Sunday, July 23, 2006
The Tunguska Literary Event
Great news for fans of massive, unexplained Siberian explosions. The Tunguska Event is finally getting the highbrow literary treatement it deserves.
An article in the Guardian says that Pynchon's new novel - his first in nine years - features the T.E. as a plot point. The Guardian says:
A description of the still-untitled book - apparently written by Pynchon himself - has been posted on Amazon.com. It offers a tantalising glimpse of the coming work.
"Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after world war I, this novel moves from the labour troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Gottingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.
I have to say, that is one awesome teaser. I would buy it just for the T.E. chapter alone. As I wrote in the Know-It-All, the Tunguska Event has long been a fascination of mine. If you'll allow me to quote myself ever so briefly:
"The Tunguska Event was an 'enormous aerial explosion that, at about 7:40 AM on June 30, 1908, flattened approximately 500,000 acres of pine forest near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, central Siberia in Russia. The energy of the explosion was equivalent to that of 10 to 15 megatons of TNT. Uncertain evidence of various kinds suggests that the explosion was perhaps caused by a comet fragment colliding with the Earth.' I had more than a passing acquaintance with the Tunguska event. For a couple weeks there, when I was 8 or 9, I was obsessed with it. I had read about the massive Siberian explosion in a collection of unsolved mysteries, and I can now recall the black and white drawing of thousands of trees splayed out on the forest floor. I looked it up in other books after that. I knew all the theories--that the Tunguska event was really the result of a UFO doing target practice, or that it was a chunk of anti-matter that somehow took a left turn and sailed into our atmosphere. Naturally, I worried--if it can happen in Siberia, why can't it happen in Manhattan? Who's to say that I won't be vaporized in the 82nd Street Event."
The Tunguska Event has also been featured in a story co-written by sci fi writer Bruce Sterling and a handful of movies. But Pynchon's will surely be the Sistine Chapel of TE-based fiction.