Moorcock's Miscellany
Go Back   Moorcock's Miscellany > Q&A > Q&A ◦ Questions for Mike & News > Mike's Reviews

Mike's Reviews Mike's reviews of books for The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Spectator, etc.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-07-2006, 04:48 PM
Michael Moorcock's Avatar
Michael Moorcock Michael Moorcock is offline
Site Host
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 13,460
Thanks: 475
Thanked 1,643 Times in 767 Posts
Default Review of Pynchon's Against the Day in Telegraph

Here's the full text of the review I sent in to Daily Telegraph:
POPULAR MECHANIC


Against the Day
by Thomas Pynchon
Cape1085pp
£20.00

Michael Moorcock
__________________________________________________ ________________


Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck.
--Thomas Pynchon


FAMILIAR WITH THOMAS Pynchon’s work since the 1960s when we ran his ‘Entropy’ in New Worlds, I originally resisted his major novels. The New Worlds authors shared Pynchon’s interest in urban mythology, entropy as a metaphor, dreams, mathematics, theoretical physics, imperialism, racism. They celebrated his inverventions into earlier fictions via pastiche, but many argued that he lacked Burroughs’s laconic virtues.
Though he can fairly be considered sui generis like Firbank or Vian, Pynchon was co-opted by some critics into the steampunk movement and has much in common with a favourite of mine, Charles Harness, the Texan who was thrown out of his seminary, became a Washington patent attorney and wrote some of the strangest metaphysical sf of the 1950s. Against the Day‘s opening reminded me of Alan Moore’s Tom Strong graphic novels which drew on late 19th century ‘science hero’ dime novels to examine Edwardian mechanical optimism exemplified by the real Nikola Tesla. The first half of this romance certainly recaptures the prevalent mood of pre-1914 America, when ‘wizards’ such as Edison and Tesla were public legends, but, like Twain before him, Pynchon introduces a questioning, deeply elegaic note into his story of Yankee ‘can-do’ optimism, producing a tall tale entirely serious in intention, if only rarely in tone.
A massive engine, depending on its size for its aesthetic the way some rock bands depend on loudness, Against the Day takes a while to build momentum and requires a certain amount of patience while its inventor unrolls blueprints, explains the math, polishes a bit of brass here, makes a modest joke there, showing off his purposeful machine pretty much cog by cog, then introducing his passengers and their histories. Representing practically every major 20th century concern, most of his protagonists are connected to the aptly-named Traverse family and its murdered anarchist patriarch, as well as the skyshipmen ‘Chums of Chance’. They drift across the world, in and out of relationships, meeting some strange customers with Marx Bros names, resolving differences.
Through de-aboriginalised Western badlands and proto-Babbitsvilles we are involved in time, identity, mortality, our attempts to resist the logic of entropy, the extinction of identity, the loss of hope, discovery of the multiverse.
With eery echoes of Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here and similar pre-WW2 moral fables, Pynchon creates a visionary tapestry covering the years immediately following the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893. Embracing the narrative methods of popular fiction, his tales are designed to deceive as well as create expectations. As a parodist he can slip smoothly, almost imperceptibly from Nick Carter to Black Mask and then into 50s movies..
Having in Mason and Dixon examined the American Enlightenment, Pynchon, perhaps the greatest intellectual showman of our time, turns his attention to post-Civil War idealism and its apparently unstoppable warping into the Crash. There are more talking dogs, daft songs, and a whole slew of nutty professors real and imaginary, working on time machines, undersand (sic) suits, deathrays and beamable electromagnetic power, some opposing big business, others in its employ. Pinkertons, Wall Street grafters, Robber Barons, frontier whores, anarchist dynamiters, gun-fighters, angels, prospectors, gamblers, mad prophets, conventions of time-travellers, Theosophists, international spies, magicians, painters, beautiful adventuresses and secret societies (for a fuller list read the author’s own description at Amazon) are all involved in an increasingly metaphysical Great Game across the multiverse, from Kathmandu to Colorado to Cambridge, Contra-Earth to Contra-Earth. And marvel by marvel, pathetic fallacy becomes art beyond Ruskin’s wildest dreams so that sometimes you simply wonder if you aren’t just reading the smartest stoner in the universe.
By page 550, when he brings you to the novel’s melancholy heart, Pynchon has you firmly in the palm of his Barnum-like fist. It’s no accident that we are now in Belgium, narrowly missing being drowned in mayonnaise, or that a half-mad time-traveller warns a fellow ukelelist ‘Chum of Chance’ of future trench war. “This world you take to be ‘the’ world will die, and descend into Hell, and all history after that will belong properly to the history of Hell.”
Soon string theory, of a sort, is used to rationalise time travel (of a sort) and we’re hurtling through a collection of slightly different realities, threatened by phantoms of past, present and future, power-mongers of every kind moving the worlds inevitably towards versions of those massively destructive events which have threatened the remains of our humanity since 1914.
Noting how our memories fade into folklore before our eyes, Pynchon finds, in quasi-Mandelbrotian optimism, self-similarity contradicting the logic of entropy. He travels not imaginary universes but universes of the imagination. One alternative shifts into another, one reality makes space for the next.
The best visionary fiction refllects shared realities. Once his barker-persona has lured us in, Pynchon holds before us a whole hall full of mirrors. Some of those reflected images are comic, a few are almost flattering. We’re laughing and crying. Yet what’s the point ? Be assured. The great Ludlow strike looms. Resolutions are offered through Pynchon’s clever use of triplets and his brief finale in future tense. We stagger out of this one man World’s Fair with our hearts and our sides splitting.
Against the Day is a fine example of successful marriage between the popular and the intellectual, between fiction and science. Many modern writers are rediscovering or taking over sf tropes, as P.D.James did in Children of Men, its subject already treated rather more subtly in Aldiss’s Greybeard (1965). Aldiss, Burroughs, Ballard and Vonnegut predicted, long ago in the 60s, that the arts and sciences would be reunited in speculative fiction, that the novel would not die if it could rediscover vulgarity.
Gloriously, demandingly, daringly Pynchon has rediscovered vulgarity and continues to prove that the novel has never been more vibrant, more various or better able to represent our complex world. Give this book your time. I think you’ll agree it’s worth it.







http://www.bigredhair.com/
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 12-28-2006, 03:54 PM
Jagged's Avatar
Jagged Jagged is offline
A confused voice within
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Copenhagen
Posts: 661
Thanks: 58
Thanked 74 Times in 59 Posts
Default

Whoa. I guess you said all I could, Mike (only better), and more. I'm a real sucker for Pynchon, I have to say. I can get totally lost in his work -- I guess I must like being baffled. His output may not be as prolific as your own, but he's certainly worth a read. A writer with some similar qualities, I think, is Don Delillo (who, to my personal and obscure taste, even surpasses Pynchon at times).

Can't help noticing your mention of P.D.James whom I find an adequate entertainer as a mystery writer, though the hype about her literary qualitites are exaggerated, for sure. Dorothy Sayers still surpasses her. I'll continue to refuse to read Children of Men, though, simply because I have an idea for a novel with a similar title rummaging about in my own brains, and if I ever get it done, I want to be able to say I wasn't influenced by her. What a nuisance.

Last edited by Jagged; 12-28-2006 at 05:44 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-29-2006, 02:50 AM
Pietro_Mercurios's Avatar
Pietro_Mercurios Pietro_Mercurios is offline
Eternal Champion
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,856
Thanks: 434
Thanked 506 Times in 323 Posts
Default

My two favourite modern authors. Moorcock and Pynchon. Simply the Best.

It's true.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-29-2006, 12:44 PM
johneffay's Avatar
johneffay johneffay is offline
Born Again Nihilist
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: The Flatlands
Posts: 3,394
Thanks: 62
Thanked 51 Times in 37 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pietro_Mercurios
My two favourite modern authors. Moorcock and Pynchon. Simply the Best.
I couldn't agree more. You are clearly a person of very fine taste

As I have mentioned elsewhere on here, it was reading Mike (particularly Jerry Cornelius) that actually allowed me to appreciate Pynchon in the first place.

Against the Day is sitting on my shelf, but I have not had the opportunity to dive into it yet. I am guessing that it will take me three months to get through it and once I have done so, I will want to start it again, This is what happened with Gravity's Rainbow and Mason and Dixon. In fact, I was planning to re-read Gravity's Rainbow again in 2007, but now I have Against the Day instead. Oh well, there is always 2008...

Jagged, interesting that you should mention Delillo. I have exactly the same reaction to Delillio that many of my frinds have to Pynchon: I appreciate the fact that he writes very well, but find that I cannot really get really immersed in his work.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-29-2006, 12:59 PM
Michael Moorcock's Avatar
Michael Moorcock Michael Moorcock is offline
Site Host
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 13,460
Thanks: 475
Thanked 1,643 Times in 767 Posts
Default

I much admire DeLillo, too. Certainly he and TP represent, for me, the most interesting strand in modern American fiction.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01-01-2007, 03:19 PM
Jagged's Avatar
Jagged Jagged is offline
A confused voice within
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Copenhagen
Posts: 661
Thanks: 58
Thanked 74 Times in 59 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by johneffay
I have exactly the same reaction to Delillio that many of my frinds have to Pynchon: I appreciate the fact that he writes very well, but find that I cannot really get really immersed in his work.
I can actually understand both you and your friends well -- Pynchon and Dellillo are both writers that I didn't feel "grab" me right from the start. But (at the risk of sounding trite, yet again) the most rewarding authors in the end aren't always the ones that are easy reads from the start. I remember I felt impressed and indifferent reading "Ratner's Star", and put it aside for a while. Later I read "Mao II" which I found an easier read and sort of opened Dellillo to me. When I returnet to Ratner later, I couldn't understand why i felt so indifferent about it in the first place.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01-08-2007, 12:09 AM
Faffin's Avatar
Faffin Faffin is offline
Chaos Storeman
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posts: 3
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Default

I found Mason & Dixon unreadable, or perhaps didn't try hard enough, beacause of the "period" (I wonder how accurate it is) dialouge.

On my third reading, I found Gravity's Rainbow in parts sublime, purile & corny in others. Without hesitation, I'd still say it's my favorite book though.

....Just read the book jacket/amazon description at http://pynchonwiki.com/ (couldn't find it at amazon).

Quote:
Meanwhile, the author is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur. If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction.

Let the reader decide, let the reader beware.

From Pynchon's Wikipedia page:

Quote:
The novel was nominated for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award for 2006, but lost to Iain Hollingshead's Twenty Something. The passage in question involved a sexual act with a spaniel.
Oh well.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01-08-2007, 12:43 AM
johneffay's Avatar
johneffay johneffay is offline
Born Again Nihilist
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: The Flatlands
Posts: 3,394
Thanks: 62
Thanked 51 Times in 37 Posts
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Faffin
I found Mason & Dixon unreadable, or perhaps didn't try hard enough, beacause of the "period" (I wonder how accurate it is) dialouge.
It is deliberately innacurate and riddled with anachronisms.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01-18-2007, 03:15 PM
shakespearesChimp shakespearesChimp is offline
Moonbeam Traveller
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 1
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Default

Excellent overall review of Against the Day that gives an accurate taste of the book. I'd describe it as a metaphysical snapshot of a balls to the wall Edwardian contraption teeming across its surface with a broad cast of lilliputian and not so lilliputian characters. Would love to start a discussion of the themes.

Since most are not even through AtD yet (moi included) are there any takers on the hollow earth metaphor at the beginning? My preliminary thoughts are that the sealing of the poles constitutes the slow closing of the mind to the spirit (the rush) of creativity to a corporate takeover of wonder for the cash value. Consider that so many of the advances displayed at the Columbian World's Fair are soon subjugated by the rising militarism of Europe. It's as if wonder and surface can no longer co-exist without co-option.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 04-21-2007, 09:49 AM
username username is offline
Moonbeam Traveller
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Unhappy

hi..
could you please tell me what you really think about the AGAINST THE DAY??
is there anything interesting or something that no one understands except you?
as i know,there are some binary oppositions such as north and south or riches and the poors.can you add more?
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 04-24-2007, 12:49 PM
Michael Moorcock's Avatar
Michael Moorcock Michael Moorcock is offline
Site Host
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 13,460
Thanks: 475
Thanked 1,643 Times in 767 Posts
Default

I'm not sure I'm being asked a question. I've said what I think of Against the Day in the review. It's interesting to see how Pynchon uses the same sorts of metaphors as I tend to pick -- almost as if we're different versions of the same writer! I was also curious about the way in which he ended in future tense, as I'm inclined to do in various books such as War Amongst the Angels. I think he draws more on existing imagery than maybe I do. It's a very strange thing to discuss, when you come across a writer who seems as obsessed with almost exactly the same ideas and images as you are. Almost a Pynchonesque situation.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 12-05-2007, 04:52 PM
Bonnet Bonnet is offline
Moonbeam Traveller
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 3
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Default

I enjoy Pynchon. I have read just about everything by him. Of his writings what are your favorites?
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 12-09-2007, 07:59 PM
Michael Moorcock's Avatar
Michael Moorcock Michael Moorcock is offline
Site Host
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 13,460
Thanks: 475
Thanked 1,643 Times in 767 Posts
Default

Not sure. Against the Day had a focus, as I said, which tends to reflect my own obsessions, but in a sense I think we're reading one gigantic novel on specifically American themes. Could be why they come out so long.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 02-26-2008, 09:04 AM
krakenten krakenten is offline
Guardian of the Grail
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 493
Thanks: 3
Thanked 72 Times in 53 Posts
Default Just finished ''Against the Day''

I certainly liked the thing, though it made not one scintilla of sense!

Somehow, these books always manage to almost have a plot, the cardboard cut-out characters somehow engage my interest, and the many strange facts alluded to, along with the many arcane objects and situations keep me from putting it down.

I especially enjoyed the many references to cockamaimie firearms-it's a violent tale-turn of the century armament was certainly complex.

Pyncheon, poet of paranoia.

A friend of mine read ''Gravity's Rainbow'', and decided to dedicate himself to the paranoid life, as did the Rocket Man.

He died of drink three years later-but he had quite a ride.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 05-07-2008, 07:00 PM
lclevelyn lclevelyn is offline
Moonbeam Traveller
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 1
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Default nothing but resounding praise for against the day

Dear Mike:
i couldn't read all of your review of Against the Day because I'm still in the middle of the novel. I can't put it down or figure it out. He seems equally devoted to the tale of the dawn of the modern age, which I always thought was just a vague expression, not an actual event, but I sort of got that with the balloonists sweeping the globe like innovations in communications, technology, transportation, etc. That seemed like clear bells, but is the part of the story in western US just a veiled saga of the 60s sort of renaissance? It has that ring with the characters names like Chick Counterfly and Scarsdale Vibe and this whole thing reeks of that footage they play nearly continually on cable of Janis Joplin, The Band and the Dead taking that train through Canada and the journeys of those folks throughout the west and how they won it, I'm sorry to digress, but the part about Colorado and the west isn't the best part, the best parts are overseas and the dialog and the SONGS! which Pynchon himself called "stupid" on the Powells website, i kept rereading them, they were amazing! Again the raging digression, but I found the part about the ominous turn of events with the Russian meteorite (balloonists) on-line and went ohhhhh, do i need to keep looking deeper?
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 05-09-2008, 12:29 PM
Kyrinn S. Eis's Avatar
Kyrinn S. Eis Kyrinn S. Eis is offline
Psychwar Vet
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 2,584
Thanks: 3
Thanked 23 Times in 10 Posts
Default

Tangentially related: LINK
___________________________________________________________________________
Ani Maamin B'emunah Sh'leimah B'viyat Hamashiach. V'af al pi sheyitmahmehah im kol zeh achake lo b'chol yom sheyavo.

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Phillip K. Dick
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 05-14-2008, 10:59 AM
Michael Moorcock's Avatar
Michael Moorcock Michael Moorcock is offline
Site Host
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 13,460
Thanks: 475
Thanked 1,643 Times in 767 Posts
Default

Strange that movies don't seem to be mentioned -- Sky Captain and Golden Compass amongst them -- and that we've gone from a substantial re-examination of our understanding of science in the 20th century to a series of nostalgic fashion statements. The story of punk, too, in many ways. The Vandermeers' Steampunk anthology, just out, examines all this from pre-genre (Queen Victoria's Bomb, Warlord of the Air, even that Western-with-gadget series whose name I've forgotten -- oops, Wild, Wild West was it ?) to what you might call post-genre. An excellent anthology. Pretty much the best short fiction SP has come up with so far.
Among many other things (which is what's good about TP) Against the Day is an imaginative understanding of the mythology we created in our expansion through the Middle West, showing our optimism (in the form of what Clute called 'Edisonades' -- Frank Reade and so on) darkening to pessimism as we realised the price we had paid. I don't think I give too much away in the review. I had enough material to do a much longer one.

Last edited by Michael Moorcock; 05-14-2008 at 11:06 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 05-14-2008, 11:35 AM
Krzysiek Krzysiek is offline
Defender of the Runestaff
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 362
Thanks: 0
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Default

Somone has mentioned the evolution of steampunk? It's my second name
http://steampunk.republika.pl/arch/chrono02.html
http://steampunk.republika.pl/chrono02pl.html
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 05-18-2008, 04:56 PM
Kevin McCabe's Avatar
Kevin McCabe Kevin McCabe is offline
Citizen of Tanelorn
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Mukilteo, WA
Posts: 6,054
Thanks: 187
Thanked 125 Times in 100 Posts
Default

Interesting comment on punk. Could you elaborate? I still catch some bands that have the original ethos...
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 05-19-2008, 12:26 PM
Michael Moorcock's Avatar
Michael Moorcock Michael Moorcock is offline
Site Host
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 13,460
Thanks: 475
Thanked 1,643 Times in 767 Posts
Default

There are still hippies who keep the same ethos, which isn't so different from punk. Bands like Brigandage, who featured on the South of Watford prog I did in the 80s, are still going but once your style becomes absorbed by the common culture is it still useful as a means of refusing or opposing society ? As I've said before, I was attracted to fantasy precisely because it WAS marginal.
I'm not sure I'd write it now.
Reply With Quote
Reply
Go Back   Moorcock's Miscellany > Q&A > Q&A ◦ Questions for Mike & News > Mike's Reviews

Tags
Books, Michael Moorcock, reviews

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Review: Elric: Swords and Roses | Barnes & Noble Review.com Sir John Barbican Begg The Inner Landscape ◦ Articles, Interviews & Reviews 0 01-28-2011 12:14 PM
Telegraph article by Margaret Thatcher? The Cosmic Balance Sporting Club Square Archive 0 10-20-2007 02:07 PM
Thoughts on Thomas Pynchon? The Cosmic Balance Sporting Club Square Archive 2 10-20-2007 12:46 PM
Telegraph reviews by MM Michael Moorcock Mike's Reviews 15 06-23-2007 12:56 AM
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon zxvasdf Books 4 06-22-2006 01:50 PM

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Become a Member

Register


Michael Moorcock

Home Page
Author Biography
The Q&A
Contact Policy
Reviews
Bibliography
Reading List
Web articles/stories


The Miscellany

Forums
Image Hive
Media Hive
Wikiverse
Buy Books


About Moorcock's Miscellany

Code of Conduct
Site History
Site Policies
FAQ
Credits
Copyright Notice
Make a Donation


Search

Search HOWTO
Google Search
Forum Search
Forum Tag Swarm
Image Search
Image Tag Swarm
Wiki Search
Random Wiki Page


Join us

Announcement emails
@MoorcocksMisc on Twitter
Jerry Cornelius on Facebook
RSS Feed


JAYDE DESIGN has a large selection of M.M. books and magazines for sale. Several hundred items, including many first editions, "Eternal Champion" omnibuses,
scarce 'New Worlds' issues, plus many other items...

For a full, printed for-sale list, or if you have specific wants, please e-mail:

JaydeDesign@
CompuServe.com



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:14 AM.