Untitled Thomas Pynchon

Cosmic Variance
By Sean Carroll
Jul 20, 2006 9:13 PMNov 5, 2019 8:08 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The rumors are apparently true: Thomas Pynchon has a new book coming out, scheduled for release on December 5 of this year. We know they're true because the book already has an amazon.com page where you are welcome to buy it. As Slate notes, an intriguing aspect of the story (you knew there would be one, didn't you?) is the appearance -- followed soon thereafter by the disappearance -- of an "author blurb" on the amazon page. Here it is, rescued from the amazon discussion board.

"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

Did Pynchon really write this blurb? Why did amazon remove it? (I'm guessing that it was written by an overly enthusiastic publicist, and that's why they removed it.) Is it true that Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya will play a prominent role in the new book? What is the title, for crying out loud? Wondering is half the fun. The notoriously reclusive Pynchon is fond of sprinkling science throughout his works, and scientists are fond of reading them in turn. Gravity's Rainbow, his masterwork, has a well-deserved reputation for being somewhat intimidating. But I would encourage anyone to read Mason & Dixon, his most recent book and arguably his most entertaining (not that it's a breeze, mind you). Admittedly, there are scary parts:

"Gentlemen," advises this ominous Shadow, "--- you have fallen, willy-nilly, among a race who not only devour Astronomers as a matter of habitual Diet, but may also make of them vile minature 'Sandwiches,' and then lay them upon a mahogany Sideboard whose Price they never knew, and then forget to eat them. Your only hope, in this room, is to impersonate so perfectly what they assume you to be, that instincts of Predation will be overcome by those of Boredom."

My most important contribution (to date) to literary scholarship is the discovery of the subtle deployment in M&D of the collapse of the wavefunction as a metaphorical theme for the progress of the surveyors over the hills to the West, observing as they go and reducing Probabilities to Certainties. Update: according to a followup article in Slate, the title of the novel is Against the Day, and the blurb is really written by Pynchon. Shows you what I know.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.