Allison C C itibaren Ust'-Toya, Novosibirskaya oblast', Rusya, 633172
This book is hilarious, witty, raunchy, full of dazzling Joyceean passages, one-liners, and zany comic-book action. It gets four stars for sheer chutzpah. Not to mention its cartoonish characters, some of which are more three-dimensional than others. Who could fail to appreciate a dazed and confused, aging hippie burnout named Zoyd, whose chief source of income stems from public displays of insanity; a red diaper baby secretly turned on by power (literally and figuratively); a priapic math professor named Weed Atman; an outwardly celibate female ninja who occasionally turns tricks and is named - wait for it - DL Chastain! The villian, CIA megalomaniac/frat-boy philistine Brock Vond, is a suitably vile creation with just enough depth to turn your stomach. Not all characters hit the mark: Hector, the TV-addicted federal agent of Chicano extraction is just a bit too stereotyped; Takeshi, the Japanese "karmic adjuster"-cum-lounge singer lacks depth. Let's face it - Pynchon is U.S.-centric and masculinist. But for sheer entertainment value, this novel kicks ass. The biggest problem with the novel that I saw, which may be the reason why it's often called Pynchon's worst, is its relative lack of structure and thematic development. It starts out with a bang (or a crash, really), goes everywhere, and ends nowhere. It has a dizzying array of subplots culminating in sub-climaxes, but it ends without really tying the loose ends into any kind of coherent resolution. In other words, it has a tendency to follow a Fordist conception of history, i.e., "one damn thing after another." If you pick it up in the middle and read any of the detailed flashbacks that are meant to explain the origins of the "main character," Zoyd's ingenuous and credulous daughter Prairie, each of those flashbacks almost works as a story unto itself. Not only that, each flashback explains a different aspect of the disappointing, often horrific transition from utopian-revolutionary-hedonistic '60s bliss to burned-out, conservative-cum-fascist '70s "Nixonian reaction," right up to the complacency and latent aggression of the '80s and the "War on Drugs." Pynchon doesn't give us nostalgia, however - he portrays the '60s counterculture as full of moral naivete, superficial spiritual yearnings, and intellectual vacuity, although a good time was had by all. If you're a fan of '60s lore, this book is for you. If you like whiz-bang action and adrenaline-rush writing, this book is for you. If you like carefully constructed, Flaubertian novels with each thing in its right place, don't touch this thing with a ten-foot-pole. Cheers!