Sunday, November 26, 2006

Good cop, bad cop-out

A week ago, over at the Ploughshares blog, Jay Baron Nicorvo wrote a post predicting that Michiko Kakutani's scathing review of Pynchon's new novel Against the Day (she described it as "a humongous, bloated jigsaw puzzle of a story, pretentious without being provocative, elliptical without being illuminating, complicated without being rewardingly complex") would be followed by a second "kissing-up" review in the Sunday Book Review.

And sure enough, here it is. Liesl Schillinger describes Against the Day as Pynchon's "funniest and arguably...most accessible novel" [1] and goes on to wax eloquent about it for four whole screens.

Now personally, I don't care, because any time a new Pynchon novel comes out I'm going to read it, no matter what the critics say (yes, all 1085 pages of it. Sigh. I so need to marry an heiress), but it would be nice if we could somehow get Ms. Kakutani and Ms. Schillinger to battle it out between them and give us a consensus opinion. I imagine a duel at dawn where the two reviewers both stand with their backs to each other, identical copies of the book in hand, then, on the referees signal, walk ten paces then turn and shoot bon mots at each other until one of them is fatally wounded. It would be like something out of a Pynchon novel.

[1] Of course, given that this is Pynchon, calling his work accessible is probably a terrible insult.


hatshepsut said...

a quibble: there is a difference between calling his work accessible and saying this is his most accessible work.

my point is pynchon's most accessible work can still be hugely inaccessible.


Falstaff said...

hatshepsut: Good point. But Schillinger does seem to be suggesting that Against the Day is accessible - she says "his fantastical plots and encrypted references, are bound together by a clear message that others can unscramble without mental meltdown".

Also, in PRAISING the novel by calling it his most accessible work she implies that being more accessible is a good thing - and I'm unconvinced that Pynchon would agree.

Anonymous said...

I dont know why controvorsies are so interrelted with Show Biz