P.S. This Book Is Restoring Mah Brain Powers to Mah Brain

Every year since I was 28, right after I’d finished the novel V, I have pulled out the above novel and tried to read it…and failed for some reason, putting it aside after about four pages. As part of my “Restore Jeff’s Brain Powers to His Brain” campaign, I picked it up again this past weekend…and I’ve soldiered on past page 75. This time I decided to just let it wash over me and hope I’d find an anchor somewhere…and I did. To the point where I’m now going back to page one and “rewriting” it with mah new brain powers to add in any context I didn’t pick up on the first time around, before moving forward from page 75.

Why now? No idea. Perhaps something I read in the last year was the software I needed to load before shoving this advanced shit into my mind. Anyway, I’m loving every minute of it, and I’m especially loving having to go slow and to parse meaning out things. And I’m even more loving the fact that there’s a huge freakin’ dream-monster haunting a diplomat that just comes out of nowhere! And a secret mythology of bombs! And this weirdo growing bananas. And crazy experiments. But that it isn’t gonzo, it isn’t lightweight, it isn’t just farce. I think I’m in love.

Okay, carry on with your lives. I’ve got to pack for Richmond.

P.P.S. Gio Clairval and I sold our collaborative story, “Lizard Dance,” to Fantasy Magazine. (I must add that Gio did the heavy lifting.)

12 comments on “P.S. This Book Is Restoring Mah Brain Powers to Mah Brain

  1. Ben Jones says:

    I’ve been back-and-forth over whether to read this one. I loved The Crying of Lot 49 but found Vineland to be kind of a bring-down. You make some good arguments in favor of it. The bananas alone pique my curiosity.

  2. The appearance of the Giant Adenoid (sic) defeated me last time. Again. I’ll happily re-read (and re-re-read) Ulysses but something about this grates. And I also enjoyed Lot 49. My fault, not Pynchon’s, I need to be in the right mood for that kind of frivolity.

  3. Nat Katz says:

    I read Gravity’s Rainbow over the summer and, though it was incredibly difficult to get through, ended up loving it. The combination of bizarre humor, incredibly cool moments, and interesting ideas was exciting enough to keep me going, even if I don’t think I understood everything. If you keep going, you’ll get to my favorite part of the book: a sentient lightbulb. You know you’ve got to see that.

  4. Eric Schaller says:

    I started several times, but the furthest I got was about half-way through, too much of the book came across as un-edited subconscious ramblings, even though and in spite of a very strong beginning that has stuck with me for lo these many years.

    I loved V, absolutely loved it; thought Crying of Lot 49 was a bit to simple after going through the V experience; quite enjoyed Vineland which has a strong enough plot to carry forward the craziness and also has its heart in the right place.

    for what its worth–ES

  5. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Eh–not liiistening. Gonna read it. All the way through. No more spoilers, either. :)

  6. JesseBird says:

    I got to around page 400 in one go with this book. The only parts I grasped and understood where the parts with Roger Mexico and Jessica Swanlake. I still want to find out what happens with them, but so much of that book was like garbled static on a radio in-between the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. Frustrating, but I hope I can muster up the strength to make another go at it sometime soon.

  7. Claire says:

    I read it my first year in college, but mostly on buses and trains (and in bus and train stations) on weekends, so I suspect the full impact was lost on me. I keep eyeing it (as well as _V._), but haven’t quite gotten around to reading it again. Of his “recent” books, I thought that _Mason & Dixon_ was really wonderful — both very funny *and* fun to read. _Against the Day_ is also a good read (and airships!), but not quite as fun as _M&D_.

    (I also haven’t gotten back to _Vineland_, but it’s probably worth it for the bits with the planes and the mysterious creatures alone.)

    I would say that the most annoying thing about Pynchon is the songs — not because they’re there, but because I always want to know what the tune is, and have to try to figure it out as I read them, which disrupts the flow of the book!

  8. Anne S says:

    I still possess the copy I bought way back when I first attempted to read it. Gave up after a chapter or two, and have never tried again, nor feel inclined to.

  9. T.N. Tobias says:

    It’s on my reading list for this year. It’s thickness may make it an winter 2011, under-the-snuggie read. You’ll tell us what you think when you’ve finished, Jeff?

  10. Josh says:

    Word is that John Barth, who’d been a Creative Writing prof for almost thirty years at the time, read it when it came out and said, “I keep waiting for him to slip up, but he doesn’t: he has complete control!” It’s quite a feat. Some readers, however, are frustrated with the gender politics or the Sixties attitudes toward sexuality or the New Left sentiments about power. And some readers just don’t like puns.

  11. James says:

    I’m completely incapable of commenting rationally on this topic. I’m not sure I’d feel the same way if I came to the book for the first time now–in fact, I’m almost certain I wouldn’t–but when I initially picked it up twenty or more years ago it was a perfect reading experience. I’m not sure how long I actually spent with it, but it was either a day that seemed like a year or a year that seemed like a day. One of those books that seemed to have been written just for me.

    My age certainly had a lot to do with that reaction, and the timing must have been right in other ways, too. It was as if all my previous reading had been preparing me for Pynchon, and I’d never run across a book that had so much in it.

  12. Rob Davies says:

    This is my favorite novel that I haven’t finished. I have been making another attempt in bursts of 50 pages or so in between other books.

    Against the Day is a much easier read.

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