Reviewed in the United Kingdom 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.
"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 .
9 people found this helpful