What you got here is the birth pangs of a place for discussion of Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day (hereafter cyberabbreviated ATD). It arose after an online chat between myself and Will Divide; I bruited the idea about at my place and received enough enthusiastic agreement from enough enthusiastic folks that we decided go ahead with it.
We'd like everybody to look back on this experiment fondly as a PlaceTime where we had fun, read some great literature, and learned a thing or three.
How it works
Once a week, participants will read a reasonably short and digestible section of the novel. I'm suggesting we use the scheme presented at The Pynchon Wiki as a starting point -- meaning that the first week we'll cover pages 1-25 of the book, the next week 26-56, and so on. We can adjust later if we find this is too fast or too slow.
Each week will be moderated by one person -- which simply means that that person posts a synopsis of that week's reading, noting anything, er, noteworthy, and perhaps posing some questions or observations that get the ball rolling on discussion.
The Moderators' kickoff posts (plus any Administrivia that needs to be disseminated) will be the only items that will appear on the main page of this blog. The rest of the action will take place in the Comments.
Anybody -- that's anybody -- is free to comment. But see Rule 1 below.
Rule 1: No Willy-Waving.
Many, if not most, of the folks who expressed an interest in joining this group discussion also expressed trepidation because Pynchon has a reputation for being "difficult." We, the Hosts, disagree with this, preferring to employ the word "challenging" instead. However, we're both intensely aware that Pynchon is flypaper for academics who like nothing better than to string together ream after ream of abstruse jargon with BeWilder:ing POst|MOdren / Punk-Chew-Ation. There are forums in which this sort of thing is acceptable. This is not that forum.
Anybody who tries to make anybody else feel stupid will be mocked. Without mercy. Blogger (as far as we know) doesn't allow for bannination, but we've got some expert mockers.
Rule 2: On the Other Hand...
If you can explain, elucidate, enlighten, or otherwise entertain in a way that makes the rest of us say, "Wow! You're really smart!" without making the rest of us feel stupid, you will not only not be mocked, you will be stroked, licked, kissed and fondled. The line between Rule 1 and Rule 2 is fuzzy, but I think most adults can tell the difference. Be an adult.
Rule 3: We're Friends Here.
Friends treat each other with respect, deference, deference, respect, and respect and deference. 'Nuff Sed.
Rule 4: You Hide. They Seek.
Rule 5: There Is No Such Thing as a Dumb Question.
If you didn't understand a passage in the novel (and believe me, there are passages you're guaranteed not to understand -- by design), or something a commenter or moderator said puzzles or bemuses you, speak up! If you didn't get it, odds are extremely good that others didn't as well, and that's where good conversation and enlightenment come from.
Rule 6: Topicality Is Mutable.
We'd like to stay within at least a stone's throw of the novel, but Pynchon's writing by its very encyclopedic nature encourages wide, wide -- enormous! -- exploration of our world and all the marvels in it. Let's follow all of it where it goes -- that's where the fun comes in. Moderators, please wield a very gentle shepherd's crook.
Rule 7: Humor Is In the Eye of the Beholder.
Before you hit "Send" on that priceless satiric mot, please stop and ask yourself two questions:
1. Is it really funny?If you can't answer those two questions in the affirmative, rethink. And review Rule 3.
2. Is everybody going to find it funny, or does it have a victim?
Rule 8: The Hosts Make the Rules.
We'll make every effort to keep everybody comfortable and happy. We believe the foregoing rules cover all the bases, but if New Rules are necessary, the Hosts make 'em.