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.
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.