Talk:Mason & Dixon

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WikiProject Novels (Rated Start-class, Mid-importance)
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I've removed the quotes from the article. No explicit purpose for the quotes can be found in the article. Per WP:NFC, quotes must pass fairly stringent tests. I leave it to any who would wish to reinsert the quotes to come up with such a compelling fair use rationale.

I've also moved the "importance" of this article from high to null. Nothing in the article leads me to believe that this ranks up there with other high importance novels. --Tagishsimon (talk) 09:03, 2 December 2008 (UTC)


I am not saying there are no anachronisms in Mason & Dixon (I know for a fact that, either purposely or by mistake, there are a few), but the following passage from this article makes no sense whatsoever:

"Pynchon employs the spelling, grammar, and syntax of an actual late 18th century document, further emphasizing the novel's intended anachronism."

The second half of that statement ("further emphasizing the novel's intended anachronism") sounds like something a person with no clear understanding of the concept of anachronism would write. The novel is written in the style of the time, which is not anachronistic, but merely a stylistic / aesthetic choice. It would be anachronistic to have both protagonists -Mason and Dixon- speak like the characters in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, but to have them speak as they would in fact have spoken is not anachronistic at all. (talk) 11:49, 14 March 2011 (UTC)


I'd love to know Tagishsimon's justification for slamming this book. Any visit to a review aggregator confirms its reception as one of the most praised novels of the 90s. If it's mere opinion, I'd counter it by calling M&D one of my favorite novels, for my money only millimeters below Gravity's Rainbow in "importance." Arguably, it's an even better book than GR, for one because Pynchon is drawing fleshy, psychologically believable, emotionally compelling characters -- something he's not always been praised for. Also, his excursions into occult counterfactuality are thoroughly justified by the overall rhetorical strategy, as that splendid quote on the page (about the uses of history) demonstrates.

I agree with the comment about anachronisms; they're there, but hardly in any way central. T.C. Boyle does an apt job cataloging some of them in his NYTimes review. Aside from the oft-noted admonition to Cherrycoke that if confronted with Indian hemp, "Do not Inhale," and the invention of pizza (a squashed loaf, Stilton cheese and tomato "ketjap"), in the Sons of Liberty vignettes there's a portrait strongly reminiscent of punk rockers and a Goth girl. This all black-wearing camp follower (who replaces the gratuitous teenage injection of "like" with "as") is also made to clearly resemble "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher running off with Joey Buttafuoco (a "Waggon-smith from Massapequa") -- although they do get married.

This is simply part of Pynchon's well-known (adored and despised) humor armamentarium. If readers object to these things, doubtless they also wince at his tendency to break into college revue-grade song and the Stilton cheese-grade awful pungency of his puns and one-liners, not to mention his luridly allegorizing character names. It's all part of "a tradition of beatnikism" that Commentary and other conservative organs loathed about Pynchon from jump street and that Pynchon fans either learn to tolerate or to enjoy for its own sake.

The amount of genuine historical research that went into this book, however, is indisputable, and we learn many accurate aspects of 18th-century cultural history (for one tiny example, the boys who would run through smoke-filled taverns pumping bellows to attempt to clear the air).

For my money, the commentaries of Cousin Ethelmer and his oboe-playing Aunt Euphrenia ("O Euphrenia, Aunt of Lies!") make the book -- and Cousin Tenebrae is poignant well beyond the economy with which she's drawn. 'Thelmer's explanation of the drinking song he plays for the company, "For Anacreon in Heaven," along with Euphie's running commentary, is a magnificently drawn (and dead-accurate) lesson in historical musicology. We not only get a music-theoretical exegesis of what was to become "The Star-Spangled Banner," but a prefiguring of the development of jazz and the verse-chorus-middle 8 song form so important in 20th-century popular music. Cousin DePugh's concluding "Surf Music!" ejaculation only takes 'Thelmer's metaphoric descriptions ("Is it not the very Rock of the waves, the Roll of the ocean?") and turns them into a cheesy anachronism as a colorfully-cornily Pynchonian way to end the scene.

I've not quoted page numbers of the book not only because this is just the talk page, but to make the point of how much this novel, read and re-read a decade ago, has been burned into my imagination. The only other 90s novel I can think of that challenges its depth and scope is David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest -- and that book, magnificently innovative as it remains, and with sections that are still breathtaking -- is bogged down by a large amount of horrifically inaccurate attempts at prescience (the next millienium's terrorist threat to America was not going to come from disgruntled Quebecois separatists in wheelchairs). I've tried to address some of the typical brickbats thrown at Pynchon, but I remain quite curious about the reasons behind Tashisimon's utterly smug and self-certain dismissal of M&D.

Snardbafulator (talk) 04:46, 4 June 2011 (UTC)

Agree with most of what you say (and my favorite anachronisms are the Jesuit internet, and "Cherrycoke" himself), but how can you possibly think that the AdFR of Infinite Jest were DFW's "attempts at prescience"? I don't think that was meant to be taken as prognostication... Sindinero (talk) 11:37, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, but as per WP:FORUM, talk pages of articles are reserved for the discussion of article improvement. Take it to the editor talk page or emails if you want to discuss the merits of various novels and novelists, please. --Saddhiyama (talk) 12:15, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
That seems like an unnecessarily preachy admonition, especially from someone who's never been involved with this article. I know the policy, but the spirit's more important than the letter. A little enthusiasm for the topic never hurts, and seemingly off-topic discussions can sometimes, within limits, contribute in a roundabout way to article improvement. This short digression has hardly hurt the focus of the talk page, has it? Sindinero (talk) 12:33, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
It was a friendly admonition. It doesn't really matter if it has hurt the focus of the talk page, there are a lot of other places on the net where you can discuss the general subject. The article talk page is a tool for improving the article content of this encyclopedia, nothing less and nothing more. And whether or not I have been involved in the article is beside the point, everyone has their say on any article, including editors like you and me who have never actually edited the main text yet. This was the preachy admonition. --Saddhiyama (talk) 13:08, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough. Sindinero (talk) 13:24, 1 February 2012 (UTC)