Against the Day Weblog

November 25, 2008

Inherent Vice

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 7:23 pm

The new Thomas Pynchon Novel has a title: Inherent Vice. The launch date for the book will be August 2009 and according to Penguin:

It’s been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.

In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there . . . or . . . if you were there, then you . . . or, wait, is it . . .

In a similar fashion as we did for Against the Day I will work on a blog when reading the book so I have already registered

Countdown has already started!

May 5, 2008

Birefringence and History in Against the Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 11:54 am

When I started the second reading of Against the Day I had planned to write something on the importance of Light in Against the Day and its apparent significance in the story and underlying meaning – if any 😉 – of the book. Light, as we mentioned in the past seems to play a rather significant part as an element that seems to be undergoing the most important change in the minds of scientists of the era, and in Against the Day it seems to be a symbol of the shape of the things to come under the series of revolutions that followed in politics, art and science. However, half way through reading the book I was struck by the rather profane and rather specific use of light in Against the Day in the phenomenon of birefringence (double refraction) and I somehow decided to abandon temporarily the first project and focus on ‘splitting’ in Against the Day. These thoughts mentioned here are by no means complete and aim only to focus on my ideas on the significance of this in Against the Day.

Against the Day for me is mainly a novel about history, the nature of history and its implications on human life. As I had written in the first review I wrote about Against the Day last year Pynchon is following a rather neo-Marxist approach on the significance of the actions of the individual which seem to play little – if any – role in the course of history. Under this specific ‘conclusion’ where does ‘splitting’, bi-location, birefringence etc come in?
One of the first lessons that I learned when I started studying History of Science back in 1990 was that ‘there are no “ifs” in History’. History is the result of a specific chain of events that have led to the present and the immense amount of degrees of freedom involved make any ‘ifs’ part of the most obscure and non-falsifiable speculation and certainly not part of the science of history. Yet, the beauty of the ‘forking paths’ and their effect on things to come seem to be attracting so much attention that are a rather indispensable part of almost any historic novel.
Under this perspective Against the Day is a novel about multiple realities and histories as a result of all the possibilities that arise when choices are there to be made:

‘Multiple Worlds,” blurted Nigel, who had floated in from elsewhere.
‘Precisely!’ cried the Professor. ‘The Ripper’s “Whitechapel” was a sort of momentary antechamber in space-time… one might imagine a giant railway depot, with thousands of gates disposed radially in all dimensions, leading to tracks of departure to all manner of alternative Hiostories…’

Page 682

and again in page 746:

Reef turned and went glaring away, shoulders hunched, up onto the Ponte degli Scalzi, soon absorbed into a mobility of hundreds of separate futures whose destiny could not be told in any but a statistical way. And that was that.

So birefringence, symbolizes in this respect the basic splitting process of the alternate realities and histories as followed by the ordinary and extraordinary ray in this double refraction that eventually leads to all ‘statistically discussed’ possibilities (something which was also mentioned in Vineland).
However, there is more than meets the eye here, as Pynchon does not simply leave the Universe in the chaos of the infinite histories. Pynchon somehow seems to believe in an order in this chaos, under the general idea of ‘strange attractors’ as events to which history eventually converges no matter what the individual choices of the splitting are.

‘it may be,’ Cyprian said as gently as he thought he had to, ‘that God does not always require us to wander about. It may be that sometimes there is a – would you say a “convergence” to a kind of stillness, not merely in space but in Time as well?’

Page 958

And this convergence in a sense works in accord with the rather bleak – at first sight at least – idea that individuals choices play no role in the evolution of History, but History proceeds with its own statistical laws that lead to specific centers of convergence, in space and time as well. The optimistic psyche in Pynchon raises the theory that this is a convergence to the best of things, to a world in which

…any wish that can be made is at least addressed, if not always granted.

Page 1085

Against the Day, a novel about the turbulent ‘paradigm shift’ days at the turn of the 19th century is a novel about forking paths and a novel about the world, or what the world would have been should an adjustment or two were made back then. That’s exactly why the reader must decide and beware.

November 21, 2007

Against the Light

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 7:25 am

I have thought about this for quite a bit and I have decided to join the band of Pynchonians in next years Pynchon Week in Munich. Aiming high, I decided to do a paper as well on Against the Day on the scientific and textual instances of Light in Against the Day. Here is the abstract, so if you have any comments I would love to hear them.

Against the Light:

The scientific and textual importance of Light in Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Against the Day’

Light plays a very special role in Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel Against the Day. It is not simply a part of physics that is used extensively in Against the Day as a running theme from chapter to chapter but Pynchon uses light both as a metaphor and as a protagonist in parallel to all the events that are narrated in Against the Day. Any analysis of Against the Day that neglects the importance of light and its manifestations is bound to be incomplete so it is important to uncover both the scientific and metaphoric roles of light in Against the Day as a starting point to all analysis of this important work. Light, seen in context of the period that Against the Day takes place, is the physical element that undergoes the most important and ground breaking shift in the eyes of the scientists and the common public: from a ‘simple’ electromagnetic wave as part of the aether theories, via Special Relativity – whose absence is more than remarkable in the book – to the most important physical element, the measure of all things. Since that time period time, space, velocity, and many other physical quantities are measured with respect to this absolute maximum velocity of light – or a number derived by it. Moreover, the particle/wave duality of light introduced by photoelectric effect in the early 20th century starts a rather paradoxical state of affairs that will be followed and expanded by quantum mechanics for all matter. At the same time light, in the form of the electromagnetic wave, becomes the medium, the carrier for the majority of human communications from that point onwards, and the emission and handling of electromagnetic radiation becomes one of the most important technological aspects of the 20th century. Pynchon in Against the Day focuses his attention on Light as a medium of change that represents the scientific revolution that will eventually shape the new Physics of the 20th century and as a result of all the revolutions (political, artistic, social, technological) in the tempestuous times of the beginning of the 20th century. Furthermore, Light appears in Against the Day as a textual metaphor that seems to correlate the narration in the form of an expanding light wave that is eventually focused on specific themes, and stories. The present paper explores the instances of light in Against the Day, analyzes their scientific and technological nature and status and discusses the textual implications under the context of this ‘Pynchonian Science’.

Update 2 Jan. 08. Sadly the abstract was not accepted for the Pynchon Week. I will still do the article though, so stay tuned as I will place it on the blog at some point.

October 6, 2007

The paperback is here

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 6:51 am

The paperback

Well, I am not sure what amazon says about the paperback but my local shop had quite a few copis of it yesterday so my wife got it for me as a wedding anniversary present (along with the running sneakers displayed above…).

Pagination is totally different to what was there in the hardcover and it is possible that this English paperback has a totally different pagination to the american paperback. I am thinking of numbering the chapters and sub-chapters in some sequential way but… Its certainly not going to be easy. I will also need some sort of math formula to convert from one to the other…

September 19, 2007

Against the Day the English paperback

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 7:03 pm

I quite dig this cover as well, but I prefer the American.

Publication date 1 of November. And just to complicate things this one is listed as having 1234 pages… Jolly good.

September 18, 2007

‘Against the Day’ the paperback

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 11:03 am

I just noticed through amazon that the paperback for Against the Day is nearing publication (30th of October). I am quite glad of this as I promised myself that my second reading of Against the Day will be as soon as the paperback is out. I quite dig the new cover as well.

I must say though that I was quite shocked to see that the total number of pages in the paperback is 1104, different to my 1086 pages of the first edition. I am not really thrilled about this change, but I somehow have the feeling that there is more to this than a simple re-pagination.

Stay tuned. The second reading starts soon.

March 22, 2007

Against the Next Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 1:02 pm

As you have gathered from the sparse number of entries here I am not reading Against the Day anymore as I have finished it. I am currently preparing a book review for it whuch will appear in a Greek nespaper, which I am going to translate and place here at some point.

In the meantime… What is going to happen with this weblog? In the 4 months of its existence and via difficult conditions caused by the drop of the previous Movable Type server it has received more than 25000 visitors and has a constant flow of visitors from search engines and related websites.

The original plan in Movable Type was to use the number of page as a tag in order for the entries to be easily navigationable. The breaking of the original blog lost all my tag information so this option has unfortunately stopped.

As I am considering to start a second reading of the book the blog will remain active and the t
lost tag information will be embedded in the text as categories. I will also update the older entries in this fashion as the second reading proceeds and I hope this will help.

March 3, 2007

‘There, but Invisible’

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 8:33 am

…on page 1083.

Reminds me of the ‘Keep cool, but care’ motto in V.

February 22, 2007

It was all political

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 7:49 am

“Kit risked a look over at Renzo, demented even when at rest, and saw that here, approaching the speed of sound he was metamorphosed into something else… a case of posession. Kit had a velocity-given illumination then. It was all political.”

page 1071

This is one of the most beautiful sentences in the book. It is also so Gravity’s Rainbow like…

February 3, 2007

Is Start Trek there as well?

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 9:01 am

‘in a peculiar corner of a planet that might or might not be their own’

page 1033

It just occurred to me really that there is an essence of Star Trek in the Chums of Chance which is revealing itself more and more as the book progresses. It may start as a 19th century boys adventure story but it develops into something more modern and even scifi. Star Trek is the obvious choice for influence (but probably many others as well).

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