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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 17 December 2013
This meticulously researched and crafted epic is a unique mix of serious historical novel, "bromance", and a series of surreal Pythonesque sketches involving a talking dog, a mechanical duck and giant vegetables. It is full of laugh-out-loud moments, sweeping historical set-pieces and touching human interest. But it is a difficult read. Written in idiomatic 18th century style (the prose as well as the dialogue), full of verbose asides and often branching out into post-modernism and magical realism it can be very difficult to follow at times. The experience is similar to reading a difficult book in a foreign language which you speak well without being completely fluent. Here is some sample prose to illustrate what I mean...'In the Hold were hundreds of Lamb carcasses,- once a sure occasion for Resentment prolong'd, now accepted as part of a Day inflicted by Fate, ever darkening,- exil'd to which, he must, in ways unnam'd,-perhaps, this late, unable to include "simply,"-persist.'
In short I'm very glad I read it and I'm very glad I've finished it.
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on 13 September 2016
Mason & Dixon is a novel of consummate brilliance on many levels, but especially language; it is simply one of the great masterpieces of English prose. Ever.

Like this:

"Does Britannia, when she sleeps, dream? Is America her dream?---in which all that cannot pass in the metropolitan Wakefulness is allow'd Expression away in the restless Slumber of these Provinces and on West-ward, wherever 'tis not yet mapped, nor written down, nor ever, by the majority of Mankind, seen,---serving as a very Rubbish-Tip for subjunctive Hopes, for all that may yet be true,---Earthly Paradise, Fountain of Youth, Realms of Prester John, Christ's Kingdom, ever behind the sunset, safe till the next Territory to the West be seen and recorded, measur'd and tied in, back into the Net-Work of Points already known, that slowly triangulates its Way into the Continent, changing all from subjunctive to declarative, reducing Possibilities to Simplicities that serve the ends of Governments,---winning away from the realm of the Sacred, its Borderlands one by one, and assuming them unto the bare mortal World that is our home and our Despair."

"Some mornings they awake and can believe that they traverse an Eden, unbearably fair in the Dawn, squandering all its Beauty, day after day unseen, bearing them fruits, presenting them Game, bringing them a fugitive moment of Peace,- how, for days at a time, can they not, dizzy with it, believe themselves pass'd permanently into Dream...?"

"There is a fragility about 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."

As you can see, this is nearer poetry than prose, and it seems almost preternatural that anyone could write at this level for 773 pages, but Thomas Pynchon does.

If you revere, in Pynchon's own words, " ...this English idiom we are blessed to have inherited..." I think you'll treasure Mason & Dixon .
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on 31 May 2017
I remember buying my first cooy, hardback the day it was published in New York. Started reading on the flight home and got lost and entangled in the twiists and turns but wound up hooked and fascinated. All these years later having been through the paperback edition and nkw the kindle I am enthralled hooked and fascinated. I have always enjoyed books that require me to work and this was the long way in but woukdnt have missed it for anything. A beautiful masterpiece.
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on 17 June 1999
A mechanical duck, a talking dog, trigonometry, flying along lay-lines, an ear that hears all, real history and total fantasy all rolled into one. Written in an unusual style of almost phonetic 18th Century English, with totally irregular capitalisation, this is far from a light read in more ways than one as it is also over 700 pages long. Follow the adventures of Mason and Dixon as they carve a line across America and into history. Pynchon has mixed real events, folk-lore, real and imaginary people into a novel that I will have to read again to fully appreciate. Very very funny at times, totally perplexing at others but always crying out for you to read just one more page before you put it down for the night. If you are looking for a book that you actually have to read, rather than just look at the words, then this could just be it.
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on 29 December 2007
In the search for the mythical "Great American Novel", too many are guilty of forming their idea of what this should be before reading any of the contending texts. Hence, the likes of Don De Lillo, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth and John Updike are those most often mentioned in this context. The assumption is that the beast should deal with twentieth century material - the America of skyscrapers, mass immigration, tenement buildings and baseball.

However, what better way of getting to the soul of a country than an exploration of the initial conditions at that nation's birth? Thomas Pynchon obviously agreed and came up with a kaleidoscopic overview of America in the womb.

Over 700 pages of the most impressive prose imaginable, Pynchon takes us on a tour of eighteenth century America, with doses of South Africa, the UK and St. Helena thrown in. But this isn't just an academic exercise designed to create dazzling prose, this is a touching novel with larger than life characters and a big heart - a human novel that emphasizes decency, open-mindedness and human frailty.
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on 10 July 2015
couldn't get into it at all - the only book I have never finished - believe me, I did try...
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You want great writing? Pynchon can write. Sometimes jaw-dropping images and ideas stop you in your tracks, and make you put the book down for a bit just to take it in.
At other times, the writing is deceptively simple. Just read the first line of this book. "Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr'd the Sides of Outbuildings, as of Cousins..." With a few simple words we can hear the thump of snowballs on wood, we know that we are talking about a large family ("Cousins", not "Children"), the tense tells us we are probably at the darkening end of a winter day, and in describing buildings and kids as equal targets, we have a gentle wit.
So far, so what, maybe? Well, call me a ponce but in the reference to arcs, we have a reference back to Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon's massive, crazy WWII novel loosely themed around the deadly parabola of the V2 rocket. In the reference to stars, we have a pointer in the direction of the theme to come in Mason & Dixon - astronomy and the cosmos, at the time of a shift in society's relationship to it. Mason and Dixon are brought together to carry out astronomical observations, and Mason uses the stars to navigate his line across America.
There you go, a couple of hundred words about the first line. You're in for a rich, astonishing read - just take your time.
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on 7 April 2010
Not much to add to the other reviews - they are spot-on, this is a wonderful book.

But just one point for you to ponder: did anybody else imagine John Thaw and Kevin Whately as Mason and Dixon while reading this, or is it just me?

The sense of the the grumpy southerner and the chirpy Geordie is uncanny, right down to their speech patterns. I wonder if Pynchon is a "Morse" fan?
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on 11 August 2016
The only Pynchon i could not finish and after 6 years of reflection and a re-reading of V and slipping deeper into Gravity's Rainbow I finally know why

Pynchon's line of business is the erudite COSMOPOLITAN semi-historical novel [see Lawrence Durrell too]with a propensity for skidding from say Namibia to Mongolia over one page with a detour through Helsinki; all with improbably-unlikely-named characters you cannot also fully remember or who do not ever recur

That is V Gravity etc .... and that works

'In M&M he remains Stateside for the duration which becomes claustrophobic and if not American the reader may find the subject-matter TOO solely American
'The characters are HIGHLY defined and recurrent not Pynchon-like
... maybe this sounds like the guys who sued Neil Young for not being Neil Young enough [How Neil Young Became the First Artist to Get Sued for Not Being Himself] ?
'The storyline traditional in essence here which he does nowhere else fails to grab; and fail-to-grab is the cardinal sin in fiction/music/politics/comedy etc etc

So in M&D the Master missed the target; it happens
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on 12 July 2004
I cannot add much to the long and detailed analyses of this book written by other reviewers. Suffice to say that, when I heard it discussed ( B.B.C radio programme, just after publication) by a mixed gathering of critics, one (whose name currently eludes me, but is an esteemed critic) reviewer referred to it as possibly the greatest book of the 20th. century.
It is the only book I have hurried out to buy as a hardback publication. I have also read it twice. Unlike "Gravity's Rainbow" (it left me bombed out after a few chapters), this is a big book that is quite an easy read.
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