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Against The Day
by Thomas Pynchon

Against The Day reviews
Critic Score
Metascore: 68 Metascore out of 100
User Score  
9.1 out of 10
based on 25 reviews
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based on 19 votes
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The reclusive author's first novel in nine years is a massive affair, covering a number of characters (including balloonists, anarchists and scientists) around the globe over a 30-year span beginning in 1893. Did we mention that somebody nearly drowns in mayonnaise?

Penguin Press, 1120 pages

ISBN: 159420120X

General Literature & Fiction
Historical Fiction

What The Critics Said

All reviews are classified as one of five grades: Outstanding (4 points), Favorable (3), Mixed (2), Unfavorable (1) and Terrible (0). To calculate the Metascore, we divide total points achieved by the total points possible (i.e., 4 x the number of reviews), with the resulting percentage (multiplied by 100) being the Metascore. Learn more...

Entertainment Weekly Ken Tucker
Gloriously fizzy.
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Publishers Weekly
True, beneath the book's jacket lurks the clamor of several novels clawing to get out. But that rushing you hear is the sound of the world, every banana peel and dynamite stick of it, trying to crowd its way in, and succeeding.
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Boston Globe Mark Feeney
Rich and sweeping, wild and thrilling.
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Los Angeles Times Christopher Sorrentino
A book this long that amazes even 50% of the time is amazing, and I suspect Pynchon would be the first to suggest we skip the boring parts. Whatever the problems with sheer mechanical execution, Pynchon here offers his most successful and cogent articulation of the concerns that have haunted his work from the start.
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Washington Post Steven Moore
Not for everybody, perhaps, but those who climb aboard Pynchon's airship will have the ride of their lives. History lesson, mystical quest, utopian dream, experimental metafiction, Marxist melodrama, Marxian comedy -- Against the Day is all of these things and more.
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Wall Street Journal Alexander Theroux
To read this book with anything like comprehension, a person has to be, like its polymath author, both intellectual and hip, a person mature and profoundly well read and yet something of a true marginal, a word-nerd with the patience of Job. In my charitable estimate that would describe about five out of 500 people that I know.
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The Globe And Mail [Toronto] Greg Hollingshead
Does it work? Well, first remember that nobody nowadays, not even Don DeLillo, can do what Pynchon is doing here at this level of craft, intelligence and sheer range of knowledge...The result remains extraordinary, but it's at once darker and paler, and less substantial. You could pass your hand through it.
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San Francisco Chronicle David Hellman
Probably the most brilliant book most people will never read. The reason it will probably fail to garner much of an audience is that at almost 1,100 pages it is, to put it bluntly, the novel as literary whirlwind, cryptically dense and unrelenting in its demands on the reader.
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Chicago Sun-Times Steven Moore
History lesson, mystical quest, utopian dream, experimental metafiction, Marxist melodrama, Marxian comedy -- Against the Day is all of these things and more.
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Sydney Morning Herald Anthony Macris
If you are willing to negotiate Against the Day's unwieldy, endlessly ramifying storylines, there's plenty here to keep you busy, particularly the novel's engagement with technology and society.
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TLS: The Times Literary Supplement Sophie Ratcliffe
Pynchon is playing out, on a textual level, the very experience of being obliterated that he is writing about. For this loss is representative of what the novel protests against – loss of life, loss of plot, but, in particular, the loss of the individual in a mass of capitalist greed.
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The Observer David Gale
All that is glorious and exhilarating about Pynchon is found here, but the problems of scale are taxing.
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The Spectator Sam Leith
It is virtuoso nonsense; it is a giant shaggy dog story, serious as history; it is by turns mind-crushingly tedious and utterly exhilarating; it is remorselessly facetious and yet deeply moving. It is like watching the European apocalypse as scripted by Looney Toons. It is brilliant, but it is exhaustingly brilliant.
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The New York Times Book Review Liesl Schillinger
His funniest and arguably his most accessible novel...Pynchon's voice seems uncharacteristically earnest. He interrupts his narrative from time to time to lay down pronouncements that, taken together, probably constitute the fullest elaboration of his philosophy yet seen in print.
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The Nation John Leonard
I will not pretend to grasp all this. In a Richard Powers novel, I am almost persuaded that I could crack the genetic code myself, given his elegant instructions. In a Pynchon, I just go with the metaphoric flow, which turns out to be a long way.
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The Independent Tim Martin
It's too big, too broad, too stuffed with competing storylines, whirligig digressions and the operations of authorial whim to permit of a continuous conception of character.
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The Economist
Baffling, yes. Clever and inventive in a cackling, manic, mad-professor kind of way, yes. Intermittently warmed by paragraph-long sunbeams of iridescent prose-poetry, yes. Rambling, pompous and often completely incomprehensible—yes to all that too.
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The New Yorker Louis Menand
A very imperfect book. Imperfect not in the sense of "Ambitious but flawed." Imperfect in the sense of "What was he thinking?"
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Village Voice John Haskell
Against the Day seems, purposely, to eschew the conventions of novel writing, taking the side of anarchy, both historical and metaphysical. However, the narrative anarchy it luxuriates in serves, more than anything, to recreate the kind of conventionality it is, ostensibly, trying to avoid.
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The Independent David Goldblatt
I like a drug-addled tale as much as the next old hippie, and Against the Day is drenched in alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, acid trips and flashbacks, smoking dens and opiates. But I like my editors really straight. In fact, this book could have done with one. Failing that, I wonder whether that inspirational afternoon spliff was one too many.
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Christian Science Monitor Yvonne Zipp
If you stare at the blurry title for more than a second, it makes you feel dizzy and your head starts to hurt. This is not unlike the experience of reading the novel. There's no question that the book is written by an exceedingly intelligent, talented writer; there's also no question that it's indulgent and maniacally out of control.
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Houston Chronicle Terrence Doody
It is a messy omnium gatherum rather than the summa theologica that at least I was hoping for...Pynchon's gotten slack and sleepy here. There may be some thrilling speculation in the math I do not understand, but there's no terrible beauty, no fearful Rilkean awe, not much that is really horrifying, no dread. Not much fun, either.
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The Guardian James Lasdun
It's quite a challenge to hold its multitudinous threads together in your head sufficiently clearly to grasp what it is they're being woven together to form...There isn't a single figure of compelling depth or presence in Against the Day. The cast keeps expanding right up to the last pages, but its members are almost all interchangeable.
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Salon Laura Miller
At one point, the banter between the straightest-arrow Chum and the sassy-lecherous Chum became so painful that I began to wonder if this all wasn't just a parody of a lame parody of a form of pop culture so dated that hardly anyone remembers it well enough to parody it. But then I realized that even Pynchon isn't that convolutedly ironic and it was just bad.
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The New York Times Michiko Kakutani
It is a humongous, bloated jigsaw puzzle of a story, pretentious without being provocative, elliptical without being illuminating, complicated without being rewardingly complex.
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What Our Users Said

Vote Now!The average user rating for this book is 9.1 (out of 10) based on 19 User Votes
Note: User votes are NOT included in the Metascore calculation.

James Y gave it a9:
A return to form after the deadly Mason & Dixon. Not as bravura (or as giddy) as the early novels, it is nonetheless full of knock-out set pieces, arcane information, laugh-out-loud humor, and masterful writing. (This guy can craft a sentence.) The only thing un-Pynchonesque about it, perhaps, is that the loose ends -- most of them, anyway -- are tied up in the end.

Becky A gave it a10:
A seriously incredible book. It's the most accessible and yet the most dense of all Pynchon's works. To be read again and again.

gregory c gave it a3:
The effusive reviews above confirm that the readers share a slavish devotion to Pynchon redolent of Dead Heads and their ilk. The delight is not so much in the product but membership in the cult and a smugness in being able to 'Appreciate' what the masses cannot. Let us now genuflect before Thomas' post-it notes.

T L gave it an8:
Freewheeling and seemingly without coherent structure, Against The Day is nonetheless an intriguing book with flashes of exclamatory writing that leave you burning with envy. One caveat is that if you found any elements of his previous work tedious or revolting (length, unrenewed storylines, elaborate background & unusual sexualization) then you may want to avoid this offering. Very "Pynchonian" - supply your own definition, mine encapsulates what was said in the previous sentence among other things - and enthusiastically recommended. I concur with "The Darkness" a/b the word humongous as well.

othostice gave it a10:
I'll admit that I am biased in Pynchon's favor, but even if I weren't, I find it difficult to take seriously any review--especially one from the NYT--that employs the non-word "humongous." What, are high school students reviewing books for "the paper of record"?

Tim gave it a5:
Mediocre Pynchon. The underwhelming character development and tedious passages suggest a critical flaw: Self-indulgence.

Buddy G gave it a10:
Of course its mind-blowing. True about the New Yorker review too.. The exerpt gleaned for the rating is totally misleading lacking context.

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