Fans of Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon should check out Garry Wills’s Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, if only for Part Two, ‘A Scientific Paper’. It’s not a novel – it’s filed under History of Political Science – but it’s full of stuff that goes into novels, especially the kind Pynchon writes, image-wise if not style-wise.

“Stretched out on the muddy ground, Rittenhouse held his sickly body tense with concentration under the telescope he had made with Harvard’s lenses… The first evidence of Venus’s approach was a trembling out toward it of the sun’s rim, fuzzing the moment of contact, then viscously engulfing the small dot. Rittenhouse, intent on the precise time of contact, saw this dissolution of his certitude, desperately signalled contact on a guess, and went into a swoon of six or seven minutes’ duration, a scientific ecstacy of fear.”

“Even in the White House [Jefferson] recorded the first appearance of 37 different kinds of vegetable in Washington’s market and charted variations over an eight-year period. He would govern his life by the transit of radishes.”