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Against the Day: A Novel | [Thomas Pynchon]

Against the Day: A Novel

This novel spans the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

"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 Gottingen, 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

©2006 Thomas Pynchon; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

What the Critics Say

"[Pynchon's] funniest and arguably his most accessible novel." (New York Times Book Review)
"Pynchon delivers a novel that matches his most influential work, Gravity's Rainbow...in complexity, humor, and insight, and surpasses it in emotional valence....A capacious, gritty, and tender epic." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.3 (212 )
5 star
 (67)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.7 (81 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.0 (79 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    T.Sweeney CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom 03-31-13
    T.Sweeney CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom 03-31-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Performance
    Story
    "Kafka meets Gilbert and Sullivan at the OK Corral"
    Where does Against the Day rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Outstanding. I have the unabridged transferred-from-cassette version of Gravity's Rainbow which is a magisterial tour de force, but this Audiobook is not far behind, I find the audio quality is mediocre, though, the voice fluctuating in volume as if wavering. Also, the breaks between parts is not seamless.

    I would also recommend Ron McLarty's reading of Inherent Vice, which Audible seem to have ignored. That is a work of genius, both author and narrator.


    What other book might you compare Against the Day to and why?

    Incomparable.


    What does Dick Hill bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Dick Hill makes every sentence count, and manages to find the right pitch for every occasion.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Loved it.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Paul Allison Lenox, MA United States 02-11-13
    Brian Paul Allison Lenox, MA United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2012

    Speak The Dream

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "two big thumbs up and one down"

    Quality Control Alert.
    Thomas Pynchon and Dick Hill are a perfect combination of excellence. The problem is that the download was VERY messed up. Listener beware, if you end up with the same download of seven parts, most of them ten hours long--and I can't imagine why it would be different for me than someone else, though none of the reviews I read before purchasing mentioned this problem, which baffles me. I've listened to quite a few Audible audiobooks before and have never seen anything like this.
    All of a sudden you are hearing what you heard several hours earlier, with no indication. At first I thought the player had bounced back on the progress bar, but when it happened again I was paying closer attention and knew it wasn't that. I bought the ebook so I could follow along to confirm and clarify. Sure enough: WTF?
    For a long and somewhat challenging book with a lot of characters, it is especially difficult to follow when full of recording discontinuities; frustrating to try and find the proper place to pick up from, which, once I figured out the problem, turned out to be the beginning of the next downloaded section, thus, the story should only be fifty-something hours long, not over sixty.
    I LOVE the audiobook otherwise. Too bad about the terrible engineering, but it should be easy to fix in post. Maybe Audible could give me the credit back for suffering through it, giving you a heads up, ands spelling this out for them.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Drew Cedar Park, TX, United States 05-25-07
    Drew Cedar Park, TX, United States 05-25-07 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Plot, schmlot"

    Plot in a novel is overrated. If you want plot, read Dan Brown instead- though that's all you'll get.

    This is a work of genius- and not only because of the author's penchant for self-promotion and intentional obscurity and obfuscation.

    This is truly a piece of art painted with intentionally hammy techniques and wonderful surreal and non-linear streams of consciousness. All of these things dance around the sensation of the characters, the essence of spirit that the author wishes to share with those who can sense it.

    I laughed when a reviewer preferred to go back to Ulysses instead. Well, that's a mighty difficult yardstick for each and every novel to stand comparison. It's like comparing every portrait to the Mona Lisa.

    Full disclosure: this was my first reading of a complete Pynchon novel. I'm not a literary snob and don't feel the need to crow about how much better his other works are. Some folks more learned and well-read than I am have said Gravity's Rainbow is far superior. Great- more to explore!

    For me, this is one of the most wonderful author "discoveries" since I first read Kafka.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Long Beach, CA, United States 07-26-14
    Robert Long Beach, CA, United States 07-26-14 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
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    "Love Pynchon, but..."

    I advise anyone who really cares to read this book on the printed page where it won't be polluted by Dick Hill's intrusive and cloying narration. I tried to listen, but a giving up because I can't bear another minute of Hill.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marco NEW PALTZ, NEW YORK, United States 01-30-14
    Marco NEW PALTZ, NEW YORK, United States 01-30-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "terrible reader...overacting, distracting"
    Would you try another book from Thomas Pynchon and/or Dick Hill?

    Pynchon, YES! Dick Hill never again


    Would you recommend Against the Day to your friends? Why or why not?

    No by Dick Hill.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Dick Hill?

    A serious and discrete narrator.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The writer.


    Any additional comments?

    It will be fantastic if you open two categories....
    1) similar experience to read yourself ( beautiful tool)
    2) similar experience to hear a terrible movie about the book ( caricaturesque version)

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wallen Danderyd, Sweden 01-16-14
    Wallen Danderyd, Sweden 01-16-14 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A plethora of characters - too many words"

    This books starts being really interesting, but after a quarter of an hour you discover that your mind has wandered and you haven't listened to the last five minutes at all. You rewind and start over. Same thing after a while again. There are so many characters and the events change so quickly and between caracthers that you quickly lose track of who is who and what they say and why.

    The story takes place at the end of the 19th century. It is a mix of Jules Verne and Charles Dickens. Jules Verne had really interesting ideas and twists and turns (at least in his earlier novels). Dickens had really faboulus characters who became more alive the more you listened to his stories. This book is just a lot of words amassed; it is a lot of exchange of views, but nothing really drives the story forward. It lacks the originality of Jules Verne and the likability and life of the Dickens charaters. Pynchon tries to spice up the novel by placing references to other novels, events, known people, etc. but that just serves to blur the story and make it more confused.

    I have read other books by Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow, V), both of which I really liked. But Against the Day is just so boring, that I listened with some interest only to the first 10 or so chapters; the rest I just forced myself to go thru until I completely lost interest because of all the mannered and affected style of writing after the third part (of seven in all).

    The narrator tries his best to give different dialects and tones of voice to the plethrora of characters. But he breaks RULE NO. 1 for narrators of audio books. Rule No. 1 is to read with a relatively even voice volume. This narrator varies between whispering to almost screaming and every conceivable volume in between. If you set your listening volume to hear the whispering, it becoems far too loud for the screaming parts. So I had to set the volume somehwere in between, in order to not have to change the volume every 15 seconds, and then you miss some of the less loud parts. Not good narrated at all by Dick Hill.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marilyn Aldergrove, BC, Canada 12-14-13
    Marilyn Aldergrove, BC, Canada 12-14-13 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worst performance I've ever tried to listen to.."
    What would have made Against the Day better?

    A voice that could be listened to.


    What was most disappointing about Thomas Pynchon’s story?

    Trying to get into the story line and being unable to concentrate on it. How can all the characters have voices changing in adolescence? Dick Hill's voice is one thing but all his attempts to change that voice is unbearable.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Dick Hill’s performances?

    No.


    What character would you cut from Against the Day?

    I have no idea what the book is even about.


    Any additional comments?

    I love long books but this was too poor to even get a feeling for the story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Yerkes Singapore 06-21-08
    A. Yerkes Singapore 06-21-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    12
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    "great narrator, okay book"

    Unlike other reviewers, I think plot is indispensable for good storytelling. Thus, I found this book frustrating. I listened, following along with the text, and consulting the websites where passionate fans chew on the intriguing set pieces that Pynchon offers. The many settings, characters, networks, and theories never cohere, and most of them never connect into any overall thematic or allegorical meaning. But there's lot of richly ambiguous symbolism, a sort of alchemical semiotic miasma using light, day, gold, silver, abstract math (fourth dimension, quaternions), and doublings (paired characters, worlds, realities). This book seems to be an attempt to tell a story set in the past that is emphatically non-historical insofar as history is defined as a grand narrative. There's no God-like narrator, no attempt to frame the individual stories within a larger sense of the historical moment. Instead, there's an unmasterable heap of details and small plots, similar to the way that life is really experienced. There's a lot of wacky humor, such as an opera entitled The Burgher King, a Middle Eastern assassin named Al Mar-Faud, dressed in English hunting tweeds and a shotgun, ("Gweetings, gentlemen, on this Glowious Twelfth!), and very little of the urgency and tragedy that I need in a novel of this length to keep me interested. I forced myself through this book because I'm interested in the ideas and in the potential of experimental postmodern narrative.
    The narrator is stupendous, bringing this very difficult book to life with an astounding array of accents deployed consistently. He also pronounces the dozens of obscure and foreign phrases accurately, a remarkable feat. Most importantly, he achieves an understated tone of muted irony that perfectly matches that of Pynchon.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. Prevelige Austin, TX 02-27-10
    G. Prevelige Austin, TX 02-27-10 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    "Pure Genius"

    One of Pynchon's best with a great read from Dick Hill. Loved it. Just a brilliant work of fiction.
    To address the negative reviews: if you tend to think of Nicholas Sparks or Dan Brown as great literature you may find this book a little confusing and off-putting. You'd be better off downloading the latest Sue Grafton or something of that ilk instead.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carla Edmon, WA, USA 05-16-08
    Carla Edmon, WA, USA 05-16-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
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    285
    5
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    0
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    Overall
    "Good Book Horrible Reader"

    I would give the book itself 5 stars, but as an audiobook, it's a disaster. It's very hard to listen to this book because the reader overacts in the extreme. He sounds like a really bad amateur stage actor - relentlessly distracting, really ruining the book. Almost every sentence is "recited" in such a way that it sounds like he is ridiculing the book and the characters. There is no way to describe how terrible the reading is, the worst I have heard on an audible book (which are usually terrific, I must say). Where was the voice talent director during this recording??? It's painful.

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
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