Against the Day (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Everything that Thomas Pynchon’s critics have loved about his first five novels is in his sixth, Against the Day. Everything that his critics have hated about his novels is there, too. Both lists usually contain the same four or five items. The novels sprawl; at 1,085 pages, Against the Day is longer than any of its lengthy predecessors. They contain countless characters, with several hundred in Against the Day. They shift from high seriousness to silly songs; there are twenty songs in Against the Day (or twenty-one if you count “Very Nice, Indeed,” which is simply that phrase sung to the tune of the William Tell Overture). They rely on obscure metaphors from mathematics, engineering, and physics; Against the Day deals with aetherism, quaternions, double refraction, multidimensional vector-space, and Riemann zeta functions, among other science topics. They are vulgar and obscene. Each of these can be valid complaints against any Pynchon novelwith a quibble over the one about length, which is not true of Pynchon’s 1966 novel The Crying of Lot 49, and may or may not be true of 1990’s Vinelandincluding Against the Day. Each complaint, however, can be answered in turn, for Against the Day is Pynchon at the top of his game.
The first is sprawl. Against the Day certainly does that. The usual assumption of negative critics is that, unlike the similarly...
(The entire section is 2007 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
Booklist 103, no. 6 (November 15, 2006): 7.
Library Journal 131, no. 19 (November 15, 2006): 59.
The Nation 283, no. 20 (December 11, 2006): 11-16.
New Statesman 135 (December 4, 2006): 54-55.
The New York Times 156 (November 20, 2006): B1-B8.
The New York Times Book Review 156 (November 26, 2006): 1-26.
The New Yorker 82, no. 39 (November 27, 2006): 170-172.
Publishers Weekly 253, no. 43 (October 30, 2006): 34.
The Spectator 302 (November 25, 2006): 46-47.
Time 168, no. 21 (November 20, 2006): 74-75.
The Times Literary Supplement, December 1, 2006, pp. 21-22.
(The entire section is 56 words.)