Saturday, January 6, 2007

Pynchon AtD Wiki

Finally finished Neal Stephenson's stunning Baroque Cycle trilogy, and it's on to Pynchon's Against the Day. I already disagree with the negative NY Times book review cited earlier in this blog. The book starts with a very funny, adolescent, Jules Verne style look at dirigibles at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, then moves on to violent labor unrest in Colorado, and a Tesla study of polar electromagnetic fields that is as scary and unsettling as anything in Gravity's Rainbow. You won't go far in this book without a guide, and an AtD Wiki already has been created!

What is startling, and may not have been intentional beyond mutual admiration, is how much Stephenson's trilogy serves as a bridge between Mason and Dixon and AtD. Many of Pynchon's works refer to the unifying power of "shit, money, and The Word," which is not explicitly referenced in Stephenson, but serves as a backdrop in all three books. In the end of the trilogy, Sir Isaac Newton, who has been trying to finish a "System of the World" based on calculus and capitalism, must resort to alchemy and the "Philosophick Mercury" to save his life. In AtD, Merle and Webb engage in a discussion of quicksilver, the Philosopher's Stone, and the anti-Stone (like the stone removed from Daniel Waterhouse?), which could have been lifted and condensed directly from Stephenson. Anyway, those who do not find the new Pynchon in the same league as Gravity's Rainbow haven't been paying attention.

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