Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day

Thomas Pynchon's first new novel in nine years, Against the Day, came out just a few days ago, on November 21st. I love Thomas Pynchon. When I was in college I read everything he wrote: Gravity's Rainbow and Mason and Dixon remain my two favorite novels.

But my life has changed in the last nine years -- I now have bills, and a better social life, and a lot of different interests (including this blog), whereas, once, all I did was read books. I like poetry and music and TV and movies and comics, in part, I realized, because they are bite size -- two-and-a-half hours is brushing the maximum length I want an aesthetic experience to last in a single sitting these days, and even then it better be Kill Bill volume 2.

I just stood in the bookstore, holding this nearly 1100 page novel (which got a bad review in the New Yorker, by the way) and thinking to myself incredulously (and paraphrasing George Costanza at the bank trying to get a jar of change turned into bills and being told he has to roll them himself before the bank will accept them) should I quit my job?

Have I become a philistine?

15 comments:

Mitch said...

In the words of Sebastion Shaw in Morrison/Bachalo's Assault on Weapon Plus:

"We’re all victims of the same brave new world. Welcome to the slippery slope."

Marc Caputo said...

Wait...are you saying you're a philistine because you no longer read only books and now are involved in media which takes less than 2 1/2 hrs a shot?

Welcome to the club, brother.

I've been reading Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" since August 5th and I'm less than 1/2way through. Why? Because I'm a teacher who goes to school 2 nights a week, and I have a wife and 2 kids. If I can get one issue of a comic in at the end of the night, it's a miracle. But I continue to buy and read when I can and hope that it's worth my time.

But, as to the first part, no you're not a philistine. You're taking advantage of this miracle, the Internet, to share your views and get people talking, Inspiring others to do the same.

I've read guys like Auster, watched movies by the Coens, read only Vertigo comics and stuff from Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly and been called a philistine. But then I realized, it's not WHAT you read, watch or listen to , it's THAT you do.

Over at my blog (shameless invitation for all of you. Sorry.), I'm going to blog on "best-of" lists (since it's that time of year) and what I think people think they're telling us and what lists are really telling us. Ultimately, they tell us about where we are as a culture but at the moment, they're about bringing people together for discussion.

Just like you, me and all the other philistines we know.

Geoff Klock said...

Marc: I LOVE best of lists, as long as their is a face to the guy making the list. I don't know how valuable ones put together by committee are, but ones made by people -- ten best comics, ten best movies, ten best poems -- tell me just about all the important information I want to know about someone.

Marc Caputo said...

Interesting that you should mention committee lists, because that's a big chunk of my point (now I gotta hurry up and finish the damn thing!)

G. Murray Thomas said...

I've stood in the bookstore, holding "Against the Day", wondering the same thing -- do I have enough time to tackle this? I look back at the summer I read "Gravity's Rainbow", and it did take a whole summer, and wonder how I found the dedication to get through it.
G. Murray Thomas

Geoff Klock said...

gmt: It's funny -- it took me all of a summer to read Gravity's Rainbow. I don't remember what the year was but I remember I had ten pages left when I walked into the theater to see There's Something About Mary.

Darius Kazemi said...

ATD is definitely, definitely worth the read. I'm 300 pages in and very much enjoying it.

GR is my favorite book of all time, although I confess I never finished M&D. Got to the point where Mason and Dixon get to Philadelphia and then just stopped reading.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else here ever experience this phenomenon? ... :

You're at home, and you think to yourself, "I'm going to watch something on DVD." So you glance at your movie collection, and go, "Gah, these are all almost two hours long! I don't want to sit through something for that long."

So instead you grab a disc filled with one-hour episodes of a favorite TV series ... and end up watching like five of them in a row?

-- Jason Powell

Geoff Klock said...

Jason: YES!

Katie said...

You're not a philistine because you don't want to read an 1,100 page novel that's not supposed to be very good. Anyway, don't you think the novel is dead or something? That might make you a philistine, but not this one instance. MHO.

Geoff Klock said...

I don't really think the novel is dead; that's just something I say to make people crazy, and it wasn't that funny so I am going to stop saying it.

That got started because someone very famous -- Paul Valerie maybe -- defined the novel as a long prose work with something wrong with it. Which is pretty good -- I myself can't think of any truly perfect novels in the way that I can name perfect television shows (Sports Night: "Six Southern Gentlemen"), comics (Casanova #1), poems (Thomas Beddoes "Dream Pedlary"), and songs (The Mountain Goats "No Children").

On the plus side there are a LOT of novels that are pretty good: Chuck Barris, Don Delillo, Chuck "however you pronounce the name of the guy who wrote Fight Club", whoever. There are too many books out there to read -- you can't read them all -- so I decided to make my life simpler and avoid the whole category because I want something better than "pretty good". It wasn't the best idea I ever had, I admit, but it keeps my reading time free for something more interesting than the latest Paul Auster novel (which I am sure is, you know, pretty good).

Darius Kazemi said...

You're right, "No Children" is a perfect song!

Patrick said...

You forgot perfect short stories! I would suggest "The Kiss" by Chekhov and "A Clean, Well-lighted Place" by Hemmingway.

My own picks-

Perfect TV: I have to give the devil his due; Firefly-- "Objects in Space."

Comic: Spider-Man/Human Torch #3.

Poem: Paula Meehan "Child Burial"

Songs: Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt."

Marc Caputo said...

"Six Southern Gentlemen"? Great stuff, as is the whole damn series but when I want a quick fix (because I watch the whole shooting match 2-3 times a year), I go for "La Forza Del Destino" and "Quo Vadimus" or, for the sheer, flat-out hysterical laughter that only "The Cut Man Cometh" can provide.

Geoff Klock said...

Darius is a Mountain Goats fan! My friend Jill introduced me to this guy in an e mail, for reasons having nothing to do with music or comics, and it turns out he likes Morrison and the Mountain Goats. Awesome.

Patrick: Perfect short story would be one I bet few here have read, a tiny piece by Kafka called "Cares of a Family Man."

Marc: "The Cut Man" has one of my all time favorite Sorkin lines: "Is this guy drunk or a moron?" "Oh, like there's no chance he's both?"