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The Journal of Literary Satire | Hastily Written & Slopilly Edited
Friday, March 16, 2007

Reading Tips for Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day

pynchonatd.jpgThomas Pynchon has written a new novel and everybody cares because it is big. Here are some tips for reading it.

  1. Learn advanced mathematics before you begin reading. Also bone up on turn-of-the-century labor disputes, optics, chemistry, amalgamation, aeronautics, tarot cards, sea mammal vocalizations, everything in the history of the world, etc.
  2. When on the subway, switch the jacket with a Danielle Steel novel so that you are not inundated with the ramblings of people who suffer from “gamer’s thumb” and used to play the Theremin in a “pointillist hard-bop electro” band called “Maxwell and the Equations.”
  3. Whenever you do not know what is going on in the story, drink two cups of coffee and try again. If you still don’t get it, drink some NyQuil. If you’re STILL having no luck, ask your friend with adult A.D.D. for his “concentration pills” and dissolve them in Red Bull and vodka and sit naked in a circle of scented candles with Radiohead playing in the background … and then chant the many permutations of the name of God.
  4. When confronted with characters whose names are “Ellmore Disco” or “Chick Counterfly,” suppress your incredulity and remember that it’s for your own good. Approximately 3,248,390 characters will be introduced before you see this guy again and it’ll help if it sounds like he was named using an assortment of odd nouns and porn-star surnames.
  5. When you are in bad neighborhoods, bring Against the Day with you. You can throw it at someone and hurt them so that they won’t steal it from you. Or you can cut a square out of every page so that you can keep your money in it, like in the movies. That way, when you get mugged, the stick-up kid will snatch the book, exclaim, “I couldn’t even get through The Crying of Lot 49,” and toss it back to you.
  6. Make sure that you know the semantic nuances of all the different ways to say “dark,” including “umbral,” and “tenebrous.”
  7. Don’t even think about CliffsNotes. They are longer than the novel itself. And they are written by Thomas Pynchon himself. In Esperanto. With invisible ink. And viewing them requires a special light filter used only by WWI-era Burmese cryptographer-assassins.
  8. Thomas Pynchon knows every language, spoken and written. So it’s adult ed 6 nights a week for you.
  9. Consult the Against the Day wiki if you don’t understand an allusion in the text. But remember that the wiki is edited by mere mortals, most of whom do not have access to ancient scrolls that are hidden in the rectums of sarcophagi-bound philosopher-kings.
  10. Finally, purge your soul of all preconceptions you have about novels. This is not a novel. It is bigger and badder. You must stop wearing clothes, bathe in sour cream, and only eat lettuce and peanut butter for two months before you pick it up. Then you must read all the criticism you can get your hands on and change every word to its opposite and then read it again. After you do this burn both versions while wearing leather pants. Then you can start the book.

Jake Tuck lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he writes stuff and wears black socks whenever possible. He contributes to foodmantooth.blogspot.com, which is about rap music, manatees and police procedurals set in Baltimore, Maryland.