Saturday, August 30, 2008

Also: sixty pages shy of the midway point of Against the Day. Pynchon still rules. Totally know the feeling. Recently occurred to me that the book is as much of a genre mash-up as any other bon cha of a book you'll read any time soon, and became instantly further delighted. That is all.
"...she's wearing knee-high pink boots..."

Right--snuck in there, but there all the same. Of course, so is the following quote, which is setting off a detonating desire inside my brain to read this book right now, so I guess it's all good:

"I was so tired of being asked, 'Is this you?', 'Is this you?'" she says, "that I chose to write Clara. She's a 19th-century, dead, German - no one's going to think that's me - and yes," she rolls her eyes, "they did." Now she has written a memoir called This Is Not About Me. The title might be slightly arch, but when, in the final pages, the words are uttered, they act like a literary trip-wire, detonating repercussions through her story.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It was the U.S.A., after all, and fear was in the air.

- from Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon
JANICE Galloway is wearing a high-cinched 1950s floral dress and black stilettos, with lace gloves, which she takes off before she begins to read.

It's official: Janice Galloway wears clothing.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Here's another profile of Janice Galloway and her upcoming memoir This is Not About Me, which I'm also bookmarking for later reading, likely in spite of rather than due to the following sentence, right up there at the beginning of paragraph two:

We are in a Glasgow café, and Janice Galloway is in killer boots.

Not that I have anything against a gal wearing killer boots, mind you. I mean, really. But.

(I'm not sure what the U.S. publication plans are but I think it might not matter since I'll probably wind up importing the book long before it reaches these shores, unless of course I'm still reading Against the Day around that point, which is of course entirely likely.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

A lengthy profile of Janice Galloway and her upcoming memoir This is Not About Me that I'm bookmarking for later reading based solely on the closing paragraph:

Two women. They're there on the cover of this book. One who asked too much from life, another who asked too little. In the middle, a young girl, growing up. Growing up to be a writer who would write the best, one of the most moving, yet completely unsentimental, accounts of growing up that you will ever read.
"Intel cuts electric cords with wireless power system."

Meanwhile, in Against the Day...

Up in his penthouse suite, Scarsdale had moved on to the business at hand. "Back in the spring, Dr. Tesla was able to achieve readings on his transformer of up to a million volts. It does not take a prophet to see where this is headed. He is already talking in private about something he calls a 'World-System,' for producing huge amounts of electrical power that anyone can tap in to for free, anywhere in the world, because it uses the planet as an element in a gigantic resonant circuit. He is naïve enough to think he can get financing for this, from Pierpoint, or me, or one or two others. It has escaped his mighty intellect that no one can make any money off an invention like that. To put up money for research into a system of free power would be to throw it away, and violate--hell, betray--the essence of everything modern history is supposed to be....

"If such a thing is ever will mean the end of the world, not just 'as we know it' but as anyone knows it. It is a weapon, Professor, surely you see that--the most terrible weapon the world has seen, designed to destroy not armies or matériel, but the very nature of exchange, our Economy's long struggle to evolve up out of the fish-market anarchy of all battling all to the rational systems of control whose blessings we enjoy at present."

- from Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon
Two questions I keep batting around in my head about Against the Day:

  1. The title. What's up with that?

  2. Is this book better than Infinite Jest?

(The third question, were I to have one, being, "Will I ever finish?", being not altogether worth asking, at least, right now.)

The first question, I didn't consciously realize I was asking it until I hit this line, tonight:

Even without theatrical shoes on, Erlys was taller than Luca Zombini, and kept her fair hair in a Psyche knot, out of which the less governable tresses continued, with the day, to escape.

- from Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon

Which, okay, I'm retarded, but, duh, right? If you can be with the passage of time, you can go against it, as well. Against the day, resisting the day, defying the natural order of things...nope, still not sure what it's all about.*

Next question! It's not a question of whether this book is better than Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon's own best book ever, though I might posit the question is worth asking. At least, hypothetically. What I'm wondering is what, by comparison, this book brings to the table that one of the contemporary literature's most recognized descendants of Gravity's Rainbow does or does not and how differently and what have you. Hypothetically speaking. Of course, having not read Infinite Jest since '01 or '02, and being only one-third of the way through Against the Day, I'm hardly qualified to answer that question, in my current state. But I can ask, though.

Oh, but anyways, that quote, it's like, perfect meta-commentary about the book itself, and how it functions. But then, I tend to think that about just about any piece of description the book offers up, that in some way the book wants to teach me how to read it, or how to read into the idea of reading into it. Which if that makes your head hurt, fab, mine too.


* - To thee amongst you who might be tempted to say, "Uh, moron, the answer's on, like, page 2," please note that I have a near-miraculous ability to defer inquiry into fundamental mysteries, until absolutely required by law or hammering common sense. Like, while my friends were all, "Dead," after frame four, I never for a second questioned the honesty of the movie The Sixth Sense until it announced, wide-armed and whole-lunged, "I am a liar!" Which gets me looked down on in some quarters, but in most all quarters actually means I'm having a lot more fun than the observant folks in the crowd. It's weird.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"Blimpin' Ain't Easy."

(A-and right after that English Channel it's off to the Telluric Interior for our intrepid adventurer!)
Lest I be accused of laying claim to the mistaken belief that Pynchon spends the entirety of Against the Day describing and/or talking about absolutely nothing, let me lay out this paragraph like a four-course meal for the five senses:

Lake and Deuce were married over on the other side of the mountains in a prairie church whose steeple was visible for miles, at first nearly the color of the gray sky in which it figured as little more than a geometric episode, till at closer range the straight lines began to break up, soon slipping every which way, like lines of a face seen too close, haggard from the assaults of more winters than anybody still living in the area remembered the full count of, weathered beyond sorrowful, smelling like generations of mummified rodents, built of Engelmann spruce and receptive to sound as the inside of a parlor piano. Though scarcely any music ever came this way, the stray mouth-harpist or whistling drifter who did pass through the crooked doors found himself elevated into more grace than the acoustics of his way would have granted him so far.

- from Against the Day, Thomas Pynchon

From a distance, sure, the church is as abstract as any math can be. But up close? It's seasons, it's memory, it's sound. It stinks. It's hard. It's quite real.

Which is just one example of course but I rather like this one. Something about those straight lines breaking up that speaks to me. Not sure why, though.

Monday, August 18, 2008

She was a virgin bride. At the moment of surrendering, she found herself wishing only to become the wind. To feel herself refined to an edge, an invisible edge of unknown length, to enter the realm of air forever in motion over the broken land. Child of the storm.

- from Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon is playing to your heart as much as your head, and he's not afraid of breaking both. Desires to, sometimes, seems like. It's from that place that a paragraph like the above and the following events make me want to give up because I know I'll never think up or dream up ways to hurt you nearly as bad.

And again (and): this realm of the invisible, the untouchable and the unknowable, sometimes a spiritual concern, sometimes a nearly tangible thing, a place or a concept, that echoes and reverberates throughout the novel, acting as a binding agent that holds together the unholdable. The visible whitespace at the corner of your eye pushed front and center and framed for your gaze and contemplation.

The brothers traveled together as far as Mortalidad, the stop nearest Jeshimon, then, because of who might or might not be looking, they said goodbye with little more than the nod you might give somebody who's just lit your cigar for you. No gazing back out the window, no forehead creased with solemn thoughts, no out with the pocket flask or sudden descent into sleep. Nothing that would belong to the observable world.

- from Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
Further proof that I'm slipping: so far, I've missed every single Tetris reference in Against the Day. Could the real reason behind the delay between Mason & Dixon and Against the Day be not the amount of time it took to research and write the thing but a video game? Which begs thusly: is it possible that Thomas Pynchon himself has kicked my ass on a network game of Dr. Mario? Because: whoa. How cool would that be? I might have to drop dropping my Dr. Mario habit.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

This could be quite fun:

THE EDINBURGH International Book Festival is usually where writers arrive after the long and often painful process of finding a publisher for their master work, writes Edd McCracken.

But the festival has taken the unusual step of becoming a publisher itself, commissioning a book of new work for the first time in its 25-year history.

Lights Off The Quay, a compilation of commissioned work from Scottish writers Don Paterson, Janice Galloway, AL Kennedy...and John Burnside, was launched at Charlotte Square yesterday.

Janice Galloway and AL Kennedy in the same book? Sign me up.

Also worth noting:

The collection is the product of the festival's successful bid for more than £30,000 from the Scottish government's Edinburgh Festival Expo Fund. As well as funding the work, the money will go towards the writers promoting the book abroad.

I'm rooting for an Ohio visit but I suspect it's far more likely I'll get my ass kicked before that happens.

I did read the excerpt of Galloway's upcoming book, This is Not About Me, that appears in Granta 101. This is Not About Me is either a memoirish novel or a novelish memoir, I can't remember which. What I do remember is that the book is definitely something I want to read right now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

When in doubt: doubt. Doubt like a motherfucker.

I've futzed with the layout again. It's still minimalist, but now it's minimalist with what in some quarters might pass itself off as a sort of purpose, some hint of an interest by the blogger in promoting some sort of vaguely coherent design-related agenda. Truth is, it's still a technical experiment, as it always is whenever I get bored and/or frustrated with my writing-related pursuits, but at least it looks like (to my mind) the result of a single experiment, rather than the result of a CSS bomb blowing up in the middle of a halfway house for recovering short attention span addicts.

This pass was made a thousand times easier by my having YUI-ized everything under the hood last time through. Suffice it to say that I think what I've done here this time through will enable some measure of movement away from minimalism, once I decide to re-embrace things again. Things like color. And things. And I'd say "actual content" but I mean, come on.

Three things:

  1. Yes. Everything is beneath the fold. This amuses me. I may be feeling minimal, but when I break fundamental rules, I do so maximally.

  2. I wish I could find the exact pages that inspired me to relocate all the sidebar material into the footer. In lieu of, here's some other examples. Though now truth is I probably ought to have some kind of link at the top that indicates that there are goodies at the bottom of the bag for those brave enough to reach down deep enough. Note to self.

  3. I just noticed that the comments blocks on the post pages are ugly. Much, much louder note to self. Please don't let this stop you from using this post as your chance to tell the world about your new TDAOC-inspired love of and allegiance to minimalist Web design.

More or less later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And the purity, the geometry, the cold.

- from Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon

Sometimes, it's almost too much to bear: a mere 175-ish pages into it and I'm tempted to label Against the Day one of the greatest epic(-length) poems ever.

I know, I know, having me surface every couple weeks after reading another twenty pages only to say "OMG the language" isn't really useful to you. I'd really like to write some more about the book's spiritual concerns, its interest in the invisible, the unspeakable, and the unknowable; its interest in global living; in power, electric and political; in adventure and excitement; in destruction and folly. But then, that would be terribly reductionist. And right now, as much as I want to talk about it, I'm even more interested in not reducing it. I'm no longer reading this book because it's by the guy who wrote V. and Gravity's Rainbow; I'm reading this book because it is Against the Day.

All of which is still total claptrap, but.