Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /var/www/vhosts/pynchonwiki.com/httpdocs/wiki/old-skins/skinAgainstDay/MonoBook.php on line 58
xml:lang="en" lang="en" dir="ltr"> Against the Day description - Thomas Pynchon Wiki | Against the Day

Against the Day description

(Redirected from Against the Day blurb)

The following is the blurb, attributed to Thomas Pynchon, that appeared, disappeared and reappeared on Amazon.com, for Pynchon's latest novel, Against the Day, released 11/21/06 by Penguin Press. This piece of writing was also used in promotional materials by the publisher, and was eventually edited down (with all author attribution removed) for the book jacket flap copy.

Comparison of description versions

As posted on Amazon.com

Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Göttingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.

With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.

The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics, and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses, and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx.

As an era of certainty comes crashing down around their ears and an unpredictable future commences, these folks are mostly just trying to pursue their lives. Sometimes they manage to catch up; sometimes it's their lives that pursue them.

Meanwhile, the author is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur. If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction.

Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck.

—Thomas Pynchon

As seen on the book jacket

Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, Against the Day moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Göttingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.

With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places.

The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics, and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses, and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikolai Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx.

As an era of certainty comes crashing down around their ears and an unpredictable future commences, these folks are mostly just trying to pursue their lives. Sometimes they manage to catch up; sometimes it's their lives that pursue them.

Meanwhile, Thomas Pynchon is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they're doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange and weird sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur. Maybe it's not the world, but with a minor adjustment or two it's what the world might be.

Difference in the Texts

  1. "this novel" (Amazon version) becomes "Against the Day" (book version).
  2. "No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred" (Amazon only).
  3. "Nikola Tesla" in the Amazon description becomes "Nikolai Tesla" on the hardcover book jacket (see errata).
  4. "Meanwhile, the author is up to his usual business" (Amazon version) becomes "Meanwhile, Thomas Pynchon is up to his usual business" (book version).
  5. "Strange sexual practices" (Amazon version) becomes "Strange and weird sexual practices" (book version).
  6. "If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction." (Amazon version) "Maybe it's not the world, but with a minor adjustment or two it's what the world might be." (book version)
  7. "Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck. —Thomas Pynchon" (Amazon only)

Spoiler-free Commentary on the differences

The book jacket omits two extremely important statements, numbers 2 and 7 above, important because they are rare instances of Pynchon stepping outside of his fiction to articulate the motivations behind his art: veiled satire of the present day and, secondly, imagining what he considers a better world. Pynchon's statement of "the world as it might be" is echoed on page 51 of the text.

and one or two places, strictly speaking, not on the map at all
Cf. Moby Dick, Chapter 12, first paragraph: "Queequeg was a native of kokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not down in any map. True places never are."

"Let the reader decide, let the reader beware" may be a reflection of Pynchon's seemingly anti-critic stance, part of his larger anti-reporter and generally anti-mass media stance. Although one source tells us that Pynchon "follows the reviews and evidently cares what critics say about him," the fact that reviewers are always given so little time to review his novels suggests that he mistrusts them, or at least prefers to have readers themselves judge the merit of his books. This statement lends credence to that assumption.

Further, Pynchon may be warning his readers to "beware" of not only critics, but the difficulty of the book itself. That "good luck" could mean a lot of things. It may be interpreted as a kindly message to his readers, but also "good luck" reading this enormous, difficult novel...! Also, it is possible that Pynchon may guess or intend that AtD will be his final novel (for the simple fact that he is pushing 70 and takes a decade to write one, and, additionally, the title of Part Five of AtD). If that's the case, and it's by no means certain, this "good luck" may end up being, whether intended or not, his final statement of best wishes to his readers.

Against the Day Alpha Guide
A·B·C·D·E·F·G·H·I·J·K·L·M·N·O·P·Q·R·S·T·U·V·W·XYZ top of page
Personal tools