Curiouser and Curiouser: A New Novel from Pynchon and The New World's Youngest Author Both to Publish Books This Month

Posted: November 20, 2006 in Hot Book News

There are two very different big stories buzzing around the book world today, one involving a brand new, record-breaking author, and the other the first book in years from a reclusive literary icon.

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The first regards six year old Christopher Beale, hailing from Zug, Switzerland. Christopher is poised to become the youngest published author ever. His book This and Last Season’s Excursions was completed when he was age 6 years and 118 days, beating the previous record by 42 days. It is due to be published within the next few days by a publisher from Inverness, Scotland.

According to the article in The Independent from Saturday, November 18, the book is about the adventures of Christopher’s toys. Christopher’s father is fantasy author Theodore Beale, author of the Eternal Warriors series, so apparently writing runs in his family.

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Theodore Beale

Reclusive author Thomas Pynchon will also be publishing a book very soon, his first since 1997s Mason & Dixon. Weighing in at 1,120 pages, Against the Day is already attracting a lot of notice. Unfortunately, the notice it’s getting isn’t the most flattering. New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani, admittedly a sort of notorious curmudgeon by nature, gave the book a particularly scathing review, calling it “a bloated jigsaw puzzle of a story, pretentious without being provocative, elliptical without being illuminating, complicated without being rewardingly complex.”

Ouch.

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The young Thomas Pynchon, from his high school yearbook

To make things even more surreal (if that’s possible), here’s Pynchon’s own summary of the book, as posted on Amazon:

Book Description

Spanning the period between the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Gottingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.
With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.

The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics, and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses, and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx.

As an era of certainty comes crashing down around their ears and an unpredictable future commences, these folks are mostly just trying to pursue their lives. Sometimes they manage to catch up; sometimes it’s their lives that pursue them.

Meanwhile, the author is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they’re doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur. If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction.

Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck.

–Thomas Pynchon

Contending with 1,120 pages of largely plotless material, good luck may be what the reader will need the most. This is assuredly not a novel for the faint of heart.

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You can’t say the book world is ever boring.

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