Friday, August second, 2013
Kind of flabbergasted that I have never encountered any mention of Glen Island amusement park in the writings of Thomas Pynchon -- it seems utterly implausible that the Chums of Chance (for instance) would never have paid a visit.
A stone's throw from David's Island, which was devoted entire to the Army post, was Glen Island. This wooded islet had been rented, for the purpose of exhibiting little colonies of foreign people, by a good old sport, who confided to me that he liked champagne when it wasn't too "corky," and who had spent his whole life up to his present ripe age in exhibiting pretty girls and tickling the American palate with new and outlandish sensations. One year he would have Eskimos living in glass huts frosted to look like ice, with real Eskimo dogs and sleds; another, he would show a community of Hottentots, as unclothed as New York laws would tolerate, with their round straw huts and African drums. And lo and behold! this year he had imported and exhibited, alongside of a group of Sioux Indians living as they lived, a colony of Puerto Ricans, living as they lived, in their little thatched houses, and making the so-called "panama" hats. These jíbaros were from Cabo Rojo, a coast town noted for the excellent straw hats made there for a century or so. And they ALL had hookworm.
A most intimate friendship sprang up between the young military doctor and these homesick sons and daughters of Borinquen, who were perfectly delighted to find someone who could speak to them in their own tongue, and to whom they could complain —for the jíbaro loves to complain. They were useful to me not only as sources for a continuation of my study, but also as living examples of this new disease, on which I now was asked to discourse at Me annual meeting of the Westchmer County Medical Society. I did so; and no detail was missing—even the sacred eggs were brought into the glaring sunlight of New York's sophistication.
Thursday, May 15th, 2008
At Edge of the American West, there is a fun thread about anticipating new books by your favorite authors. There was no criterion really specified for how to choose the authors you list; here is what I used: an author all or most of whose back catalog I have read*, and if I read about a new book of whose being published, I would run out to the bookstore and buy a copy.
Most books I've bought in my life have been used; buying just-published books is a pretty new experience. I think this is a complete list of the books that I've bought on the day of their publication: Mason & Dixon, The Keep, Against the Day, Other Colors.
(And come to think of it, I've pre-ordered a couple of books from Amazon or similar, so received them at the time of their publication. So probably should add to the list Monk's Music, and Autobiographies of Orhan Pamuk which I await anxiously, and the two volumes so far of Moomin comics.)
*Except Saramago, I've only read two of his books.
Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
So last night I finished Against the Day -- I was really loving and getting in to the end of Part IV, but the brief Part V left me pretty confused. I mean I liked that the Chums were diverging from our historical reality -- that seemed to tie in with a lot of the rest of the book -- but them coming back into our history wasn't really set up properly. I'm glad that Kit and Reef and their families wound up together.
Also last night I met Nicholas, to whom I am indebted for his concise explanation of Novi Pazar's history. Thanks, Nicholas!
Thursday, December 28th, 2006
Halfway through Against the Day -- the book just took a turn (p. 548) for the miraculous. I heard from Bill M. today, that he just finished it, and that I have many more marvels to expect in the coming pages.
Saturday, December 23rd, 2006
Two fine blogs having to do with Against the Day: the Against the Day Weblog of the mysterious Basileios -- I don't know if that URL is going to continue to be the correct one -- and Research Methods for Professional Writers by somebody named Stevens.
[...Later:] You know that blog of Stevens' is really good. (Basileios' may be great too, I don't know -- haven't started looking in the archives much yet.)
Update:Also Adam Kotsko has compiled an index of some of the best Against the Day reviews.
Update: some great writing, in Spanish, about Against the Day at El pez volador.
Friday, December 15th, 2006
I have been on-again, off-again with Against the Day; after the first bit, which I quite enjoyed, there was about a hundred pages where I was reading and thinking, well I really owe the guy big-time for Vineland and GR and Lot 49, I really should keep reading; and then there was about a hundred pages where I was liking the story a lot but not quite connecting with the characters; but suddenly yesterday afternoon, as I was reading of Kit's exploits at Yale and on Long Island, it hit me with a flash that this is Great Stuff, on a par with anything Pynchon has written before. And reading today about Dally working her way around NYC, that impression is still with me. I am feeling the need to reread though, since Dally and her father and their story were introduced during a bit where I wasn't paying very close attention.
Saturday, November 25th, 2006
Funny -- the narrative voice in Against the Day that I was thinking (as of p. 41) was a parody, goes away right about p. 41 and is replaced by/transitions gently into a voice that sounds much more like Pynchon's to my ears. I like The Great Quail's suggestion that this opening is a way of poking fun at people who expect Pynchon's language to be pretentiously wordy. ("Pretentiously wordy" isn't exactly what I'm looking for here; it is the closest I can come on short notice.)
From Against the Day: I am really liking this line, from p. 41:
"Many people believe that there is a mathematical correlation between sin, penance, and redemption. More sin, more penance, and so forth. Our own point has always been that there is no connection. All the variables are independent. You do penance not because you have sinned but because it is your destiny. You are redeemed not through doing penance but because it happens. Or doesn't happen.
"It's nothing supernatural. Most people have a wheel riding up on a wire, or some rails in the street, some kind of guide or groove, to keep them moving in the direction of their destiny. But you keep bouncing free. Avoiding penance and thereby definition."
It is Drave, leader of the order which Lew Basnight has just joined/drifted into, telling him not to expect forgiveness to come out of the works he is doing.
I am still finding the narrative voice kind of jarring and thinking it sounds more like a parody than like Pynchon's authentic voice. But against that, I'm really enjoying the story being told.
Friday, November 24th, 2006
I am finding the frontspiece of Against the Day a little mysterious:
"It's always night, or we wouldn't need light."
-- Thelonious Monk
Any one have information that will help me place this in context and make sense of it? Drop me a line.
Update -- here is a transcription by Steve Lacy of some advice from Monk, including "It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn't need lights."
I've been looking forward for a couple of months to Pynchon's new novel. And here it is! I just started it this morning and am sort of curious as to whether I'm reading the story of the novel or the story of another work that is contained within the novel -- and whether the narrating voice is Pynchon's or a character's. I'm leaning towards the latter (presumably I'll find out soon enough) -- the first chapter is reading a bit like a parody of what somebody critical of post-modern fiction might expect a new book by Pynchon to sound like.
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