Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Book Post

Last week I finished reading Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon, which I had started reading near the beginning of the month. I was told that I had been keeping this a secret from certain parties, and that I should post about it, and here is the post.

First some slight background. I got started on Pynchon by reading Gravity’s Rainbow 8 or 9 years ago. It was a hard read but I enjoyed it and soon after I read V, Vineland and The Crying of Lot 49, all of which I enjoyed to at least some degree. Therefore I went in this perfectly cognizant that it would not be an easy read, but with an expectation of some amount of enjoyment. Well, the first expectation was firmly met, but I think the second one missed by a bit…

M & D is ostensibly the story about the astronomer and surveyor pair that demarcated the line dividing Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware in the latter half of the 18th century. Of course, it’s not purely historical and there are strange interludes of whimsy and bizarreness, as one might expect from Pynchon. The novel is presented as a story told by the fictional character Reverand Wicks Cherrycoke, who accompanied Mason & Dixon on their journeys, to his young nephews and nieces. In some ways the interludes of Cherrycoke interacting with his family are the most interesting parts in the books. But they also are confusing at some times when it is a tiny parenthetical breaking into the “action”.

Anyway, I suppose I liked it OK, but I couldn’t help comparing it to Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I kind of think that DFW has managed to outdo Pynchon in his own game, and maybe that reduced my enjoyment. I can’t really recommend this book to anyone in particular, but I won’t say to avoid it at all costs either.

posted by neil at 8:53 pm
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