Arthur Salm wrote of the notoriously reclusive Pynchon, “the man simply chooses not to be a public figure, an attitude that resonates on a frequency so out of phase with that of the prevailing culture that if Pynchon and Paris Hilton were ever to meet – the circumstances, I admit, are beyond imagining – the resulting matter/anti-matter explosion would vaporize everything from here to Tau Ceti IV.”

I believe that with all my heart. After all, he must be writing – or researching, or cogitating, or creating – continuously. The image of a great, pulsing brain the size of a city block comes to mind. Who has time for interviews? And for what possible reason?

If you’d like to join the Chumps in a lighthearted playhouse of “Against the Day” analysis, it’s not too late. Pop on over to The Chumps of Choice. After all, we’ve only read our way up to page 118. Don’t be intimidated. I’ve survived so far and it hardly hurt at all.

3 comments:

Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

I'm holding my Chumps commentary for later, after I return home. I like to have the book in front of me as I comment. I'd read something similar about Pynchon -- that everyone had developed weird, elaborate theories about his whereabouts. In the end, though, it turned out he wasn't hiding out or off fighting foreign wars or whatnot; he simply wasn't seeking publicity. Imagine that! (I think I got that from Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac newsletter a while back.)

Neddie said...

Thomas Pynchon lives in Manhattan with his wife Melanie (also his literary agent) and their son Jackson. He's been seen lunching with other writers (once with Don DeLillo -- I'd have given a testicle or two to have been their waiter) and has done voiceover for two episodes of The Simpsons.

This "famously reclusive author" thing is Da Bunk. J. D. Salinger, he's not. You're absolutely right, BSUWG; he simply eschews publicity -- and, for reasons best known to himself, hates having his picture taken.

Maybe he doesn't want to be bothered by drooling fans.

Imagine, as you say, that!

You did a great job, Wren. Thanks very much.

A Big Fat Slob said...

Crimminey, I am way behind, Gotta ketchup. I feel like I am back in college (being behind in the reading).