Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Big Pynchon Re-Read

As regular readers of this blog will know, I've spent a good bit of time over the past couple of years thinking about what I call the technological history of modernity. I have also suggested that one of the key figures in understanding this history is Thomas Pynchon. So as I begin to ask myself more seriously whether I want to take a stab at writing this particular account of How We Got to Be Who We Are, I'm thinking that I need to do a serious and thorough re-read of Pynchon — the whole of his work. So over the next few weeks (months?), though probably not to the exclusion of everything else, that's what I'm going to be doing here at Text Patterns: reporting on my reading of Pynchon. I'll work in chronological order:

  • V. (1963)
  • The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)
  • Gravity's Rainbow (1973)
  • Vineland (1990)
  • Mason & Dixon (1997)
  • Against the Day (2006)
  • Inherent Vice (2009)
  • Bleeding Edge (2013)

It's possible that, since I've read and written about the last two novels fairly recently, I'll stop after Against the Day. I also suspect that if I can make it through Against the Day, something I've failed to do in three previous efforts, I'll be exhausted. But we'll see how that goes.

Also, as I’m reading I’m bound to notice some themes from the earlier books that re-appear in the later ones, so I might do some anticipatory exploration of those themes. Basically, I’m gonna do what I want, is what I’m saying. But y’all knew that already.

6 comments:

  • Interesting project! I plan on/hope to be blogging through Midnight's Children next year, in honor of the 70th anniversary of India's independence.

  • Freddie, is your blog public? Because I'd be interested to read your posts on Midnight's Children. I just began reading it last month, and maybe if I had a series like that to read I might actually finish the book!

  • This is exciting news. I will be following along and jumping in to comment when I don't feel completely incompetent. My only regret is that I don't think I'll have time to do the read alongside you. I too have never made it all the way through Against the Day - I only tried once and quit about halfway through, meaning that I still felt like I had read a complete (and looooong) novel.

  • This is awesome, Alan. Do you have a pre-reread ranking of how you've enjoyed Pynchon novels previously? Would be curious to see how/if the reread changes your opinions.

  • Ben, I'm really thinking of the fiction this time around as a single body of work — trying to get a grip on it as such. (I'm not a big fan of ranking anyway, but Pynchon's books are so varied that it's especially hard to rank them.)

  • Freddie, you ought to have fun with Midnight's Children. I've taught it several times, and it's an amazing conversation-opener, on so many subjects, so many levels.

    And Asher: I think reading half of Against the Day is like reading six ordinary novels.

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