Snoods, Gnomes, Loupes, Coffee (A Passage from Pynchon’s Novel Against the Day)

Electrical arcs stabbed through the violet dusk. Heated solutions groaned toward their boiling points. Bubbles rose helically through luminous green liquids. Miniature explosions occurred in distant corners of the facility, sending up showers of glass as nearby workers cowered beneath seaside umbrellas set up for just such protection. Gauge needles oscillated feverishly. Sensitive flames sang at different pitches. Amid a gleaming clutter of burners and spectroscopes, funnels and flasks, centrifugal and Soxhlet extractors, and distillation columns in both the Glynsky and Le BelHenninger formats, serious girls with their hair in snoods entered numbers into logbooks, and pale gnomes, patient as lockpickers, squinted through loupes, adjusting tremblers and timers with tiny screwdrivers and forceps. Best of all, somebody in here somewhere was making coffee.

Another passage from Thomas Pynchon’s great big book Against the Day.



7 thoughts on “Snoods, Gnomes, Loupes, Coffee (A Passage from Pynchon’s Novel Against the Day)”

    1. You’re gonna love it. I read it earlier this year. Classic. V., that is. Against the Day due a re-read but I’ve got so many books to wade through first. Good luck and, “Single up all lines.”


  1. How uncanny and serendipitous – on the same day you post a Pynchon excerpt with gnomes I post a James Tate poem with a gnome.


    1. My first was Mason & Dixon. Comment seems to push Inherent Vice, but I haven’t been able to get in the required mood to tackle it. Bit put off by Big Lebowski comparisons, however unfair. V is good. Good luck.


    2. I think V. is a good starting place. Or maybe The Crying of Lot 49, which is short, obviously. I think I read Gravity’s Rainbow first, which is very good, but maybe overinflated by its reputation (I’m enjoying AtD much more, but I’m also twice as old as I was when I read GR). I wouldn’t start with Vineland or Inherent Vice.


      1. I agree with you on V- it sets up P’s early obsessions with Weiner, Eliade and most importantly Weber, whose influence reaches its peak in GR. But Vineland is awesome and accessible, and marks a significant shift both politically and aesthetically, one that is elaborated upon and further complicated in Mason and Dixon (which some consider his late masterpiece) and Against the Day. Clues to this post-GR shift can be found in his introduction to his collected early stories, Slow Learner, as well as in his occasional journalistic pieces for the New York Times, e.g. “Is It OK to Be a Luddite?” and the essay on sloth in the capitalist era, “Nearer Thy Couch To Thee”. Inherent Vice is definitely a return-to-Vineland romp, and best viewed as Pynchon-lite.


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