Friday, May 11, 2007


Celebrating the Day
On May 8th, Thomas Pynchon turned 70 years old. The week before was the last meeting to discuss the end of his recent novel, Against the Day. The question that arises, I suppose, is if there will be another novel. One can only speculate, of course. But Against the Day feels very valedictory to me, seeming to reference elements of the entire corpus, so IF there is no further novel, this one "ends" the career.

But it might only end a phase of the career. It may be that TP will find another tack to take. Maybe he'll become the chronicler of a Chums of Chance series, sort of a more parodic kids' adventure than the ubiquitous Mr. Potter. Or maybe he'll go for something short and easily accessible in a single sitting: a play, a film-script, a collection of short stories.

The odd thing about AtD is that it seems to be several novels collapsed into one, as if it was easier to publish one big novel than a number of shorter ones: the adventures of Lew Basnight and the Major Arcana figures could have been a novel the size of Lot 49 at least, probably could've been expanded to Vineland size, and I, for one, would've loved it. The adventures of Frank Traverse wear thin in AtD, in part because, to be really involving, we need more involvement. The quick re-caps of Mexican in-fighting doesn't make it. So, maybe there was a Mexico Revolution-era novel in the works that just didn't get its day. The characters that take off in the second half of AtD -- Yashmeen Halfcourt and Cyprian Latewood -- are only tangentially part of the Traverse story. Sure, they hook up with Reef, but it's not as if it has to be Reef, if you know what I mean. Cyprian's story at least "ends," Yashmeen's fate seems to follow some dictum like "once a woman becomes a mother, she's no longer interesting for the purposes of novelistic evocation." I miss Yashmeen in the end because there's precious little evidence of the gal we've got to know. Part of the problem too is bringing her to America. No, Yash, noooo. Then there's Kit Traverse, whose adventures, like Yashmeen's, always hold interest and are thoroughly unpredictable and, unlike the adventures of Reef (the most unpredictable of all), Kit's peregrinations have more internal consistency and involve, at certain points, the two best female characters, Yashmeen and Dally Rideout.

OK, this could easily devolve into armchair quarterbacking of this long, involved, frequently mystifying and even more frequently amusing novel. TP's 70. What's next?

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