Mason & Dixon: A Novel

by Thomas Pynchon

Hardcover, 1997

Call number




Henry Holt and Co. (1997), Edition: 1st, 784 pages


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member funkendub
“Snow-Balls have… their Arcs,” Thomas Pynchon’s fifth novel begins. Trying to calculate the arc of the narrative of Mason & Dixon is as difficult as the calculus involved in calculating the arc of a thrown snowball. It’s a huge book, not just in number of pages, but in ideas, both comic
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and profound, and in erudition.

The story involves the lives, travels and adventures of two globe-trotting Brits, an astronomer and a surveyor, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, as they travel south to the Cape of Good Hope and then west, into North America. Mason and Dixon survive, of course, into the present as the name of the line that separates North from South (the southern boundary of Pennsylvania). But Pynchon, as ever, is never only writing biography or history; indeed, he writes that “Who claims Truth, Truth abandons. History is hir’d, or coerc’d, only in Interests that must ever prove base.”

This story is related to an unruly bunch of kids on a series of winter’s nights in 1786 (“the War settl’d and the Nation bickering itself into Fragments”) by one Reverend Wicks Cherrycoke. As long as the Reverend can keep the children entertained and out of the hair of adults, he’s welcome to the room and board of the house.

As such, the story Cherrycoke tells is only marginally about measurement, precision and mapping. As with Gravity’s Rainbow, the density of vocabulary and scientific data, once a reader manages to scale the intimidating walls they present, function as metaphors of human emotion and motivation. To redeploy the words of one young character, this language-rich novel acts as “A Vector of Desire.”

Pynchon, despite his (well-earned) reputation for difficulty and his refusal to help us poor readers out with the occasional interview (indeed, the most recent photograph of him is some 45 years old), is a joker and a prankster. Mason & Dixon is like the carriage in which the eponymous heroes ride in one scene: “Our Coach is a late invention of the Jesuits, being, to speak bluntly, a Conveyance, wherein the inside is quite noticeably larger than the outside, though the fact cannot be appreciated until one is inside.” The novel looks quite large enough from the outside; inside are universes entire, parallel, tangent and quite divergent.

Originally published in Curled Up with a Good Book
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LibraryThing member Raven
On the face of it, this is an impenetrable, seven-hundred page chronically insane madhouse of a book. Not only is it written in eighteenth-century prose and replete with archaisms, it is also not "true" - or it's all true, depending. The narrator, the Reverend Cherrycoke, is telling the story to
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entertain his extended family, but he wasn't there for all of it, and people and places he never knew keep coming into it, and it isn't as if parts of it - crazed mechanical ducks, Jesuit conspiracies, flying children and talking dogs - aren't shaggy dog stories anyway.

And despite this, it's wonderful. Beneath the baroque anecdotage, it's a story of Mason and Dixon, the surveyors (a story, not the story) chasing transits of Venus and surveying their famous Line, and being "mates". The pay-off of the book, or what you get after you have patiently stuck with it for all seven hundred pages, is the wistful tale of two people who were friends despite every indication otherwise, and you believe it: because of all the things in the book, it probably makes the most sense.
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LibraryThing member tikitu-reviews
A difficult read, but highly rewarding.

The first difficulty lies with the language. The story is set in the mid-18th century, and Pynchon has chosen to write in period style. I can't speak to how accurate his imitation is, but it's a far cry from modern standards. My review of Russell Hoban's
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Riddley Walker should convince you that idiosyncratic language doesn't usually scare me off, but (somewhat to my own surprise) I never really got used to the idiosyncratic capitalisation. To the very end I read the capitalised words (in my inner voice) as more heavily emphasised than the author probably intended, giving the sentences a decidedly odd rhythm.

Here's a passage from early in the frame story (the Reverend Wicks Cherrycoke is telling, in chaotic and fractured style, the story of the title characters Mason & Dixon), to show you what I mean:

Tenebrae has seated herself and taken up her Needlework, a piece whose size and difficulty are already subjects of Discussion in the House, the Embroidress herself keeping silence,-- upon this Topick, at least. Announc'd by Nasal Telegraph, in come the Twins, bearing the old Pewter Coffee-Machine venting its Puffs of Vapor, and a large Basket dedicated to Saccharomanic Appetites, piled to the Brim with fresh-fried Dough-Nuts roll'd in Sugar, glaz'd Chestnuts, Buns, Fritters, Crullers, Tarts. "What is this? Why, Lads, you read my mind."

"The Coffee's for you, Nunk,--" "--last Time, you were talking in your sleep," the Pair explain, placing the Sweets nearer themselves, all in this Room being left to seize and pour as they may. As none could agree which had been born first, the Twins were nam'd Pitt and Pliny, so that each might be term'd "the Elder" or "the Younger," as might day-to-day please one, or annoy his Brother.

The passage isn't chosen at random; it's the moment that I decided I loved the authorial voice, even with its erratic capitals and disconcerting spellings. The same light humourous touch runs through the entire novel, and remains a delight whenever it comes to the fore.

The story itself is about the friendship of Charley Mason and Jere Dixon, the astronomer and surveyer who laid down the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland. On one level Pynchon is playing it straight: he sticks to the known historical details of the period and the pair, and indeed the book is meticulously researched not just for accuracy of detail but for the various flavours of the times, the concerns of society and so on.

In another sense, though, the novel is a surrealist and comedic extravaganza, featuring a talking dog, Vaucanson's famous mechanical defecating duck (escaped from Paris and in amatory pursuit of an ex-chef), an invisible American Golem, a sinister Jesuit and his insane Chinese feng shui-adept nemesis, were-beavers... One sign of Pynchon's mastery is how he weaves together the surreal/comic and the serious, putting the dichotomy to work in parallel with the changing sympathies of the two central characters.

At root, as I said, the novel is about their friendship. It begins and ends with Mason's death, taking in their first posting together, their epic collaboration in the young America, and their partial estrangement and eventual reunion. At the beginning the story is fairly simply told, and by the end it's a bit of a tear-jerker, but (like that recent invention the "Sandwich") the meat is in the middle. Cherrycoke's narrative becomes fragmented, the same episodes are retold with variations or explicitly denied, at one point a separate story (an erotic fantasy of Indian capture being read by two of the Reverend's audience) somehow folds itself into the story he is telling... When Mason & Dixon turn back East there is an explicitly counterfactual passage detailing the increasingly mystical consequences if they had continued West...

This layered, interwoven narrative conceals rather than reveals the 'plot', in the sense of the precise story of the actions of the characters. There are also (of course) hints and shadows of conspiracy, which might be their imagination or might be political or even metaphysical... but neither type of plot is really the point of the exercise. Mason & Dixon is at root a study in character and atmosphere, and what plot or plots it contains is very deliberately kept kaleidoscopic and unclear.
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LibraryThing member paradoxosalpha
Mason & Dixon is the only Pynchon book I've read twice: once on my own, and once aloud with my Other Reader. It's a downright hilarious tome, and only funnier if you're familiar with the larger Pynchon ouvre for the coy references that start with the parabolic trajectory in the opening sentence. If
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the rocket of Gravity's Rainbow is merely a snowball in this novel, that's a wonderful thing. Despite the book's heft, it has a real intimacy, and--in many senses of the word--domestication. The Pynchonian playfulness works itself out on a more human level, and while there are still views of social and cosmic tragedy that strike hard and chill, this weave of historical improbabilities and personal yarns leaves the savvy reader with a flushed and slushy sense of satisfaction.

Pynchon offers Mason and Dixon as a pair of characters that are almost a diagrammatic odd couple: the mournful encompassing astronomer, and the cheerily square land-surveyor. But for all that, they are never mere allegorical poles. Unlike earlier Pynchon protagonists, who seem to dissolve under the force of the author's manifold micro-plots, Mason and Dixon actually become more coherent and characterful from start to finish.

This volume doesn't even pretend to be anything but fiction within fiction, but I give it more points for capturing the likely weirdness of its place(s) and period than any number of naive or revisionist pictures of the nascent United States. And if the worth of history is to give us a sense of the origin of our own perspectives and values, Pynchon seems to have done real historical work here. All of the crazy anachronisms and supernatural oddities just help the reader maintain the sort of healthy and happy skepticism such enterprises should always have at hand.
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LibraryThing member elenchus
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
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refrained from looking up the potted history of Mason or Dixson, 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 halfway 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 & Dixson'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 came later, 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 & Dixson looking on in deadpan confusion like a latter-day Alice. I don't know for a fact these are historical referents, but they feel like them. The book is an extended romp through 19th Century Rationalism and Imagination, much like Carroll's novels.

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

Pynchon ends with a picaresque chapter relaying the story of two Chinese astonomers, uncannily like our heroes; and concludes his telling more poignantly than I would have thought possible, given the disparate confusion that came before.
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LibraryThing member rab1953
This is a mad book, and wonderful to read. It’s dense and took me months to get through but it’s so much fun that I read the last hundred pages with some sadness, knowing that it was approaching the end.

What I liked about it was the sheer imaginative creation of so much colour and incident,
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such weird characters and a setting that brings out not only the founding myths of the USA, but also contemporary issues like racism, paranoid fantasy, imperfect science vs. popular culture. The stories of the increasingly powerful mechanical duck, or the fortune-telling English dog, mysterious palaces in the forest, or the subterranean world are so numerous that by the end I just wanted to go back and check them out again. Some are so striking that they stay with me, such as the confusion and loss felt when the calendar was reformed to eliminate 11 days. But this is a book that academics can (and do) study to understand the meaning of the details, while casual readers can read just for the pleasure of the stories. You can get hung up on the details and the archaic language, but it’s more fun just to enjoy it as a fireside story with plenty of incident.

It is genuinely comic to read, including satirical portraits of English, American and South African class cultures. And yet it comes together in a touching way as Mason and Dixon work out their antagonisms and develop a kind of closeness and friendship. One of the themes that comes through all the mad detail is how the working friendship helps two very different men find connections with their societies and their families in tumultuous times.

For me, the key theme and the central story in the book is the founding of America, so-called. The form of the book itself, written in a faux-18th century style, is a first person narrative of someone who claims to have been at some of the central events leading up to the American Revolution. Yet his story is obviously made up to entertain his listeners so that he can stay on living comfortably with his relatives. He makes up absurd and impossible, but highly entertaining, incidents involving Franklin, Washington and other Americans, as well as their British colonizers. I love the idea that the political discussions of the time all take place in coffee houses so thick with smoke that people cannot see each other and are intoxicated with caffeine, nicotine and alcohol – they don’t know who they are talking to or what they are talking about. They best political strategies don’t come from the intellectuals, but from pirates planning insurrection in the warehouses along the New York harbour. The talk of liberation comes in a society in which casual racism, slavery and aboriginal massacres are endemic. This points to the myths that underlie the foundations of any nation, and the unreliable but convenient stories that they are based on. It’s good that it is Pynchon, a respected American intellectual, who shows this, because it would be unwelcome from many other voices. It is curious that the theme, which to me seems so significant, has not shown up in any of the reviews I’ve read of the book. I think it’s also interesting that Pynchon ends the story on a meditative tone with Dixon’s family populating the new country and giving up the old country with its ghosts. Yes, it seems to conclude, there’s a lot of ridiculous storytelling going on, but let’s acknowledge that and get on with making a good life.

In the end, I enjoyed this book so much that I look forward to reading more Pynchon, whom I have not read for decades. But first I’ve decided to read a real 18th Century picaresque, Tom Jones. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf in a lovely leather binding of 800 pages, so it too will take some time to read, but there I look forward to another extended visit to the 18th Century.
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LibraryThing member billiecat
My favorite and in my opinion, the best of Pynchon's works so far. To the extent a Pynchon book is about anything, it is about everything, but the chosen vehicle for this voyage is a faux eighteenth century picaresque novel describing the adventures of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. The prose
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can be difficult at first, but once you adapt to the strange capitalization and phrasing, and adjust yourself as always to the Pynchonean sudden shifts in perspective and narrative focus, what emerges is a rumination on (along with the usual Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know), fathers and sons, husbands and wives, freedom and slavery, friendship and old age. As such, it far more tender than much of Pynchon's other work, and for its humanity it stays with you long after you set it down.
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LibraryThing member davidabrams
When I finally finish a book like "Mason & Dixon," all I can do is sit back, wipe the sweat from my brow and say, "Well, I’m glad that’s over!" I’ve heard it said that Thomas Pynchon is not for everyone. After reading this novel from the author of "Gravity’s Rainbow" and "V.," I can safely
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say, he’s not my cup of coffee.

And coffee is what you’ll need to get through all 773 pages of "Mason & Dixon." A Ph.D. in early American history wouldn’t hurt, either.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s much to admire in this complex, satirical novel. Pynchon has reached (perhaps overreached) for a novel on the order of James Joyce’s "Ulysses" or the more recent "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace. I have a great deal of respect for ambitious novelists who paint with such a large and intellectual brush. However, it’s tough to sit through pages and pages of archaic jokes and historical diversions. I felt like the guy at the cocktail party who has this big sloppy grin on his face even though he’s not getting any of the jokes.

There’s jokes a-plenty in "Mason & Dixon." A talking dog that waxes philosophic on Buddhism, a mechanical duck looking for love in all the wrong places, George Washington getting stoned, Pre-Renaissance superstition versus the Age of Enlightenment…that sort of thing. My hair was definitely parted a couple of times as Pynchon threw fastballs at me.

For those whose follicles are already parted, here’s a brief lowdown on the highbrow: Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were the British surveyors who in the mid-1700s were given the assignment to map out the boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland. It was a line that eventually came to represent the division between slaveholding and free states. If you paid attention in history class, you’ll remember it as, naturally, the Mason-Dixon line. The novel follows the pair through their turbulent careers as they chart territory in the South Seas, wrestle with the Royal Astronomical Society, navigate the dangerous forests of the eastern United States, consume massive amounts of espresso and, ultimately, fall into a bitter dispute that ruptures their relationship.

"Mason & Dixon" is occasionally very effective, especially when detailing the affection and later disaffection between the two men. But the language is so complex (it’s written like a faux 18th-century novel) and the structure so convoluted that I found my attention wandering after only a few pages at each sitting.

There may be brilliance here in these pages, but I couldn’t cut through all the literary fog to find it.

(Note: to get maximum benefits out of this book, read [as I did] Dava Sobel’s wonderful "Longitude" first. You’ll still be lost at sea, but at least you’ll have a couple of landmarks to guide you.)
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LibraryThing member veranasi
You have to try very hard to bump into a poorly written Pynchon book. Mason and Dixon is what you'd expect from Pynchon, a literate adventure book complete with imaginative diversions. The style will be off-putting to anyone who doesn't have the patience to read anything outside normative writing.
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I'm going to read this one again, and again, because the book says I have to or I will explode.
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LibraryThing member davidkulma
Even though Pynchon writes in a purposefully 18th century fashion, this work is easier to read than his best known work, Gravity's Rainbow. In terms of plot, it is much more straight forward, and the writing rarely makes me wonder "what just happened?"

This book is very funny. I guffawed at many
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moments. Yet, there is a certain kind of sadness in the character's realizations that make this book more serious than anything else by him. The mix of the two makes for a fulfilling read. This is the first time I have felt that the author was invested in his protagonists. This the best novel by Thomas Pynchon I have had the honor to read.
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LibraryThing member kirstiecat
It would take me about three hours to do a decent review of this novel but suffice it to say that it really delves into the actual characters that Mason and Dixon both were, or at least how Thomas Pynchon imagined them to be. Pynchon did an extraordinary amount of research from the foods eaten to
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the old fashioned words in dialog and even the way words were spelled back then. There's also a sense of the preposterous here between the ghost of Mason's dead wife and a sense of missing 11 calendar days. My favorite parts were the animated duck and dog, gigantic vegetables, werewolves, the discovery of Uranus, the sense of overall adventure, the personification of Melancholy, and the sense of history of these two Brits coming to survey the land of America on the brink of it's fruition when there was a clear struggle between and the European settlers as well as a clear sense of wrongdoing that Mason and Dixon have against slavery...and, of course, animosity was growing between those who had settled in North America and Great Britain. It was a time when lightning storms and eclipses were the most exciting thing to happen and when two land surveyors could, in Pynchon's mind, have the adventure of a lifetime. There's a bizarre supernatural aspect of this in parts but just enough of a sense of actual history to keep it grounded. There's also a great deal of religion here with partial sermons even.

In any case, I'm not sure how much Pynchon embellished on their personalities but I found myself wanting every word to be true and really routing for these two...Also, I admit I liked Mason the best. This is the kind of novel one could cherish many times throughout a lifetime in all it's nonfiction historical elements mixed with the preposterous ones.

Some quotes I liked:

pg. 220 "He (Emerson) has devis'd a sailing Scheme, whereby Winds are imagin'd to be forms of Gravity acting not vertically but laterally, along the Globe's Surface,-a ship to him is the Paradigm of the Universe."

pg. 289 "Melancholicks are flocking to Town like Crows, dark'ning the Sun"

pg. 309 "Soon there's a distinct feeling in the Rooms of Afternoon...the Child trembles at the turn in the Day when the ghosts shift about behind the Doors, and out in the Gust beaten wilderness come the Paxton boys..."

pg. 346 "In America, as I apprehend, Time is the true River that runs 'round Hell."

pg. 361 "What Machine is it, "young Cherrycoke later bade himself goodnight, "that bears us along so relentlessly? We go rattling thro' another Day,-another Year,-as tho' an empty Town without a Name, in the Midnight...we have but Memories of some Pause at the Pleasure-Spas of our younger Day, the Maidens, the Cards, the Claret,-we seek to extend our stay, but now a silent Functionary in dark Livery indicates it is time to re-board the Coach, and resume the Journey. Long before the Destination, moreover, shall this Machine come abruptly to a Stop...gather'd dense with Fear, shall we open the Door to confer with the Driver, to discover that there is no Driver, Horses,...only the Machine, fading as we stand, and a Prairie of desperate Immensity..."

pg. 512 "Like a Dream just before the animals wake up..."

pg. 555 "Mason for a while had presum'd it but a matter of confusing dates, which are Names, with Days, which are real Things. Yet for anyone he met born before '52 and alive after it, the missing Eleven Days road again and again in Conversation, sooner or later characteriz'd as "brute Absence," or "a Tear thro' the favric of Life," and the more he wrestl'd with the Question, the more the advantage shifted toward a Belief, as he would tell Dixon one day, "In a slowly rotating Loop, or if you like, Vortex, of eleven days, tangent to the Linear Path of what we imagine as Ordinary Time, but excluded from it, and repeating itself,-without end."

pg. 586 "There is a love of complexity, here in America..."

pg. 603 "Withal, he (Mason) is too open himself to the seductions of Melancholy and its own comfortless phantoms, to call anything even as remotely hopeful as this into question..."

pg. 614 "A Defile of Ghosts growing, with the Years, more desperate and savage, to Settlers and Indians alike. You'd not wish this Line to pass to close to them, I shouldn't think."

pg. 634 "So that's why Swedes chose to sail between the Capes of Delaware,-the thought it was another Fjord! You fellows do like a nice Fjord, it seems. Instead, they found Pennsylvania!"

pg. 637 "But Time, surely, by now, no longer matters to her (the duck)?" Peter now curious,"-no longer passes the same way, I mean."

The Frenchman shrugs. "Yet we few, fortunate Objects of her Visits remain ever tight in Time's Embrace," sighing as if for the Duck alone.

"She, then,...enters and leaves the Stream of Time as she likes?"

pg. 657 "Another Lively Question is, Does it remember the Days, when we were bigger than Beets, yes, by about the same Proportion'd you notice, that Beets are now bigger than us? Now that the Tables are turn'd, do, do they harbor Grudges? Do they have a concept of Revenge, perhaps for insults we never intended?"

pg. 702 "Then why not consider Light itself as equally noxious," inquires Dixon, "for doth it not move ever straight ahead?"

"Ah!" a gleam as likely Madness as Merriment appearing in his Eye..."

pg. 745 "Out there in the Fog brimming and sweeping now over Ridge-tops and into the Glens, somewhere it waits, the world across the next Line, in darkness and isolation, barren, unforgiving, a Nation that within Mason's lifetime has risen to seize the Crown, been harrow'd into submission, then been shipp'd in great Lots to America. "I imagine there's yet a bit of ..resentment about?"

The Doctor snorts. "The word you grope for is Hatred, Sir,-inveterate, inflexible Hatred. The 'Forty-five lives on here, a Ghost from a Gothick Novel, ubiquitous, frightfully shatter'd, exhibition gallons of a certain crimson Fluid..."

pg. 746-747 "This Mountain I'm about to seek must be regular as a Prism, as if purposefully constructed in days of old by forces more powerful than ours...powerful enough to suggest about God (whatever that may be) has not altogether quit our own desperate Day."

pg. 750 "Reflection on any Topick is an unforgivable Lapse, out here at any moment where Death may come whistling in from the Dark.

"Well Hullo, Death, what's that you're whistling?"

"Oo, little Ditters von Dittersdorf, nothing you'd recognize, hasn't happen'd yet, not even sure you'll live till it's perform'd anywhere,-have to check the Folio as to that, get back to you?"

pg. 759 "When the Hook of Night is well set, and when all the Children are at last irretrievably detain'd within their Dreams, slowly into the Room begin to walk the Black servants, the Indian poor, the Irish runaways, the Chinese Sailors, the overflow'd from the mad Hospital, all unchosen Philadelphia, as if something outside, beyond the cold Wind, has driven them to this extreme seeking refuge. They bring their Scars, their Pox-pitted Cheeks, their Burdens and Losses, feverish Eyes, their proud fellowship in a Mobilitiy, that is to be, whose shape none inside this House may know."

pg. 762 "Yet, 'tis possible, after all, down here, to die of Melancholy."
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LibraryThing member ifjuly
So I wasn't necessarily expecting this to become my favorite Pynchon (so far anyway--I haven't read Gravity's Rainbow yet), but it seems it has. I'm all for its quirky cherished history (the Mesmerites!), delicious food ongoing, and frank and playful attitude towards sex and bodily functions. I
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guess when this came out reviewers remarked how this was Pynchon's warmest novel, and indeed, the interaction between Mason and Dixon is pretty touching. I liked witnessing their friendship build, that slow gentle development of camaraderie, trust, and importance that occurs at a nearly imperceptible pace over the most mundane and silly details and conversation. That felt true, and moving as a genuine phenomenon--the kind of thing where you look back, scratch your head, and wonder "At what point did this person become dear to me?"...and of course there is no single point. Liked the ending too, found it touching. The lightest hand.
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LibraryThing member P_S_Patrick
Dense, witty and well researched. In places like a postmodern “Island of the Day Before”, but less sentimental, and with a weaker plot. In fact the plot is pretty much the only thing that lets this book down, it lacks an overall direction, leaving it without suspense and expectation, a serious
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flaw in a book nearly 800 pages long. It is well written enough, which compensates to a degree, and amusing throughout, but not really a page turner in the way it could have been had it carried on at the pace it starts out at. Partly historical, partly imaginative, this book fails to combine to two well. The made up bits are meant to be funny, but because they don't add to the historical parts, being only diversions from them, the story loses out. I enjoyed reading this book, and will look out for other Pynchon novels, but I felt a lot more could have been done with this. historical, partly imaginative, this book fails to combine to two well. The made up bits are meant to be funny, but because they don't add to the historical parts, being only diversions from them, the story loses out. I enjoyed reading this book, and will look out for other Pynchon novels, but I felt a lot more could have been done with this.
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LibraryThing member jwhenderson
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
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possibly delights.
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LibraryThing member Isgodchekhov
Read 60% may attempt again at some point.
I'm blaspheming...
If I'm taking away from the Uber embedded historical references a subjunctive American History, I am coming up empty.
Give me V and Lot 49
Barth's Sotweed Factor is a much
better read in the same mold
LibraryThing member leobot
Not my cup of- whatever I happen to drink - either...
LibraryThing member BeadieAm
The only book by Pynchon I've read so far, and I'm too scared to read another in case it doesn't live up to this one!

It's a fantastical trip into the lives of Mason and Dixon, as told by one Revd Cherrycoke; with the occasional excursion away from the story and into the lives of those listening to
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It is certainly not a book to read if you are after a piece of serious historical fiction based arounf the lives of the surveryors of the Mason-Dixon line. However, as a piece of intelligent, at times funny, escapism to curl up by the fire with and lose yourself in, it really fits the bill.
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LibraryThing member vyode
written in a kinda high-fallootin & obtuse manner but the events/action skew downright goofy... has my favorite cameo ever: popeye the sailor.
LibraryThing member theageofsilt
Too Weighty and Complex for so Humble a Mind as mine. Stopped on page 200.
LibraryThing member ragwaine
Bad one to do on tape. Brillant, if a bit unreadable. Blame the book or me?
LibraryThing member brakketh
Bizarre and fanciful, starting in a more realistic vein and then shifts to the bizarre.




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