Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  With this in mind, we have asked some faculty members at St. John’s what they are reading this summer.

Dr. Steve Mentz, an Associate Professor in the English Department, writes:

I’ve read it before, but since I’ve become more & more convinced that Thomas Pynchon‘s Mason & Dixon (1997) is the greatest American novel of the 90s, I’m going to take advantage of the summer to go back through it.  It’s a historical novel about the two British surveyors who a few decades before the American Revolution measured out the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania (and North and South) now called the Mason-Dixon Line.  But since it’s a Pynchon novel, it’s also a wild, paranoid fantasy about what it means to draw a straight Line through a wilderness, how Enlightenment Science and the early stirrings of United States political culture were themselves entangled with global capitalism and other insidious forces, and how apparently insignificant acts of resistance and irrationality mark human lives.  Familiar figures like Ben Franklin and George Washington share space with a talking English dog, a mechanical duck, a Chinese feng sui master, and a host of other entertaining types.

“Newcomers to the Lay-borne Life are advis’d not to look up, lest, seiz’d by its proper Vertigo, they fall into the Sky. — For ‘t has happen’d more than once, — drovers and Army officers swear to it, — as if Gravity, along the Visto, is become locally less important than Rapture.”  (p651)