Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thanks for Dave Monroe for posting this to Pynchon-l:
Surveillance, by Jonathan Raban
Clueless in Seattle as the age of paranoia dawns
By Pat Kane
Published: 27 October 2006

In an era where we can access any current affair from
a thousand different viewpoints - the blog comment,
backed up by the YouTube clip, discovered in the
e-mail newsletter that makes it to SkyNews - one feels
like cheering wildly for an old-fashioned "social
novel" like Surveillance. To sit with an artful,
humane narrator like Jonathan Raban, and share his
concerned gaze at an America gone nearly mad with
paranoia, is time well spent. This is the second in
his trilogy of Seattle novels, the first being the
dot-boom threnody Waxwings. By now it's clear how
Raban wants to filter the maelstrom of this United
States of Insecurity.


... Remember all those paranoid postmodern conspiracy
fictions: Pynchon, Ballard, DeLillo? Now, all it takes
is a classical realist in Seattle to walk the streets,
watch the news, listen to the conversations, and you
get the same effect. Surveillance is as useful and
eloquent a meditation on the extremism of the present
as you would wish to curl up with on a long weekend.

Friday, October 27, 2006

the dragon and the eagle

That's the title of a book just received, of interest perhaps to Mason & Dixon readers, although China is likely to have some place in Against the Day. The author, A.Owen Aldridge, argues that, contrary to previous assumptions that "the image of China did not penetrate North America until after the inauguration of the trade between Canton and the East Coast shortly after the War for Independence came to an end....a lively curiosity about non-Western culture existed in America before the middle of the eighteenth century and that a good deal of accurate information about it was available during the American Revolution aklong with an almost equal amount of myth and legend....The following pages will reveal some extraordinary instances of this relationship: Franklin at the age of thirty-two publishing in his Philadelphia newspaper an analysis of the thought of Confucious, brother-in-law Thomas Paine comparing Confucious and Christ as great moral teachers...."

The Dragon and the Eagle: The Presence of China in the American Enlightenment
by A. Owen Aldridge. Wayne State University Press. Detroit, Michigan. 1993.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

under the pynfluence: Nina Marie Martinez

...sez today's San Francisco Comical, in an article about three SF Bay Area novelists who received the Whiting Writer's Award:

Nina Marie Martinez was born in San Jose, the daughter of a first-generation Mexican American prune-picker-turned-building contractor and a German American stay-at-home mother. A high school dropout, she was a single mom at 20, supporting herself and her daughter by reselling flea-market finds. Soon, she was a vintage-clothing maven and decided to go back to school to study business.

"All I knew was that I needed money, and if you needed money, you studied business," she says. But taking general education classes reminded her of one of her first loves, literature. (The other was the Giants.)

So she went to UC Santa Cruz to study literature. That's when she started hearing voices.

"They weren't trying to make me do bad things or anything," she says, laughing. "These women were having a conversation in my head, and I started writing it down." That conversation was the spark for her debut novel, "Caramba!: A Tale Told in Turns of the Cards," published in 2004 by Knopf.

"When I wrote 'Caramba!' I felt like I was writing the great American novel," she says. "Not too long ago, this was Mexico. My ancestors roamed these lands for hundreds of centuries."

The book takes traditional Mexican Loteria cards as pivot points -- and illustrations -- for the assemblage of a high-energy plot. Publishers Weekly described the novel as "an effervescent, luminous debut."

She cites Thomas Pynchon and Vladimir Nabokov as two of her literary influences, particularly while writing "Caramba!" "The funny thing is, my favorite writers are white males and most of them are dead," she says, noting that Latina authors are too often stereotyped. "They think we're all sitting in the corner reading 'One Hundred Years of Solitude.' "

Martinez lives near the Santa Cruz boardwalk with her 16-year-old daughter and two Chihuahuas and says she will never forget the professor who said that the most interesting fiction is written by people who speak more than one language.

"My girlfriends and I have always switched back and forth from Spanish to English," Martinez says. "When these two languages intermingle, they're both changed. Language is pliant. It can move and shift without breaking."

Her next novel, coming out in 2008 from Knopf, is the story of a girl who survives a difficult childhood and becomes the queen of the flea market. "When you write a book, there are books that you hold close to your heart," she says. Just now, she is reading "Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller and "Down and Out in Paris and London" by George Orwell.

"What does it mean to be down and out, but living artistically?" she asks. "My new book is dedicated to the discarded, people who've been thrown away. I am drawn to things and people whose peculiarness or beauty goes unappreciated by the vast majority of society."

Caramba!: A Tale Told in Turns of the Cards

the Pynchon we love to read... the Pynchon of Against the Day. At a party this evening in the Oakland HIlls, I had a chance to spend some quality time up close and personal with the host's ARC, by the time I was 10 pages in my skull was tingling, another 25 and I had lost all sense of the passage of time, only the intense bouquet of artisanal pizza managed to bring me back. Reluctantly, I tore myself away from Pynchon, glad I only have to wait a few weeks at most to get my own copy and finish reading it. We're in for a treat, my friends.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

the white city by alec michod

One of Against the Day's best prepared advance readers is Alec Michod, author of The White City, a novel set at the 1893 Chicago Fair that Pynchon features in his new book. Michod claims a significant Pynchon influence. First published in 2004, The White City has been reissued in a new paperback version.

Publisher's Weekly reviews Against the Day

Pynchon’s ‘Against the Day’ Glows

Penguin Press will release Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, his first novel since Mason & Dixon, early next month. Below is PW’s review which calls the work “knotty, paunchy, nutty, raunchy.”

Against the Day
Thomas Pynchon. Penguin Press, $35 (1,120p) ISBN 978-1-59420-120-2

"....that rushing you hear is the sound of the world, every banana peel and dynamite stick of it, trying to crowd its way in, and succeeding."

Knotty, paunchy, nutty, raunchy, Pynchon’s first novel since Mason & Dixon (1997) reads like half a dozen books duking it out for his, and the reader’s, attention. Most of them shine with a surreal incandescence, but even Pynchon fans may find their fealty tested now and again. Yet just when his recurring themes threaten to become tics, this perennial Nobel bridesmaid engineers another never-before-seen phrase, or effect, and all but the most churlish resistance collapses.

It all begins in 1893, with an intrepid crew of young balloonists whose storybook adventures will bookend, interrupt and sometimes even be read by, scores of at least somewhat more realistic characters over the next 30 years. Chief among these figures are Colorado anarchist Webb Traverse and his children: Kit, a Yale- and Göttingen-educated mathematician; Frank, an engineer who joins the Mexican revolution; Reef, a cardsharp turned outlaw bomber who lands in a perversely tender ménage à trois; and daughter Lake, another Pynchon heroine with a weakness for the absolute wrong man.

Psychological truth keeps pace with phantasmagorical invention throughout. In a Belgian interlude recalling Pynchon’s incomparable Gravity’s Rainbow, a refugee from the future conjures a horrific vision of the trench warfare to come: “League on league of filth, corpses by the uncounted thousands.” This, scant pages after Kit nearly drowns in mayonnaise at the Regional Mayonnaise Works in West Flanders. Behind it all, linking these tonally divergent subplots and the book’s cavalcade of characters, is a shared premonition of the blood-drenched doomsday just about to break above their heads.

Ever sympathetic to the weak over the strong, the comradely over the combine (and ever wary of false dichotomies), Pynchon’s own aesthetic sometimes works against him. Despite himself, he’ll reach for the portentous dream sequence, the exquisitely stage-managed weather, some perhaps not entirely digested historical research, the “invisible,” the “unmappable”—when just as often it’s the overlooked detail, the “scrawl of scarlet creeper on a bone-white wall,” a bed partner’s “full rangy nakedness and glow” that leaves a reader gutshot with wonder.

Now pushing 70, Pynchon remains the archpoet of death from above, comedy from below and sex from all sides. His new book will be bought and unread by the easily discouraged, read and reread by the cult of the difficult. True, beneath the book’s jacket lurks the clamor of several novels clawing to get out. But that rushing you hear is the sound of the world, every banana peel and dynamite stick of it, trying to crowd its way in, and succeeding. (Nov.)

This article originally appeared in the October 24, 2006 issue of PW Daily.

ATD-related: tesla coil fun

"Take one CD, Microwave at full power for 5 seconds,
and place on top of tesla coil. Enjoy!"

the glowing reports keep rolling in

"Best book I've ever read," says one battle-toughened novelist who is half-way into Against the Day.

Yes, Bodine's in there. launches to support Against the Day readers

At his Hyperarts Pynchon Pages ( Tim Ware has announced his project, which sounds very cool - just the sort of Web 2.0, fan-generated content-creation process that will draw hard-core Pynchon readers to build a site that will
support the far larger audience of Against the Day readers as they read the book in the coming months and years. I'll have a chance to find out more about the
project later this week, I expect.

Against the Day details!

...from: The Literary Saloon :
We didn't get a personalized proof of Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (as others did), but yesterday -- a month before the 21 November on-sale date -- a beautiful hardcover finished copy was delivered:

Local barkeep M.A.Orthofer with his copy of Against the Day

Not quite the drop-everything event for us that it is for some others, but certainly something we look forward to spending much of the next month with.
It weighs in at 1085 pages, and around 410,000 words. The opening scene is aboard: "the hydrogen skyship Inconvenience, its gondola draped with patriotic bunting", as some members of the Chums of Chance are on their way to Chicago .....
It's divided into five sections:
  1. The Light Over the Ranges
  2. Iceland Spar
  3. Bilocations
  4. Against the Day
  5. Rue du Départ
The epigraph is from Thelonious Monk.
And the first impression is that the Pynchon book it most resembles is, indeed, Gravity's Rainbow. But that's just a very quick first impression: this is definitely a text it's going to take a while to deal with.

Pre-order your copy at or (the Penguin Press publicity page is -- so far -- useless).
In Time Jeffrey Ressner wondered about the difficulties of Promoting Pynchon; it certainly looks like there will be extensive and intensive Internet cove

Monday, October 23, 2006

advance reviewers say: Against the Day is killer

I've heard that now from a couple of folks lucky enough to have review copies of the novel. "M&D meets GR" is the way it sounds after listening to one Pynchon devotee and reviewer rhapsodize.

Amazing how some folks on Pynchon-l keep complaining about the lack of a traditional marketing campaign, I guess they just can't see what's happening. No substitute for word-of-mouth, which is what the publisher has generated in spades with Pynchon's Book Description, with ARCs in reviewer hands now the buzz is getting bigger. Pre-publication orders at Articles now appearing in top-tier pubs like the New York Times, and a place reserved on the bestseller list as soon as it's published. I don't know what more a publishing executive or author could expect from a marketing campaign that eschews the usual canned promotional crap, respecting readers enough to let them pass along word of a killer new book on the way, instead of clubbing them with paid advertising and promotional stunts (any defenestration plans out there?).

I was told today to expect a call from an Associated Press reporter who's looking for pynchonoids to interview for a feature - I'm not holding my breath, but if it's true, this is a "viral" campaign that appears to be taking hold in a serious way. Add in the various fan-built sites that are bound to emerge in the next few weeks, it's a viral (hate that metaphor, but it's what they say) campaign with legs, too.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

calling all novelists influenced by Pynchon

We're interested in reading and reviewing novelists who have been influenced by Thomas Pynchon or whose books somehow share a special affinity with Pynchon's. Contact pynchonoid at for details.

Jokerman 8

That's the title of this intriguing new novel just received, from Richard Melo, a novelist influenced by Thomas Pynchon. We'll review it as soon as possible. Info @ Soft Skull Press