Against the Day  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Against the Day, is a novel by Thomas Pynchon. The narrative takes place between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the time immediately following World War I and features more than a hundred characters spread across United States, Europe, Mexico, Central Asia, and "one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all," according to the book jacket blurb written by Pynchon. At 1,085 pages it is the longest of Pynchon's novels, and like its predecessors an example of historiographic metafiction or metahistorical romance.

Writing styles

Many reviewers have commented on the various writing styles in the book that hark back to popular fiction of the period. John Clute identifies four "story clusters", each with one or more prose-styles mimicking a popular fiction genre in the style used before the end of World War I: 1. "The Airship Boys cluster, which is told in a boys' adventure idiom."
Examples: "boys' adventure fiction, from the [contemporary] Airship Boys tale by Michael Moorcock to Horatio Alger; the Dime Novel in general; the British school story in general ... the future war novel"

2. "Western Revenge cluster, which is told through an array of western narrative voices…"
Examples: Edward S. Ellis, Bret Harte, Jack London

3. "The Geek Eccentric Scientist cluster, which is told in an amalgam of styles."
Examples: "the Lost Race novel; the Symmesian Hollow Earth tale; the Tibetan Lama or Shangri-La thriller; the Vernean Extraordinary Journey; the Wellsian scientific romance; the Invention tale and its close cousin the Edisonade ..."

4. "The Flaneur Spy Adventuress cluster, told in any style that comes to hand, from the shilling shocker to Huysmans." Clute writes that this cluster gradually comes to dominate the second half of the book, just as the Western cluster dominates the first half.
Examples: "the European spy romance thriller a la E. Phillips Oppenheim; the World Island spy thriller a la John Buchan; the mildly sadomasochistic soft porn tale as published by the likes of Charles Carrington in Paris around the turn of the century." [Clute may mean to include "the Zuleika Dobson subgenre of the femme fatale tale in particular" in this cluster.]

Clute sees (but does not specifically categorize) another style mimicked in the book: "the large number of utopias influenced by Edward Bellamy and William Morris". Pynchon also certainly has an eye to the steam punk sub-genre in Against the Day.


In the novel the child mobster "Plug" Loafsley runs a club that smells strongly of opopanax, vervain, and bodily ejecta.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Against the Day" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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