Against The Day

Slogging my way through “Against the Day” by Thomas Pynchon. It’s a mighty leap that shouldn’t be taken lightly. A thousand pages of dense entanglements, characters of such a magnitude notes should be taken, calamities and landscapes that float into the picture to be swished away like a flash tween after a single frame, and time – time that is invariably a very fixed commodity and can’t be given short shift by the rapid filing away of words by grazing. 30 pages a day and i have just recently met the 400th page, still not sure where Mr. Pynchon is taking me. While reading this tome I have seen other postings out on the blogsphere about this book, some are reading it, some are critical, others are writing running dialogs about what they are encountering during the read, myself I am finding myself questioning the relationship of reader and writer. The investment. The book is hefty. $40 dollars with a discount at Barnes and Noble, still it wasn’t the $1.95 I paid for my first copy of Dhalgren or the similar price I paid for Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow paperback in 1975, both of which I picked up in a grocery store in Idaho Falls, ID, neither book would be found in a grocery store today, let alone a bookstore rarely carries Dhalgren and the copy of a paperback of Gravity’s Rainbow today goes for about $18.00 with a discount at The simple matter is that I did not give thought then, and do not now give much thought to the cost of the book – dollar wise, instead it is the time spent with the writer’s words, the investment of my time. It seems when I was younger I could give large draughts of time to reading, but today that time seems very precious and the writing should be damned good or I will toss the thing away immediately. I thought perhaps after reading the early reviews that the bulk of the book would be an easier read than “V” and “Gravity’s Rainbow“, sadly these reports were not true. The text is dense, the lists paragraphs entangling, some of the descriptive narrative breathtaking and some numbing, all combining into a work that must be read slowly to savour a wordsmith’s work. The most surprising aspect of this book for me has been the similarity of science dialog that coincides with other books i have read recently this year or am reading at the same time. Mr. D and I bought Phillip Ball’s Critical Mass a couple months ago and I have been reading through it slowly on days when I don’t want to be involved in a novel’s drama, and during these forays into Ball’s book I am reminded of the history of science novelistically portrayed in Neil Stephenson’s The Confusion I was reading back in February this year. A nice way to tie up the end of the year, as I was devastated by my readings of four books by Michel Hollenbeque. Atomized, Platform, Whatever and The Possiblity of An Island. Devastated. Well I read them, swallowed them actually, couldn’t help myself. They are not difficult to read, simply written, compelling, and yet the bitter candor of the writer and the what seems to be utter disregard of humanism is repellant and enticing at the same time. I have gone back over and over the pages – rifling through passages to find those moments that conspired to pull me into the clutches of this compelling writer’s take on the condition human. There are moments that are ponderously infantile in their male erotica, trite in their portrait of the sixites-sevenities cult religions, and overbearing in their masculinity, yet there is a positiveness that shines through even through the abrupt death of central characters, and a shining sanitized world at the end of Atomized and a overtly thought out end of the world scenerio for the end of The Possibility of An Island. Would I read more Hollenbeque, yes – they were torturous in their world view, akin to racist in some parts, mysoginistic in others, but there was thought provoked, and a dialog was created between the writer and myself, and between my inner self and my outer world. Unlike Murikami you are not left with a questioning void at the end – you are left instead devoid of feeling anything but the wish to go out and walk in the fresh air and hope that there aren’t many people with such a gray miopic view of the world out there. As to Mr. Pynchon‘s Against the Day – I have put it aside as of late. I have found it difficult to read his book let alone write on these fleeting testiments. Last year in February my parents called to let me know that my mother after many many years of smoking had contracted lung cancer. They were undecided at the time what route they were going to take, hadn’t talked to the doctor as to the course of treatment they were going to follow. Soon they began a bout with chemo, where my mother lost her hair and energy due to the radiation, and her platelet count dropped drastically, but she was stubborn and struggled forward. I went to visit her in August after Mr. A and I got back from Paris. I had a great time with her even though she wasn’t up to doing much but talk and be with me. I knew though that when I kissed her goodbye this time – it was going to be more difficult than usual – I always have said goodbye to my parents with the knowledge that this could be the last time, but this time it was more real, more solid. The future didn’t bode well even if we were all trying to put a good face on it. After my visit, my brother visited my parents, then my dad’s sister and then my sister and her kids got a visit from my Mom and Dad who went over for a short visit, my mom really wanted to go visit. At Thanksgiving time my sister and kids went over to stay with my parents and ended up spending two weeks because of the snow storms in the mountains between Seattle and Eastern Washington and then my parents were quiet for a couple weeks. About three weeks before Christmas, a week after my sister’s visit, they called to break the news that the doctor had taken my mom off her therapy and said there was nothing to be done. It was very unsettling to my mother to have to tell us this news right before the Christmas holiday. It has been very difficult to think or to move beyond this state of waiting since then, her health slowly has deteriorated, the hospice workers started coming over and the week between Christmas and New Years they moved the hospital bed into the living room, where my Mom has watched TV in her easy chair for many years. Dad has been sleeping in the living room with her on the couch. It is now three weeks since she last ate, she sips water occasionally, the hospice workers come over, Dad wakes up each morning wondering if she has left him in the night. This all weighs heavily on each of our thoughts and hearts. Her strong will has no end it seems. Why do I write about this – this personal emotion. As I have contemplated my life these past few months, awaiting the day my Dad says that my Mom is gone, I have found myself thinking about the writing relationship I have had with her. I must say I have been frightened by the thought of her leaving would leave my writing barren, so much has writing been apart of my relationship with my Mom. My Mom was never a great writer, she wrote simple letters of relating what was happening in her and my Dad’s life. I have many memories of watching her during my childhood rewriting letters she had started to my Dad, my Uncle Boyd, my Grandmother (her mother), Aunt Lois, making sure that the spelling was correct, that a sentence was correctly structured, she was worried that her lack of education would show through her writing. She always had a letter going and when I left home I began to receive her letters. 35 years later, I am going to miss her letters. Over the past couple of years the paper letters filled with her handwriting have changed to emails filled with colorful backgrounds, and emoticons. Writing is tied to her. I haven’t finished the Pynchon book yet. My mind has seemed to wander down all sorts of different paths as I await my mother’s passing, but right now I am thrilled that words haven’t left me, and the pleasure of reading and writing has not been lost because I am losing her.


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