Friday, January 11, 2008

Pynchon, redux

"Everyone has an Antarctic." --V

During last year's trip, I strained to finish Gravity's Rainbow while at Pole. I'd lifted my copy of Rainbow from the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory (MAPO) at Pole in 2000, and brought it back with an eye to finishing it and leaving it behind. I failed, but finished it a month or so later, and then tackled and summited his latest, Against the Day, which, while longer and less poetically gorgeous than Rainbow, was an easier read, and just as fun.

This year I thought it fitting to bring down, in Rainbow's stead, my copy of Pynchon's V, purchased in Geneva, Switzerland in 1990. Never managed to finish it despite several attempts, but after Rainbow and Day it should be doable. I'm going to see how far I can get until Station Close - I have a month. We shall see.

I think Pole is a great place to read Pynchon. Here's why Antarctica feels like a Pynchon novel:
  1. Dozens or hundreds of quirky but poorly-elaborated personalities advance and recede from view, colliding in myriad ways, like solitary molecules bonding in various configurations and then flying apart;
  2. The tenor of Science lurks everywhere, a kind of unifying thermal paste holding the whole thing together, but you're not sure exactly how or why;
  3. Lots of strenuous effort bent in all sorts of absurd ways (drilling holes 2 miles into ice? Christmas trees made out of metal parts in the machine shop? Driving for hundreds of miles across icy wastes searching for meteorites? Running naked from 200 degree sauna out into -100 winter air?);
  4. Lots of stuff happens, sometimes exciting, often tedious, often painfully beautiful, usually strange; but there really isn't much of a plot.

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