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by Dick Hill
I think my good friend Rick Steinberg mentioned in these pages as he covered for me last month that he did so because I was involved in the longest, most challenging narration job of my life, the taping of AGAINST THE DAY, Thomas Pynchon’s latest, longest, long awaited novel, to which information I must add my confession , that in truth I had never read Pynchon before being awarded this job, which, given the buzz about the work, and the huge splash created in literary waters by the controversial prize-winner and his Olympic sized opus, I consider it an honor to have been charged with, particularly in light of the enormous challenges presented by a genius of this sort to any reader, let alone a reader presuming to read the words aloud, for those words issue forth in a variety of styles that range from boy’s adventure novel to science-fiction to humorous song, (not always in English) to noir detective homage, and through half a dozen more styles and enough characters (numbering in the hundreds!) that I created an alphabetized set of index cards to keep their voices straight, though not all of the characters were, straight that is, for a fair number of them were of Cambridge education, though among those were not the anarchists, bombers, private detectives, nor Bela Lugosi or any of the plutocrats or the quaternionists and other mathematical types who spouted formulae that were greek to me and for the most part the western American sorts who brought to mind sometimes the classic literary cowboy sort though they tended more often to have a mining background which accounted for their familiarity with explosives that gave them a connection to other miners and bombers in Europe and Italian submariners and of course the wonderful yet awful mayonnaise drowning scene and the various foreign names and places which posed a challenge which was surpassed only by the master writer’s incredible vocabulary, embracing as it did an awe-inspiring and somewhat depressing number of English words I’d never before heard nor dreamt of and all this in a book of 1085 pages, which came out to a little over 53 hours of recorded audio and the largest check I have ever received, said fact being but one of the marvels about this work, not the least of which was the occasional inclusion of sentences nearly as long as this one, though far more gracefully shaped.
That’s in contrast to something I heard yesterday on NPR, a
snippet in which some sort of challenge was made to sum up an idea, or a life principle, or even, perhaps, a life in only six words. The fellow did so thusly, as an example
“If there’s more, I want it”. Six words. They said a lot.
It appears to me that unless one is truly titanic in terms of talent, (as Mr. Pynchon most certainly is, in my estimation. My director, engineer, lover, wife Susie and I stopped to marvel at some passage of cutting humor, erotic intensity, brilliant philosophical insight, groan-worthy punsmanship or some other masterstroke of literary derring-do a hundred times or more) it might be wise to exercise some judicious restraint when it comes to verbiage, and the six word exercise might be helpful in developing writer’s muscles of that sort . That’s all I have this month. I may be fulla’ shit. Often am. So here I offer my attempt, …….
Cut, cut, then cut some more.