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Mason & Dixon (1997)

par Thomas Pynchon

Autres auteurs: Voir la section autres auteur(e)s.

MembresCritiquesPopularitéÉvaluation moyenneMentions
4,582402,438 (4.02)158
Charles Mason (1728-1786) and Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779) were the British surveyors best remembered for running the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland that we know today as the Mason-Dixon Line. Here is their story as re-imagined by Thomas Pynchon, featuring Native Americans and frontier folk, ripped bodices, naval warfare, conspiracies erotic and political, and major caffeine abuse. We follow the mismatched pair--one rollicking, the other depressive; one Gothic, the other pre-Romantic--from their first journey together to the Cape of Good Hope, to pre-Revolutionary America and back, through the strange yet redemptive turns of fortune in their later lives, on a grand tour of the Enlightenment's dark hemisphere, as they observe and participate in the many opportunities for insanity presented them by the Age of Reason.… (plus d'informations)
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» Voir aussi les 158 mentions

Affichage de 1-5 de 39 (suivant | tout afficher)
Bizarre and fanciful, starting in a more realistic vein and then shifts to the bizarre. ( )
  brakketh | May 18, 2023 |
This is not an historical novel in the typical use of that genre, but rather in the Pynchonesque sense of the word. If you keep that in mind and do not require explanations for every absurdity you may find the journey through this large (750+ pages) novel one that entertains, provokes, and just possibly delights. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jun 26, 2022 |
Mason & Dixon is not difficult so much as obscure. For the first couple hundred pages, separate scenes and interactions kept me entertained, though I was often lost in terms of who the myriad side characters were, or how the situation fit into either protagonist's biography. I deliberately refrained from looking up the potted history of Mason or Dixon, thinking Pynchon might frame it for me. He never did. (Looking it up later I can see while little prior knowledge is necessary, having in mind the basics of the boundary disputes and the survey certainly would be useful, and would not spoil the story. I didn't know that going in, so the most difficult aspect of reading Pynchon's story cold was in maintaining faith that all would make sense, if only I would jettison expectations of an orthodox historical tale.)

About a quarter-way in, I'd figured out some references to keep me oriented as I tumbled about: the framing story with the interjecting audience, and Rev Cherrycoke -- who separately features in Mason & Dixon's timeline -- (sometimes) would recur at chapter breaks and unpredictable moments within a chapter; within that, the general outline of Mason & Dixon's professional chronology comprising first a trip to South Africa, then a return to England, and finally a trip to the U.S., with ghosts from their separate pasts flitting in and out this overarching plot. Ironically, the central signifier of the Mason-Dixon line, common to U.S. high school history classes, never makes an appearance: it turns out all that was posthumous, the two most likely never hearing their work referenced by that name.

But the revelation for me was something different, namely drawing the parallel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Like Carroll, Pynchon salts his tale with disguised historical vignettes: an attempt to measure the gravitational pull of a mountain, say, or the political salons of Colonial Philadelphia; the cultural significance of mesmerism, or the looming presence of Lepton Castle. These are presented in absurdist transformations as to be almost unrecognisable, Mason & Dixon looking on in deadpan confusion like expat Alices. I don't know for a fact these are historical referents, but they feel like them. The book is an extended romp through 18th Century Rationalism and Imagination, much like Carroll's novels do for the 19th Century.

If I ever revisit, it would be most interesting with the full-on Gardner apparatus.

The novel's denouement is highlighted by a picaresque chapter relaying the story of two Chinese astonomers, uncannily like our heroes; and winds down more poignantly than I would have thought possible, given the disparate confusion that came before. Mason & Dixon is both authentically American and recognisably Pynchonesque.

//

● "The past is a foreign country." M&D is in part a mimetic exercise, manifesting that "foreign-ness" on the page rather than eliding it. So: obscure, yes, like our understanding of 18th Century American and British people, language, customs is obscure. From the first paragraph, Pynchon demonstrates this with spelling and punctuation, and not only in idiomatic speech. I tried early on to puzzle out the caplitalisation rules, but never did. I'm aware spelling wasn't standardized as it is today, and suspect Pynchon played with that knowingly.

● Authentic Americana. White supremacy / slavery / racism are rampant throughout and described at times without comment, at other times with direct intervention by characters (the scene of Dixon accosting a slavemonger being only the most obvious and melodramatic).

● Science and Imagination. There is a thread reminiscent of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, sending up 18th Century Science with forays into superstition, error, and an extended subplot concerning talking dogs, automatons, and an invisible duck bent on revenge. ( )
4 voter elenchus | Mar 1, 2022 |
More like 3.5. I should have liked this more. I will read again to confirm, because I know it may have just been timing.

UPDATE: Second read much better. ( )
1 voter jaydenmccomiskie | Sep 27, 2021 |
A massive, if overlong, epic that culminates in a powerful and deeply moving ending. Journeying from the Cape of Good Hope, to St. Helena, all the way out into the untapped lands of the United States, the novel makes clear the raw and overwhelming power of storytelling and history, tasking the reader to remember that History is nothing more than narrative, and that the narratives we choose to hear become the Histories we will remember (or rather, soon want to forget).

At the core of this novel is the duo Mason and Dixon, who go from uneasy allies to, by the end, deep and loving friends. As a metaphor for adulthood and maturation, the men go from somewhat idealistic surveyors (Mason the less optimistic, Dixon the more adventurous) to family men who must contend with the strange paths their lives have taken, musing on how America provided a land of untold opportunity that they, in all their weakening powers, cannot ever return to. Though one should sneer at autobiographical readings of works, I cannot help but feel that Mason and Dixon is, at the end of the day, a novel about adulthood and middle age, written by one of the great historian-writers of the United States. Pynchon has been no stranger to radical and heterodox ways of looking at Western imperialism and American history, but in this novel, his satire and critique is now balanced by a deep and abiding faith, if not love, in the promise of early America and all that it would have yet provided.

And so, the writer who had always maintained a deep criticality of the American experiment, from the disaffected prose of V., the Crying of Lot 49, to the mad and didactic monologues of Gravity's Rainbow, has produced a novel that, though difficult to read and parse, at times too long for its own good, too stuffed with ideas and scenes and plots, is for all intents and purposes practically a masterpiece through sheer force of will.

I therefore implore the reader to take a chance on this novel, as Mason and Dixon do on America. It may exhaust you and at times enrage you, as the country does to M&D on more than one occasion, but when you are done, you will find yourself remembering scenes and situations and the beauty of a country possible only through the sculptures of prose. Thomas Pynchon has produced a great novel which, twenty five years after GR, re-affirms his power to shock, surprise, and now, sadden us. ( )
1 voter acquabob | Aug 20, 2021 |
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Pynchon, Thomasauteur principaltoutes les éditionsconfirmé
Stingl, NikolausTraducteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
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Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr'd the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins, carried Hats away into the brisk Wind off Delaware,—the Sleds are brought in and their Runners carefully dried and greased, shoes deposited in the back Hall, a stocking'd-foot Descent made upon the great Kitchen, in a purposeful Dither since Morning, punctuated by the ringing Lids of Boilers and Stewing-Pots, fragrant with Pie-Spices, peel'd Fruits, Suet, heated Sugar,—the Children, having all upon the Fly, among rhythmic slaps of Batter and Spoon, coax'd and stolen what they might, proceed, as upon each afternoon all this snowy December, to a comfortable Room at the rear of the House, years since given over to their carefree Assaults.
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Charles Mason (1728-1786) and Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779) were the British surveyors best remembered for running the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland that we know today as the Mason-Dixon Line. Here is their story as re-imagined by Thomas Pynchon, featuring Native Americans and frontier folk, ripped bodices, naval warfare, conspiracies erotic and political, and major caffeine abuse. We follow the mismatched pair--one rollicking, the other depressive; one Gothic, the other pre-Romantic--from their first journey together to the Cape of Good Hope, to pre-Revolutionary America and back, through the strange yet redemptive turns of fortune in their later lives, on a grand tour of the Enlightenment's dark hemisphere, as they observe and participate in the many opportunities for insanity presented them by the Age of Reason.

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