Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Splittin' Image

Pynchon's Against the Day is something of a return to the form of Gravity's Rainbow, which I consider to be the Moby-Dick of the 20th century (though not in terms of its reception). Against the Day isn't up to that standard, but still well beyond what American letters has had to offer otherwise: it seems as if this is Pynchon's final effort, and that he wanted to get everything in while he still could. There is surely a lot going on, more than I can assimilate into a first impression, but the general shape was clear early on, just a matter of how to get there. Which is one hinge for the novel, where the mirror traveling down the road has unusual refractive properties: It gives the lie of path dependence to New Historicism -- looking back, one cannot see the future that was being looked foward to without it being colored by current perspective, knowing how it all turns out in the end. The narrative is supposed to be refractory, the text itself paramorphic, which sounds vaguely mathematical, but has to do with reordering of the chemical variety. Among other things, Pynchon captures the transcendental, almost kabbalistic element that was invested in mathematics before Gödel demonstrated that structure only gets you so far. More generally, Against the Day, framed by a boy's adventure tale, is imbued with a sense of possibilities at the turn of the century, despite the impending collapse into world war (and capitalism [though trustbusting gets short shrift] and Modernism and cynicism ...) and its harbingers. A-and a persistent optimism that beneath all these correspondences is an as yet unimagined identity, depending on how you look at it. Best Easter Egg: the collapse of the Campanile in St Marks Plaza by tetricide (the preferred bombardment method of Inconvenience's Russian counterpart): in its time Tetris was rumored to be a Russian plot to undermine Western productivity. Still puzzling what the midpoint reference to Mark 4 (parable of seedsower) has to do with it ...

Other readings: The other two novellas in the Duras package were stronger than the first two: 10:30 on a Summer Night reworks Moderato Cantabile to advantage, and The Afternoon of Mr. Andesmas masters the implicit as the others don't. And Tanizaki's Arrowroot, my first reading of this author, will have me back for more.


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