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Acclaimed writer/director John Sayles has a new book out, A Moment in the Sun , which seems to have taken its cues directly from Pynchon’s sprawl and paranoia in Against the Day . They could easily sit next to each other on the Alternative History/Speculative Meta-Fiction shelf (that probably only exists in a bizarro-world High Fidelity -type bookstore.) Both seem to tread the same water as decades-spanning historical epics such as Doctorow’s Ragtime and DeLillo’s historical postmodern opus Underworld . While Pynchon’s unparalleled philosophic and scientific conspiratorial eulogizing has earned him a status somewhere between legendary genius and a teleologic crackpot, Sayles chooses a less impenetrable style. Like Underworld and Ragtime before it, historical figures are omnipresent throughout the behemoth of a text. It’s difficult to describe the bulk of the narrative, as really this book tells the story of America, from the war with Spain to gold being found in California to McKinley’s assassination. And much like Pynchon, there is a not-so-covert political tone to Sayle’s tale. At worst, Sayles might earn the sour tasting ‘revisionist’ tag, but I’d chalk it up to nothing worse than good ol’ fashioned literary license.
If decades-spanning epics wet your whistle, check out the texts mentioned above and take a gander at some of the titles below for some more historic romping and continent hopping.
The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow
Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett