Pekar on Pynchon

I’ve been doing some last-minute research for the Illuminated Manuscripts class which starts up next week at PNCA. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the large amount of web resources tied to comics creators, and in particular, the virtual gallons of digital ink Harvey Pekar has spilled across the internet. His blog is perhaps the perfect forum to exorcise his banality blues; unfortunately for the rest of us, though, Pekar apparently abandoned posting to it last fall when all the hullabaloo over the American Splendor film was in full-wane.

This afternoon I tripped across a review Pekar wrote of Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon for the Austin Chronicle. I’m trying to determine which is the stranger juxtaposition: Pekar writing for a Texas newspaper or him plodding through the 700+ page tome. Nonetheless, the review is vintage Pekar; I mean, come on, really: who else would have the balls to take on Pynchon?


In Mason & Dixon Pynchon employs his old gimmicks and uses one that’s new to him, though not to 20th-century novelists: He uses deliberately archaic prose, as Charles Portis did more skillfully and humorously in True Grit. The book’s a fictionalized biography of British surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who drew their famous line between Pennsylvania and Maryland in the 18th century. According to a blurb, it’s supposed to be “…a grand tour of the Enlightenment’s dark hemisphere, from their first journey together to the Cape of Good Hope to pre-Revolutionary America and back to England, into the shadowy yet redemptive turns of their later lives.” Along the way they meet Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, a Chinese Feng Shui master, a talking dog, and a robot duck. Feh! If Pynchon deserves any prize it’s for being the world’s most overrated trivia buff. He’s the literary equivalent of the Piltdown Man.

But I ain’t kidding myself about convincing readers that Pynchon has no clothes, old or new. More than likely his fans will believe jealousy inspired me to write this article. After all, didn’t Mason & Dixon get a great review in Time? Doesn’t your English teacher think he’s fabulous? Yeah, yeah.


One response to “Pekar on Pynchon

  • Anonymous

    I find it amusing that most of the negative comments about Pynchon eventually come down to a gripe about his fans and do not really engage with the man himself or his work. Pekar’s comment about Time magazine and English teachers is a perfect example–let’s forget the book and concentrate on discussing the response to the book in the media and the academic community, that’s much easier to write about. Every halfwit in this country knows that the mainstream media is strictly for children and those people who move their lips while reading and as for the groves of academe, well let me just say this: shudder. So then Harvey, how about a real review of Mason & Dixon, one covering the actual book? Let’s see what you’ve got to say about that, eh?

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