Mason and Dixon

ISBN: 0312423209
ISBN 13: 9780312423209
By: Thomas Pynchon

Check Price Now


1001 1001 Books 1001 Import Currently Reading Favorites Fiction Historical Fiction Literature Novels To Read

About this book

The story of Charles Mason (1728-1786) and Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779)—the British surveyors best remembered for running the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland that has come to known as the Mason-Dixon Line—as re-imagined by bestselling author Thomas Pynchon.Intermingled with Mason and Dixon's biographies, history, fantasy, legend, speculation, and outright fabrication, the novel is based on the focal point of one Rev. Wicks Cherrycoke, a clergyman of dubious orthodoxy, who attempts to entertain and divert his extended family on a cold December evening—partly for amusement, and partly to keep his coveted status as a guest in the house.

Reader's Thoughts


This is the most pleasant tome I've read yet. With other large books, I've been just as focused on the page count as the content itself– I have no idea how Mason & Dixon escaped this and managed to flow so casually and coherently. I didn't even perform my ritual of noticing when I pass 1/5th, 1/4th, 1/3rd-ways through the book, either. Thanks to the first sentence, I had assumed for a long time that Mason & Dixon was one of Thomas Pynchon's most impenetrable novels– all just a run-on, incoherent Finnegans Wake-esque soup of outdated grammar and slang– but I ended up not even noticing the capitalized nouns two pages in.The text is still dense, however, and it was difficult to read for more than 20-page chunks at a time. Solution? Make several 20-page chunks throughout the same day!It's clear that Thomas Pynchon didn't write Mason & Dixon just to be cute and post-modern and overly dense (coughcough). He's just telling a great story, and all of the dense parts are just a side effect of Thomas Pynchon's massive brain working towards achieving that goal. I actually found this an easier read than The Crying of Lot 49, but I might be alone in that opinion. Sometimes I would be reluctant to read every day ("Do I want to read this today? No, I don't want to read this today."), but my frustrations are more at my own attention span than at Pynchon. Every time I actually picked up the book, I thoroughly enjoyed (giggled at, snickered at, beamed stupidly at, etc.) what I read. There's no umlaut explosions, there's no characters in two places at once, heck, the plotting is even completely linear.Some sections and discussions were a little too much for me. But thankfully, they often had no serious plot significance, and ended several pages later. If I was ever in a rough spot, instead of rereading and rereading and trying to understand, I just kept going, to no loss. There are hundreds of characters, but it's clear who you need to pay attention to and who's just standing in the background not serving any purpose.Mason & Dixon is very spiritual. Thomas Pynchon has a unique, imaginative way of seeing the world. His old, buzzed-out paranoia has been replaced here with a spiritual, supernatural, philosophical, and often magical sense of awe. What I can't decide is if Thomas Pynchon is just an expert at creating the feeling of the dawn of the Age of Reason, or if he's grown more spiritual with age. Reading the book, I'm convinced that Thomas Pynchon is either Christian to whatever extant, or very skilled at understanding and replicating Christian views of the world. He never critiques Christianity or people's religions in general (well, except maybe the Jesuits), and seems respectful enough of everyone's cultures and humanity. While it is a reverand who narrates the story, it still takes a deep understanding of the spiritual mindset to write it as well as he manages... Pynchon manages to make a sermon out of the most mundane things. Pynchon would make a great pastor. Nothing is spared a religious connection– breadmaking, geometry, the bad taste of every succeeding cup of coffee after the first pour– nothing.Mason & Dixon is practically wholesome. There's some comical enticements, a man pissing his name into the snow, but nothing beyond a PG-13 rating. Being able to get all of the joys of Thomas Pynchon without having to experience some squicky sex scene every few pages is surprisingly refreshing.All in all, this novel a treasure chest. There are thousands of things to laugh at– some subtle, some obvious. Mason dangling off a window- obvious. The word "sandwich" always being in quotes– subtle! I always smiled when I saw that. I would give more examples of the particularly entertaining and surprising stories that are cropped up throughout the course of the novel, but the less you know going into the book, the better. I couldn't do Pynchon's humor justice, anyway."Read it at the Risk of your Self-Esteem." (p. 726)Actually, just read it.


I first read this when it came out in '97. I was 24, soon to be married and working a shit phone survey job. I'd bring it into work everyday and read as the computer dialed the numbers of strangers for me. Fits and starts. Hung up on many who answered rather than lose my place. I'd read all Pynchon to this point and like the rest of the world was ecstatic that he followed the disappointing Vineland with a fat historical tome compleat with strange Spelling and Punctuation. Well, I forgot most of the details, save the most outrageous, and I even forgot some of those, so I was stoked to hear a group of acquaintances would be doing a group read. I can't think of a finer book to read and discuss over pints at a local pub, considering a good half the book takes place in taverns. This was a delightful re-read. Pynchon really makes Mason and Dixon come alive, probably based on reading a handful of their journals and some research into the era. Fuck, who knows just how Pynchon does his research. Imagine if he employed a team like Michener? Somehow he spews it like it was always up there, all the facts you'd need and plenty more, up in his Nog. Anyway, anyone who's been waiting to read this, now is the time. I'd recommend you do it with friends, slowly, so much to talk about, so many Joaks you'll want to share. Also I like what Dawin8U had to say


Hay que empezar diciendo que ninguna reseña puede abarcar todo lo que Pynchon nos relata en su novela. No es una lectura fácil, pero es uno de los libros más asequibles de Pynchon. Creo que su autor no pretendía escribir una novela histórica al uso. Aunque conociendo al autor, ya esperaba algo similar. Haciendo uso de diálogos y pensamientos, Pynchon nos dibuja unos personajes que rozan la caricatura, o más bien el homenaje, parejas tan memorables como Don Quijote y Sancho Panza o Gargantúa y Pantagruel.’Mason y Dixon’ es la historia que el reverendo Wicks Cherrycoke narra a su auditorio, conformado por niños y adultos, que se sitúan a su alrededor. Como si de Sherezade en ‘Las mil y una noches’ se tratase, el reverendo Cherrycoke centra su mirada en este par de personajes, a los que acompañó en parte de sus viajes. También hay que puntualizar que el reverendo no es un narrador demasiado fiable, como muy bien él mismo se encarga de recordarnos al principio. Y es que la historia no adolece de elementos fantásticos, como perros que hablan o golems.Mason, astrónomo, y Dixon, agrimensor, fueron dos personas que existieron realmente. Su mayor hazaña, por la que están en los libros de Historia, es la que abarca la mayor parte de la novela: en la última mitad del siglo XVIII, trazaron una línea divisora entre las tierras del estado de Pennsylvania y las tierras de Maryland, con Delaware de por medio. En realidad, el libro puede dividirse en dos partes, una primera parte que transcurre en Sudáfrica, donde se asientas los cimientos de la relación de ambos protagonistas; y una segunda parte, donde se cuenta lo antes mencionado.Quien se acerque a ’Mason y Dixon’ no va a encontrar una novela de aventuras, donde prime la épica, o quizás no la épica que se pueda esperar de tal término. Pynchon ha trazado todo un monumento literario, de conocimientos enciclopédicos, más de diálogos y pensamientos que de hechos, donde los acontecimientos se van produciendo sin descanso.Personalmente, puedo decir que ’Mason y Dixon’ me ha gustado más que la desbordante ‘El arco iris de gravedad’, siendo más comprensible y asequible que esta última. La novela empieza muy bien, te atrapa desde un principio, y te arrastra hasta su ecuador, donde acabas llegando un tanto exhausto. Después, se vuelve una tanto anodina, pero te dejas llevar. Hasta llegar a la última parte del libro, donde la historia remonta, y donde destacan los últimos capítulos, que son brillantes, e incluso melancólicos.

Nathan Roberson

I realize tonight I never wrote a review for this. I've spent today tearing through the terminus of Against The Day, the last Pynchon novel for me to complete, and I am of course reflecting on the works of an author that completely enthralled me for the past few years.So, for a complete Pynchonphile, how does this one hold up? Some call it a return to form. I don't think Pynchon's form ever faltered. Vineland gets a bad rap, but I think that's more to do with it being the follow up to Gravity's Rainbow and the gap between those two works. No, Pynchon does not return to form with this book, he transcends his form. It is replete with your usual Pynchon elements: crazy names, silly songs, ridiculous characters -- some not quite human -- and fantastical events. So that's all usual fare. How does it transcend? The language. The guy is already known for composing beautiful (and lengthy) sentences, but to do so with the grammar and spelling appropriate to the 18th century is a monumental achievement. As for the story and themes, top notch! This novel expresses Pynchon's love for a time when magic existed, before the clutches of science gave reason and explanation to boggling mysteries. Sure, I like the furthering of human knowledge just as much as the next guy, but let's admit it: a lot of us want to punch that Breaking The Magician's Code guy in the face. While the characters of Mason & Dixon serve to end some of the mysteries that surround them, Pynchon reminds the reader that The Enlightenment was not like the flick of a switch that our school textbooks suggested. The so-called great thinkers of the time were often fumbling in the dark, banging prostitutes, and usually just trying to make a buck. While revering the unknown Pynchon also topples the pedestal on which society places the minds of this period. So yeah, we want to punch that two-timing magician in the face, but we also enjoy being smug as all hell the next time we see an inept Vegas act.


It would take me about three hours to do a decent review of this novel but suffice it to say that it really delves into the actual characters that Mason and Dixon both were, or at least how Thomas Pynchon imagined them to be. Pynchon did an extraordinary amount of research from the foods eaten to the old fashioned words in dialog and even the way words were spelled back then. There's also a sense of the preposterous here between the ghost of Mason's dead wife and a sense of missing 11 calendar days. My favorite parts were the animated duck and dog, gigantic vegetables, werewolves, the discovery of Uranus, the sense of overall adventure, the personification of Melancholy, and the sense of history of these two Brits coming to survey the land of America on the brink of it's fruition when there was a clear struggle between and the European settlers as well as a clear sense of wrongdoing that Mason and Dixon have against slavery...and, of course, animosity was growing between those who had settled in North America and Great Britain. It was a time when lightning storms and eclipses were the most exciting thing to happen and when two land surveyors could, in Pynchon's mind, have the adventure of a lifetime. There's a bizarre supernatural aspect of this in parts but just enough of a sense of actual history to keep it grounded. There's also a great deal of religion here with partial sermons even. In any case, I'm not sure how much Pynchon embellished on their personalities but I found myself wanting every word to be true and really routing for these two...Also, I admit I liked Mason the best. This is the kind of novel one could cherish many times throughout a lifetime in all it's nonfiction historical elements mixed with the preposterous ones. Some quotes I liked: pg. 220 "He (Emerson) has devis'd a sailing Scheme, whereby Winds are imagin'd to be forms of Gravity acting not vertically but laterally, along the Globe's Surface,-a ship to him is the Paradigm of the Universe."pg. 289 "Melancholicks are flocking to Town like Crows, dark'ning the Sun"pg. 309 "Soon there's a distinct feeling in the Rooms of Afternoon...the Child trembles at the turn in the Day when the ghosts shift about behind the Doors, and out in the Gust beaten wilderness come the Paxton boys..."pg. 346 "In America, as I apprehend, Time is the true River that runs 'round Hell."pg. 361 "What Machine is it, "young Cherrycoke later bade himself goodnight, "that bears us along so relentlessly? We go rattling thro' another Day,-another Year,-as tho' an empty Town without a Name, in the Midnight...we have but Memories of some Pause at the Pleasure-Spas of our younger Day, the Maidens, the Cards, the Claret,-we seek to extend our stay, but now a silent Functionary in dark Livery indicates it is time to re-board the Coach, and resume the Journey. Long before the Destination, moreover, shall this Machine come abruptly to a Stop...gather'd dense with Fear, shall we open the Door to confer with the Driver, to discover that there is no Driver, Horses,...only the Machine, fading as we stand, and a Prairie of desperate Immensity..."pg. 512 "Like a Dream just before the animals wake up..."pg. 555 "Mason for a while had presum'd it but a matter of confusing dates, which are Names, with Days, which are real Things. Yet for anyone he met born before '52 and alive after it, the missing Eleven Days road again and again in Conversation, sooner or later characteriz'd as "brute Absence," or "a Tear thro' the favric of Life," and the more he wrestl'd with the Question, the more the advantage shifted toward a Belief, as he would tell Dixon one day, "In a slowly rotating Loop, or if you like, Vortex, of eleven days, tangent to the Linear Path of what we imagine as Ordinary Time, but excluded from it, and repeating itself,-without end."pg. 586 "There is a love of complexity, here in America..."pg. 603 "Withal, he (Mason) is too open himself to the seductions of Melancholy and its own comfortless phantoms, to call anything even as remotely hopeful as this into question..."pg. 614 "A Defile of Ghosts growing, with the Years, more desperate and savage, to Settlers and Indians alike. You'd not wish this Line to pass to close to them, I shouldn't think."pg. 634 "So that's why Swedes chose to sail between the Capes of Delaware,-the thought it was another Fjord! You fellows do like a nice Fjord, it seems. Instead, they found Pennsylvania!"pg. 637 "But Time, surely, by now, no longer matters to her (the duck)?" Peter now curious,"-no longer passes the same way, I mean." The Frenchman shrugs. "Yet we few, fortunate Objects of her Visits remain ever tight in Time's Embrace," sighing as if for the Duck alone."She, then,...enters and leaves the Stream of Time as she likes?"pg. 657 "Another Lively Question is, Does it remember the Days, when we were bigger than Beets, yes, by about the same Proportion'd you notice, that Beets are now bigger than us? Now that the Tables are turn'd, do, do they harbor Grudges? Do they have a concept of Revenge, perhaps for insults we never intended?"pg. 702 "Then why not consider Light itself as equally noxious," inquires Dixon, "for doth it not move ever straight ahead?""Ah!" a gleam as likely Madness as Merriment appearing in his Eye..."pg. 745 "Out there in the Fog brimming and sweeping now over Ridge-tops and into the Glens, somewhere it waits, the world across the next Line, in darkness and isolation, barren, unforgiving, a Nation that within Mason's lifetime has risen to seize the Crown, been harrow'd into submission, then been shipp'd in great Lots to America. "I imagine there's yet a bit of ..resentment about?"The Doctor snorts. "The word you grope for is Hatred, Sir,-inveterate, inflexible Hatred. The 'Forty-five lives on here, a Ghost from a Gothick Novel, ubiquitous, frightfully shatter'd, exhibition gallons of a certain crimson Fluid..."pg. 746-747 "This Mountain I'm about to seek must be regular as a Prism, as if purposefully constructed in days of old by forces more powerful than ours...powerful enough to suggest about God (whatever that may be) has not altogether quit our own desperate Day."pg. 750 "Reflection on any Topick is an unforgivable Lapse, out here at any moment where Death may come whistling in from the Dark."Well Hullo, Death, what's that you're whistling?""Oo, little Ditters von Dittersdorf, nothing you'd recognize, hasn't happen'd yet, not even sure you'll live till it's perform'd anywhere,-have to check the Folio as to that, get back to you?"pg. 759 "When the Hook of Night is well set, and when all the Children are at last irretrievably detain'd within their Dreams, slowly into the Room begin to walk the Black servants, the Indian poor, the Irish runaways, the Chinese Sailors, the overflow'd from the mad Hospital, all unchosen Philadelphia, as if something outside, beyond the cold Wind, has driven them to this extreme seeking refuge. They bring their Scars, their Pox-pitted Cheeks, their Burdens and Losses, feverish Eyes, their proud fellowship in a Mobilitiy, that is to be, whose shape none inside this House may know."pg. 762 "Yet, 'tis possible, after all, down here, to die of Melancholy."


I could not read this, -- perhaps if I were taking some English Lit. class and forced to read it, disect it, and write a report on it then I'd be sufficiently motivated to continue reading the lengthy prose, convoluted descriptions, sentences that go on and on, not just from one line to the next, nor from one paragraph to the next but falling just shy of one chapter to the next -- somewhere in the range of a sentence being equal to several pages - as if anyone would have the energy to just ramble on, within the confines of one sentence, to challenge the reader in seeing how far he or she will continue in their effort to see the point, digest the vagueries and want to continue on with the next sentence - which may span another several pages before ending in a chapter in which you might have just said, "what did I read?"


Oh god, I'm gonna cry, what a beautiful book, a gift from Pynchon in the form of an epic bedtime story. Explaining this book would only cheapen it, you should just trust me and read it, but if I'd have to give you a glimpse, I'd say it's a story about the ironies of pure theory vs. imperfect practice, clock time vs. the ocean's rhythms, a depressive vs. a lively romantick, the numinous quality of nature, and the allure of an untouched American frontier, a land where the stars are so close you won't need a telescope. But at its core it's about a friendship with arms long enough to reach from one end of the world to the other, and as the book ends, mortality brings things to a close, leaving you with an unbearable melancholy that I still haven't come to terms with. I'll have to revisit this one, maybe even soon...thank you again, Pynchon.


The most digressive and, in many ways, the most characteristically American of Pynchon's novels. Pynchon's other two opuses, Gravity's Rainbow and Against the Day, are characterized by complex plots involving paranoid, wartime, international capitalist conspiracies, but Mason & Dixon is much more episodic in comparison, presenting a series of riffs on 18th-century America and its bizarre-yet-often-true events. It's just an utter joy to follow its protagonists through the winding backwoods of the American colonies, coming across in their travels such oddities as a pot-smoking, Yiddish-speaking George Washington, a mechanical duck capable not only of flight and speech but seeming to possess even a soul (not to mention erotic impulses), vegetable farms which produce specimens the size of houses, a man whom upon the full moon transfigures into a beaver, and too many other absurdities to catalogue here.But even setting aside its multitudinous surface pleasures as a piece of historiographic metafiction (BIG WORDS), it's a wonderful examination of the attitudes and politics that shaped America in its formative years, and which have continued to embody - for better and for worse - the spirit of the country ever since. Pynchon juxtaposes the horrors of slavery and the massacre of natives with the wonders of the Enlightenment (exemplified by Pynchon's liberal portrayal of Benjamin Franklin as a promiscuous, electric-magician rock star, an account not as far from the truth as you'd think) and the diverse and utterly unique personalities that are drawn to the promise and potential of a new country. It's perhaps the one Pynchon novel that's optimistic in any greater sense - he's hardly a thoroughbred nihilist, but he's always had a vicious streak of cynicism, which is replaced in Mason & Dixon by a profound melancholy. In transporting his sensibilities 250 years into the past, Pynchon has taken to heart the optimism that surely must have characterized the founding fathers in their quest for a newer, better, free-er country than before.Reflecting its fixation on history and historicity, the novel examines the concept of time in great depth - its flows both forward and backward, the role of memory in our lives, the great unknown of the future, and so on. There's an omnipresent irony in reading about the exploits of two characters about whom we know, if not the capital-T Truth (which is impossible to ever know), then at least some semblance of it, and the paths their lives would take them on - all the while the two wondering to what final purpose their lives have led (or been constructed for, keeping with Pynchon's paranoia). Of course, at its heart, the novel is about two divergent personalities - the somber, thoughtful Mason, who spends much of the novel pondering life's meaning in the absense of his beloved, deceased Rebekah, and the cheerful, carefree Dixon who is content to while away his days chasing skirts and drowning himself in beer - who come, over the years, to possess a shared fondness despite their marked differences in attitude. These two are easily the most sympathetically drawn characters in Pynchon's body of work, in no small part because of the greater role they take on than the usual Pynchon protagonists, and perhaps also because of their foundation as historical figures, who thus seem more real even in Pynchon's exaggerated account of their lives. Their journey through the heart of America and their witness to the clash between scientific exploration and the intangible, ineffable natural beauty of the world (which, given Pynchon's own fondness for abstruse scientific minutiae, is meta as hell) provides us with the most vivid, three-dimensional Pynchon characters yet. The two don't act so much as react to the shaping influences of the country, and by extension we come to know them, just as they come to know each other, in greater depth.And that's to say nothing of the aesthetic merits. Pynchon has always had an unparalleled way with words, and in adopting his style within the confines of 18th-century vernacular - replete with superfluous capitalization, apostrophes, dashes, and anachronistic diction - he manages to lose none of his charm, humor or insight. His allusive style provides many of the book's funniest moments - try as he might with all his fancy words, he can't completely skirt around the fact that his characters are discussing having sex with a goat. What's most impressive is how digestible it is - after a few dozen pages, deciphering it became second-nature. (Perhaps having GR and AtD as primers helped.) In fact, I was saddened as much for any reason to have finished Mason & Dixon because I know of no other novel written like this. Thank God then that it's Pynchon, whose books demand rereads like nobody else's.


Oh, where to begin with this gem? Mason & Dixon is Pynchon's most moving novel, a panoramic view of the Enlightenment-gone-human. The author's cozy narration, performed in sometimes anachronistic 18th-century vernacular, lends a playful flavor to this buddies-tale and enhances the mixed-brow humor that makes Pynchon great.As the tale unfolds, as readers we are continually challenged in our preconceptions of the Age of Reason. We find the Great Minds of Science and Civilization (beyond the eponymous duo, there's an opiate-maddened Ben Franklin, a pot-smoking General Washington, and more[!]) housed in amusingly flawed Bodies of Mortality. The Enlightenment project, instead of the gallant crusade against he unknown, is pictured here as a somewhat haphazard stumbling through a frightening wilderness, driven more by ordinary human foibles and desires than by any guiding light of Truth.In the midst of this epic, at its core even, is the wonderfully rendered friendship between Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. It is this relationship, given with such stirring deftness, that really makes this book Pynchon's best. While his earlier books all illustrated the author's grasp on the Big Ideas, on grandiose Themes and Archetypes, Mason & Dixon brings his skill down to the level of the lived and idiosynchratic.All told, Mason & Dixon is quite possibly the finest (read: my favorite) novel I've yet read.


Once in awhile I think to myself, "Self, you're going to read a Thomas Pynchon novel", but then I never do. I never have. I'm worried I'm going to spend a ton of time and energy reading him and then hate him, and wish I could have my time back. I won't know until I try, I guess. The blurb for this one says "Mason & Dixon"--like "Huckleberry Finn", like "Ulysses"--is one of the great novels about friendship in anybody's literature"- that sounds good to me. Novels about friendships. Also, I'm a proud resident of the Old Line State, and I've crossed and recrossed the Ol' Mason Dixon Line countless times in my life. And I've been more and more enjoying the literature of my home country of late. (Ignore the fact that my currently-reading and to-read shelf utterly contradict this). So maybe Pynchon and I have a meeting up in the near future. Possibly.


I've just arrived at the last chapter & I find I'm so moved by the immenent end of the book that I have to put it aside for a few hours. It feels as though I have treavelled to the Cape & along the Mason Dixon line with the protagonists. After several months, I have finally come to the realization that the book is an experience more than a plot line. The episodes are incredibly vivid, sometimes gruesome, sometimes mystic, sometimes uproariously funny, always disconnected to most things before & after them, but they represent stages on a journey/life rather than parts of a developing story. Taken together, they make me feel like I have lived a lifetime, trekking & living history along with Mason & Dixon, & I'm putting off saying goodbye to all of that richness. Definitely a book to keep (even though it's not mine) & revisit later, knowing what to expect.It's taken me a while, but I was right to stick with it. Great book!Now I've finished it & the ending was poignant especially for the details of Isaac's name, Dr., after the doctor who delivered him but failed to save the life of Rebeckah, his mother. His father chose to call him always Dr. Isaac to remind himself of that, even though the son adored the father & longer to go to America with him. Sadly he only went at the very wend when his father was dying. Aaah!


A novel about the surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, after whom the Mason-Dixon line between the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland is named. Pynchon traces the emergence of modern America to the pre-Revolutionary years of the mid 1700s (the Age of Reason, foax!) In some passages, it is a particularly contemporary America he traces; for instance, he suggests that concepts like designer coffee were around even as early as when George Washington was still only a colonel. Like Gravity's Rainbow, which employs rocket science as a structural device, and The Crying of Lot 49, which employs the concept of entropy, Mason & Dixon is structured around scientific concepts, in this instance astronomy and geometry. In addition, like other Pynchon novels, dominant themes include colonialism and conspiracy. However, there are significant differences between this novel and Pynchon’s earlier work. For instance, the characters, particularly the title characters, are developed and represented realistically. Most frequently, the latter are shown bickering, but it is clear that underneath their disagreements, they are friends. Stylistically the novel is a pastiche of the writing of colonial America. In some instances, this is reflected in the complexity and length of the sentences. However, the archaic spellings, forms of diction and historic references do not get in the way of the “Joaks,” of which there are many. Comic passages include a talking dog and a near-fatal encounter with a giant cheese (in addition to astronomic humor, there is a lot of gastronomic humor). As in other of his novels, Pynchon exaggerates or distorts historic fact for comic effect. In addition, in some instances he represents things that will seem to most readers as if Pynchon made them up, but that actually happened.


Bored with the Edna St Vincent Millay of Savage Beauty and tired of the endless formality of complete names in Love in the Time of Cholera, I fished Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon out of the box it came in weeks ago. Sat down, stirring sugar into the tea I intended to drink while I read, and dropped my spoon.Page 1: What kind of madness is this?? Oh My God. I’m tingly. No, this is not erotica. I don’t think. I don’t know what it is. But I think I like it. A lot. Dear God. Is the whole thing like this? I can’t tell if I love it or hate it. If it goes on this way till the end I may come to loathe it.Page 773: Yes. This (thus far) lovely torture is intended to continue. And yes. I read the last page. What of it? With writing like this I’m unlikely to remember it more than seven hundred pages from now anyway.First sentence, I kid you not:Snow-balls have flown their Arcs, starr’d the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware, - the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking’d-foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of various Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel’d Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar, - the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax’d and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy Advent, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.I am speechless.

Ethan Miller

Like my good friend Jay said when I told him I was embarking on M&D; "Oh, it's a joy!"As sorrowful, paranoid, shattered and crushing as Gravity's Rainbow is, Mason & Dixon matches that power with tools of joy, friendship, bittersweet ocean's of memory both historical and personal, phantoms of love and deep melancholy of the heart and of the mind, all forged in the opposite end of the emotional spectrum from the dark brew (perhaps abyss) that is Gravity's. Here Pynchon paints with all the colors of the flowing seasons that form and dissolve the walking dream of life. A beautiful book for the Fall, for laughter, for meditation, reflection, memory and to stand inside of joy and be reminded that it's spine must be made of sadness also for it's form to function fully. It's perhaps worth noting for those that felt there was something profound and wonderful about Gravity's Rainbow but couldn't stand the trudge through it's assaultive structure that M & D has all the wild baffling Pynchon style and blaze but is a much more linear narrative, though by no means conventional. Many believe it to be his masterpiece though I believe 'M & D' + 'Gravity's' create a larger masterwork together, a Yin and Yang portrait of the West in it's modern birth and modern death. Highly recommended as the starting point in Pynchon epics. OH IT'S A JOY


For those of you with aspirations of writing the great American novel, you may want to find a new goal for the next century or so. Mason & Dixon was written recently enough that the news may not yet have caught on (how long did it take for Moby Dick?), so I will tell you now that it is the book. Upon finishing Pynchon's novel, I was seized by no desire greater than to turn back and read it again. I'm not sure why I have thus far resisted, as I don't think that anything I've read since has affected me as much as a second reading almost certainly would. I must confess, however, that Pynchon takes a lot out of me and I require long breaks consisting of reading "easier" books. I don't like propagating the rumor that reading Pynchon is difficult when it is, in fact, joyous. But, like any great novel, it requires as much from you as you hope to take from it. I miss Mason & Dixon. I miss the unique awkwardness between the title characters. I miss the mechanical duck who is becoming god or a planet or both. I miss the were-beaver. Pynchon's wackiness is as good as it gets and it will make you wonder why you bother reading anything else written in the last 50 years. My advice is to read it and not to worry.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *