Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Best I Read This. And These.

Last week I finished Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, a fictionalized account of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon and the line they made.  And by finishing Mason & Dixon, I've now read all of Pynchon's novels.  And that, to me, is a cool thing to be able to say.

Here's my briefest possible review of Pynchon's works with links to longer reviews:

The Ones I Love (Against the Day is my absolute favorite, the other three are tied for second):

The One I Easily Forget, but it was Fun:
The One I Cannot Recommend, No Matter How Famous it Is:
  • Gravity's Rainbow
The One I Just Did Not Care For, But I Still Hope Paul Thomas Anderson Adapts into a Movie:
But what else can I say about Mason & Dixon?  Let me say that it was good, that I did not read it as closely as I could have or should have, that if ever a book could have used hyperlinks it was this one—so much fictional data mixed with factual, a little extra research or knowledge would have gone a long way.  Thematically, I was struck by how just about all of Pynchon's novels take place before, or in the wake of, something historically significant.  Although Mason & Dixon is very much the story of the friendship of the two men, from their first assignment to track the Transit of Venus to the years after they made their line, it is also filled with anticipation for the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.  It's interesting to me that Pynchon's novels never take place during the time of the action—even Gravity's Rainbow, taking place during World War II, hardly takes place in World War II.  I think there's some way to connect this with the Crying of Lot 49, which ends right before the titular auction, the moment where the mysterious agents of Tristero might finally be revealed.  In the very seconds before the solution to a mystery is revealed, can't we say this is when we least know what the solution is?  Confidence exists in distance from the answer, never is it more probable that you might be wrong than in the instant before the answer is revealed.

Also, if you're going to read Mason & Dixon yourself, you really should have this page-by-page summary handy.  I read it every night before bed, like checking the answers to math homework, to make sure I didn't miss anything from that day's reading.

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