Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Mason & Dixon, and other stories


This lot needs sorting out.



There’s more:



And that’s not counting the three or four boxes of discards already waiting to be shipped to the charity book bank.  Clearly, I need to set aside an afternoon or three, if I can find them.   Critical mass will be reached some time soon, the tipping point being when I can no longer get through the front bedroom to the ironing board.  That becomes pressing (aargh!) when I need a fresh shirt – not quite at either of those points yet, but the nights are drawing in…

So, pro tem, I’ve disciplined myself to rereading.  I started with ‘Howard’s End’ a couple of weeks ago, and reflected on how Graham Greene found it necessary to divide his output between ‘novels’ and ‘entertainments’, whereas Forster could effortlessly blend the two into a single seamless whole.  So I read a couple of Greenes, one of each sort, and was left unsure as to which approach was the better… 

Getting a bit unstimulated, a week or so ago my eye was caught by Thomas Pynchon’s Masterpiece.  It tells the story of the two Surveyors, or Astronomers (they constantly bicker over this amongst many other sundry Controversies), who in the mid-eighteenth century ran what was ever-after called ‘the Mason-Dixon Line’ ‘twixt Pennsylvania and Maryland, a Line to become in History the Fount of countless Politickal and Bellicose wranglings…

I’m sorry, I seem to have slipped into the author’s bizarre cod-Georgian idiom (and even found myself, the other day, writing a blog comment in a version of Jeremiah Dixon’s bluff Geordie-an idiolect, eeh!): it’s not a straightforward read, as anyone who’s ever tried Pynchon will confirm.  But I know few books that draw you so deeply into their mad world.  If you imagine a linear yarn – well, you’ll get that, but be prepared for diversions into sea-battles between an under-manned frigate and a fearsome French man’o’war (complete with a deckhand who alone can unravel some fine points of frigate-rigging, called Pat O’Brian); the flesh- and booze-pots of Philadelphia; contemporary American and trans-Atlantick (there I go again!) politicks and Theology; and a wholly novel slant on How The West Was Won (or Lost), and similar Systematickally Irrelevant digressions into areas I don’t even want to think too much about, because my dreams are already over-packed with that kind of stuff…

There are also: a petulant, erudite Talking Dog, called the Learnèd English Dog, whose main role, in Chapter 1, is to enable the phrase ‘The L.E.D. blinks’; a partially invisible Mechanical Duck; the invention or discovery of Surf Music; the art of witch-flying, without benefit of Broomstick, to prove that the Territory is not the Map; and much much more such absurd digressions into worlds, planets and Galaxies of Phantasie, lit by a flickering, unreliable Lanthorne…


And I haven’t even reached the end yet!  150 pages (out of 773) to go.  But I know how it finishes – they reach the end of the Line, in ev’ry sense.

4 comments :

  1. I just listened to the song by Mark Knofler & James Taylor to save time...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrLdKYRBOEE

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  2. I can't read much at present, which is so disconcerting. I hope things will change.

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  3. Rog, my brother bought the book on the strength of that record; I don't think he's finished it yet (the book, that is).

    Z, I hope things will change for you. When you do get back to reading, though, Pynchon is probably not the best place to start...

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  4. Actually I haven't yet started it. But who knows, maybe one day, it's still in its proper place amongst other wide tomes.
    Halfway through Funny Girl at present, in Tarn Gorge. Wonderful (both).

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