Books: Pynchon vs. the Toaster

The literary master's dazzling, dizzying 1,085-page new novel is not for those looking for a snack

Correction Appended November 14, 2006

Ordinary novelists have readers. Thomas Pynchon has decoders. Anyone who has ventured into the manic densities of Gravity's Rainbow or Mason & Dixon knows the drill. You comb through his superabundance of historical data and scientific arcana. You adjust your nerve endings to operate at his mad frequencies. Day after day you resume the steep ascent of his achievement and just hope to make camp before nightfall.

In the late 1960s I encountered Pynchon's first novel, V. Duly enchanted, I swore that eventually I would decipher every one of his enigmas. That Pynchon himself...

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