That's the case with Michiko Kakutani's review of Pynchon's "Against the Day" in today's NYT.
Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, “Against the Day,” reads like the sort of imitation of a Thomas Pynchon novel that a dogged but ungainly fan of this author’s might have written on quaaludes. It is a humongous, bloated jigsaw puzzle of a story, pretentious without being provocative, elliptical without being illuminating, complicated without being rewardingly complex.She had me for a moment, there. I figured, "Well, it has been 33 years since "Gravity's Rainbow," and the dude is 69. Maybe his imaginative powers are starting to dwindle -- and, after all, some authors do end up by parodying themselves.
Whereas Mr. Pynchon’s last novel, the stunning “Mason & Dixon,” demonstrated a new psychological depth, depicting its two heroes as full-fledged human beings, not merely as pawns in the author’s philosophical chess game, the people in “Against the Day” are little more than stick figure cartoons.But as she keeps piling on, I began to wonder.
The problem is these characters are drawn in such a desultory manner that they might as well be plastic chess pieces, moved hither and yon by the author’s impervious, godlike hand. Sad to say, we really don’t give a damn what happens to them or their kith and kin. Especially when we are treated to pages and pages of them blathering on about things like “the four states associated with one of the four ‘dimensions’ of Minkowskian space-time” or their desire to “reach inside light and find its heart, touch its soul.”Let's see: She mocks "Against the Day" in terms that could also have been applied to "V." and "Gravity's Rainbow," if one were so inclined. She loved "Mason & Dixon," which she gave a rave when it first came out. "Mason & Dixon" is the most conventional of Pynchon's books, apparently her favorite, and the only one of his other books she reviewed -- but one I never really did get into, although I loved "V.," "Gravity's Rainbow," and "The Crying of Lot 49."
Like “V.” and “Gravity’s Rainbow,” this novel aspires to give us a sort of alternative history of the modern world, to probe the multiple layers of reality people can inhabit. And while its narrative is centered on events leading up to World War I, it reverberates with echoes of the world today. Terrorism (in the form of anarchist bombings) is perceived as a pervasive threat, and surveillance — whether by private detectives or unseen eyes in the sky — has become a constant of day to day life.
That's when I realize -- I'll probably like this book. I think I'll put it on my list for Santa.