Pynchon and Mason and Dixon

Pynchon and Mason and Dixon

Pynchon and Mason and Dixon

Pynchon and Mason and Dixon

Synopsis

While helping readers new to Pynchon orient themselves, the essays clear the way for further discussion, locating Mason & Dixon within the context of Pynchon's earlier work and of contemporary American fiction, charting Pynchon's attitudes toward imperialism, religion, the manipulation of history and its intersection with the imagination while surveying Pynchon's obsession with words and etymologies, science and eastern thought, his use of historical documents and Beat-countercultural sensibility, to delineate what is called the "poetics of Pynchon-space." A complete bibliography of Mason & Dixon material is also provided.

Excerpt

Brooke Horvath

Mason & Dixon is and doubtless will continue to be a book that matters. That much seems clear already even from a quick survey of the almost 150 reviews the novel received, most of them thoughtful, seriously receptive, even though (or because) many reviewers seemed to have felt as did Laura Miller of the Village Voice: that the task was “a bit like reviewing the Atlantic Ocean.” Righteously daunted but not put off, Miller found the novel Pynchon's “most grown-up and satisfying.” Robert L. McLaughlin, writing in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, spoke for “old Pynchon hands” everywhere when he called Mason & Dixon “the novel we've been waiting for,” as encyclopedic and esoteric as Gravity's Rainbow, as passionate in its opposition to “the forces of objectification and control,” as filled with “outrageous jokes and passages so beautiful you want to cry.” For McLaughlin, Mason & Dixon is “possibly the novel of our time.” Similarly, Joel Stein of Time Out New York, if not ready to call Pynchon's longestin-the-works effort the Great American Novel, was prepared to find it “the Most American Novel we could ask for,” an assessment echoed by Malcolm Jones of Newsweek—“a huge, ambitious book that may not be the Great American Novel but, hey, it walks like a great novel, it talks like a great novel”—and one with which Louis Menard, writing in the New York Review of Books, concurred. Comparing Mason & Dixon to Claude Lévi-Strauss's great work of cultural anthropology, Menard wrote that Pynchon had produced “a Tristes Tropiques of North American civilization and an astonishing and wonderful book.” With the publication of this novel twenty-four years in the making, Pynchon, in short, according to the Chicago Tribune's Melvin Jules Bukiet, has shown that he remains “the most emblematic literary figure of our era.”

Not everyone was on the bus, of course. Donna Rifkind, for instance, was not offering unqualified praise when she described Mason & Dixon as a “thrilling, sloppy monster of a novel.” More 11 . . .

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