-- "Advice for Newbies" at ThomasPynchon.com/HyperArts
Look carefully at that cover shot. See how, under the type announcing the title & author, some ghostly images appear? Its the title & author again, twice more, in different typefaces, straining to break the surface of the paper and be seen, but suppressed by the black gothic letters of the topmost words.
Isn't that intriguing? Don't you just want to grab Pynchon by the lapels and demand an explanation?
The cryptic (ho, ho) image on the front cover is only the first of hundreds of delicious -- and oh, so often unfathomable -- conundrums that lie in wait for the intrepid reader of Pynchon's latest. It clocks in at a mere 1,100 pages of dense type -- a mighty, mighty daunting prospect indeed.
And yet...and yet...
From the jaunty boys'-adventure-story parody -- The Chums of Chance! -- of the opening pages, I'm absolutely sucked in. I resist the urge to plow forward into it, enticed by the utter wonder of Pynchon's effortlessly mesmerizing virtuosity. I want to savor; Pynchon's no spring chicken, and at an average of 12-15 years between his books, we may not get too many more of them. I can't tell you the number of times I've had to set one of his volumes down after a careful reading and parsing of one of his knotty paragraphs and whistle in wonder: How the hell did he just do that?
And he's funny! Is there any other "serious" novelist who's as funny as Pynchon? I think not, sir! But the jokes are deeply embroidered in; often constructed so you don't get them until a second, third or fourth reading. In Gravity's Rainbow, we are informed that one Brigadier Pudding, a secret coprophile, has published a book on current events titled What Can Happen in Europe. Not until my third or fourth time through the book did Pudding's true title hit me: Shit Happens in Europe! O-or there's a long and ornately filigreed paragraph in Mason & Dixon, invoking the Greek gods of Love, the Air, and the Forest -- but when you parse it out and reduce it to its simplest expression, it becomes "Ass, Gas or Grass -- Nobody Rides for Free." Then there's the lovely scene, again in Mason & Dixon, of the collier Mary & Meg feeling its way out of port on a foggy morning, following the clanging bell of a Tagareen Man -- a ship-to-ship vendor -- and you wonder why you suddenly find yourself humming:
Hey, Mister Tagareen Man,I've been jawing with Will Divide over at Huck and Jim, as enthusiastic a Pynchonian as I am -- ask him about his M&D ampersand tattoo! -- and we got to thinking: How about a group read?
Play a song for me
In your jingle-jangle morning
I'll come following you...
So that's what I'm proposing, here. Anyone within the Jingosphere is hereby invited to kick off your shoes, read a chapter or two, and follow along in the company of friends. I know at least some of you are serious fans -- show yourselves!
The way I think it'll work is, we "assign" a few pages, say 30-40, each week, and at the end of the week we pop in and discuss. Will and I are willing to provide our blogs for the forum, and any other participants who have their own blogs are encouraged to volunteer to host for a given week.
Come on! Any takers? It'll be fun!
I note that Against the Day already has a pretty ornate page at Wikipedia, and the intrepid scholars at HyperArts have started an Against the Day wiki that looks like a really great source of information.
During the composition of this post, it occurred to me that a nice reply to that awful lecturing-nanny grammar book Eats, Shoots and Leaves might be Eat, Shit and Die...