23 February 2018

Book Review: Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

I won't say that I am a Pynchon fan. I have read three books of his by now, and I must say that it is a hit or miss experience. I liked V. a lot, but didn't really enjoy Gravity's Rainbow nor Inherent Vice. Nevertheless, Pynchon for me is this mysterious character of a novelist, writing thick and dense novels, so I find myself coming back, trying to give him another chance, and reading another book. So this time I picked up Mason and Dixon.

This is a historical novel, and the events narrated by the 70-something episodes that constitute this book revolve around the expeditions of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in southern Africa, in Saint Helena, and in the Americas, as they delineate the Mason-Dixon Line. The book is structured as a frame narrative, where a large storyline is composed of several other small storylines. It is hard to grasp this book as a whole, but as long as one is content with encountering little stories strung together, then this is an enjoyable read.

There are plenty of topics that this book covers, and Pynchon does a good job of mixing science with science fiction, and history with fable. There are many historical characters that appear, but the reader doesn't fully know which one is a real historical event and which one isn't. This novel is less a novel where one reads it in order to grasp a complete story, but more a novel where one reads it in order to experience a trip.

As I was reading it, I definitely had fun. It is a very complex novel, and I won't pretend to claim that I understand it. I don't, and it definitely deserves a second reading, as every other Pynchon book.

In any case, if you are a Pynchon fan, then this is a must-read. If you want to begin reading Pynchon, this probably is a good starting point. But don't expect it to be easy. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

See my other book reviews here.

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