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Mason & Dixon (1997)

by Thomas Pynchon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,989322,150 (4.02)131
The lives of two 18th century British astronomers who surveyed the boundary which settled a dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania, and was later extended to become the boundary between free and slave states, the Mason-Dixon line. The novel describes their work in Africa and America, and traces their relationship. By the author of Vineland.… (more)
  1. 20
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  2. 00
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    DeusXMachina: Another (fictional) collaboration between two very different scientists: This time Carl Friedrich Gauss and Alexander von Humboldt.
  3. 00
    The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco (paradoxosalpha)
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  4. 00
    Water Music by T.C. Boyle (Widsith)
    Widsith: Two postmodern adventure novels about eighteenth-century British explorers.
  5. 00
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (zottel)
    zottel: Very similar feeling, perfect story-telling in well-researched historical fiction.
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    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (paradoxosalpha)
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English (31)  Italian (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
I only read the first 200 pages... I found it very well written and really enjoyed the playful and fun language! But unfortunately I could not always follow the meaning so it became tiresome... it is written as a series of episodes as in a travel documentary, unlike a novel having a plot. ( )
  keithostertag | Jun 2, 2020 |
My favorite Pynchon book. ( )
1 vote Adammmmm | Sep 10, 2019 |
I had a lot of fun reading this. ( )
  Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
Pynchon has been, for me, an acquired taste, but like fine wine, once you acquire it, you wonder how you missed the beauty for so long. Sure, there are still moments (mostly the jokey ones) that I find a bit flat, but here in Mason & Dixon, his first work after a long publishing hiatus, Pynchon is at his best. It's written in a made-up "Olde Style" of writing (it's impossible to do it justice in a review), but it actually works. At least it worked for me. I found the story utterly engrossing and a real intellectual joyride. ( )
  MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
I'm writing this review with about 20 pages left to go. I don't usually do this, but so what. [Update: the last 20 pages are some of the best]

This is a unique book: the writing is beautiful at times, and opaque at others, and both often. I would say it took about 200 pages before I really found my groove, and that involved using Wikipedia's List of Mason & Dixon Episodes to help me figure out just what the fuck was going on. I had assumed going in this would be a historical fiction with some silly Pynchon flair thrown in every now and then. Instead I'd say it is mostly the other way around: more silliness, less history and character study. Although, it must be admitted that Rv. Cherrycoke is taking a lot of his silly anecdotes from historical examples (The Duck!)

I don't know how to say it, but I guess I expected this to be more like Vollmann's [b: Argall|300738|Argall The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith|William T. Vollmann|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1311648155s/300738.jpg|291807], but it turned out to be more like Barth's [b: The Sot Weed Factor|24835|The Sot-Weed Factor|John Barth|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1349029340s/24835.jpg|457683]. However, unlike Barth, Pynchon can fall back on the fact that this is a story told by a Narrator, with an audience that changes and often directs the tale through explicit and implicit means. And that's a pretty powerful narrative trick. I mean, I'm not all that interested in ghostly mechanical ducks, or feng-shui, or talking dogs. I didn't truly 'get' why I was reading so much about these silly things. Perhaps they are entertaining on their own? I couldn't help but try to read the deeper meaning in these things. If there is one, then hats off to Pynchon for being so very very smart. If not... then, well, personally I'm just not that much of a [a: Tom Robbins|197|Tom Robbins|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1430660478p2/197.jpg] kind of guy. However, with the fact that we know who Rv Cherrycoke's audience is, all of a sudden it gives reason for these fanciful tales. And I start to enjoy it all the more for this very reason.

Some highlights are: Rebekah; the actual history (transit of venus, revolutionary fervor, the Line); the incestuous cousins; the Reverend and his interrupting audience; Mason & Dixon as people and as companions ("There is a fragility to Dixon now, a softer way of reflecting light, such that Mason must accordingly grow gentle with him. No child has yet summon'd from him such care."); Dixon fighting the slave-driver; this quote: "Listen to me, Defecates-with-Pigeons. Long before any of you came here, we dream'd of you. All the people, even Nations far to the South and the West, dreamt you before ever we saw you, - we believe'd that you came from some other World, or the Sky. You had Powers and we respected them. Yet you never dream'd of us, and when at last you saw us, wish'd only to destroy us. Then the killing started, - some of you, some of us, - but not nearly as many as we'd been expecting. You could not be the Giants of long ago, who would simply have wip'd us away, and for less. Instead, you sold us your Powers, - your rifles,- as if encouraging us to shoot at you,- and so we did, tho' not hitting as many as you, as you were expecting. Now you begin to believe that we have come from elsewhere, possessing Powers you do not... Those of us who knew how, have fled into Refuge in your Dreams, at last. Tho' we now pursue real lives no different at their Hearts from yours, we are also your Dreams."

Ultimately I went in with the wrong idea, but I'm leaving with a whole new appreciation of what a novel can do... and that's quite the feat. Also: this book could probably have been another 800 pages long. There really is no reason for it to ever end... ( )
2 vote weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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Für Melanie und für Jackson
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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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The lives of two 18th century British astronomers who surveyed the boundary which settled a dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania, and was later extended to become the boundary between free and slave states, the Mason-Dixon line. The novel describes their work in Africa and America, and traces their relationship. By the author of Vineland.

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