Sunday, November 07, 2004


After posting it, it occurred to me that my second post on GR wound up being primarily critical. And there will undoubtedly be later posts that are partly or mainly critical, as well. Readers might conclude from this that my overall opinion of the book is negative. Not so. As I said at the start, my goal here is just to write down my thoughts and impressions in an unstructured way. And it's probably true that I am noticing more flaws on this reading than I have on previous readings. Mainly this is because, since this is my fourth or fifth reading, many of its virtues are familiar to me by now, and don't bowl me over the way they did on my first or second reading.

But the main reason why some posts may come out predominantly critical is simply that nobody would be interested in a post that said nothing but "here's a great passage, and here's another great passage, and here's still another." What I said about Pynchon's prose in my first post still goes; in fact, right now I'll go so far as to say that Pynchon's prose in GR is better than anyone else's, living or dead. A couple weeks ago I picked up Philip Roth's latest novel, The Plot Against America, out of curiosity. I read about thirty pages of it, and then quit: I might not have quit if I hadn't been reading GR at the same time, but as it was, the gap in the quality of the prose was just too great. Like Pynchon, Roth is fond of long sentences, and especially lists. But compared to those in GR, Roth's long sentences are flat and lifeless. And although the historical setting of Roth's book is that of his own childhood, while Pynchon could only have learned about the setting of GR from books, it's the setting in Roth's book which feels like it came out of a book and the setting in GR which feels like it was experienced firsthand, such is the difference in vividness between the two writers' prose.

Anyway, certainly don't let anything I write on this blog discourage you from reading GR. It may not be a perfect book, but few great books are, and I'm convinced that it is a great book.

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