If you’re still making your way through the book, don’t worry: they’re discussing it in sections. So follow along at Metaxucafé, and maybe even heat things up by starting an argument in the comments.
From Max’s dispatch:
I had to work up some nerve to crack the spine of Against the Day, and I’ve had to do it again to get myself to commit my thoughts about it to keyboard. This is another big, raggedy Pynchon opus — the biggest and raggediest. 1085 pages, a cast of thousands (or so it seems), and a narrative spanning decades and continents… I’m still not actually sure whether it all really hangs together. Of course, Gravity’s Rainbow was massive and messy too. Still, it felt tight and contained compared to AtD. (Mason & Dixon, his other big book, was even tighter, thanks to its focus on the titular characters, and its consistent use of 18th-century language.)
A big part of reading Pynchon is decoding the allusions. I realize that the necessity of this is also a big turn-off for many people; it’s a bit like reading T.S. Eliot (although Pynchon is more fun). Of course there’s more to TP’s work than navigating the intellectual and cultural labyrinths he’s laid for us — and stopping while reading to look up every obscure reference on Google would be a drag. For the most part I prefer to let the story wash over me, and flag the stuff I don’t quite grasp for later investigation. But the references do provide landmarks of a sort for navigating the vastness of this novel.
See also what would happen if Pynchon took his novel to an MFA workshop.
Image from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair found here.