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Bleeding Edge

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Thomas Pynchon brings us to New York in the early days of the internet

It is 2001 in New York City, in the lull between the collapse of the dot-com boom and the terrible events of September 11th. Silicon Alley is a ghost town, Web 1.0 is having adolescent angst, Google has yet to IPO, Microsoft is still considered the Evil Empire. There may not be quite as much money around as there was at the height of the tech bubble, but there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left.

Maxine Tarnow is running a nice little fraud investigation business on the Upper West Side, chasing down different kinds of small-scale con artists. She used to be legally certified but her license got pulled a while back, which has actually turned out to be a blessing because now she can follow her own code of ethics—carry a Beretta, do business with sleazebags, hack into people’s bank accounts—without having too much guilt about any of it. Otherwise, just your average working mom—two boys in elementary school, an off-and-on situation with her sort of semi-ex-husband Horst, life as normal as it ever gets in the neighborhood—till Maxine starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO, whereupon things begin rapidly to jam onto the subway and head downtown. She soon finds herself mixed up with a drug runner in an art deco motorboat, a professional nose obsessed with Hitler’s aftershave, a neoliberal enforcer with footwear issues, plus elements of the Russian mob and various bloggers, hackers, code monkeys, and entrepreneurs, some of whom begin to show up mysteriously dead. Foul play, of course.

With occasional excursions into the DeepWeb and out to Long Island, Thomas Pynchon, channeling his inner Jewish mother, brings us a historical romance of New York in the early days of the internet, not that distant in calendar time but galactically remote from where we’ve journeyed to since.

Will perpetrators be revealed, forget about brought to justice? Will Maxine have to take the handgun out of her purse? Will she and Horst get back together? Will Jerry Seinfeld make an unscheduled guest appearance? Will accounts secular and karmic be brought into balance?

Hey. Who wants to know?

477 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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About the author

Thomas Pynchon

62 books6,217 followers
Novels, such as Gravity's Rainbow (1973), of American writer Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, often depict individuals, struggling against shadowy technocratic forces.

People note dense and complex works of fiction of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Junior, based in city of New York. Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon spent two years in the Navy of the United States and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known today: V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity's Rainbow (1973), Vineland (1990), Mason & Dixon (1997), and Against the Day (2006).

Many readers and critics regard Pynchon as one of the finest contemporary authors. He is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the National Book Award, and is regularly cited as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Both his fiction and non-fiction writings encompass a vast array of subject matter, styles, and themes, including (but not limited to) the fields of history, science and mathematics. Pynchon is also known for his avoidance of personal publicity: people published ever very few photographs and since the 1960s circulated rumors about his location and identity.

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Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 3 books3,376 followers
May 5, 2015
The first thing to know about Pynchon books is that they fall into two pretty distinct categories, with Gravity's Rainbow and Against the Day on one side—the side of sprawling epic, of insane depth of characterization and range of setting—these are books that you don't really read, you just dive on into, in all their jagged crazy bottomless mystery. I once said that reading Against the Day was less like reading a book than reading a chunk of a river, and I stand by that.

Then on the other side you have the wacky capers of Vineland, Inherent Vice, and Bleeding Edge. I suppose these books are equally immersive, equally replete with paranoia and feverish rambling and myriad in-and-out characters and unexpected song breaks and punning turned into high art (this one has a titty bar called Joie de Beavre, to give just one shining example). But while his historical epics flout all traditional novelistic conventions by blowing them completely on their ass, the modernist novels do it in a different way, one mostly of caricaturization. The characters are cartoony, the hijinks are bananas, the twists and dips and feints are piled so helter-skelter that it's generally impossible to have any real idea what's going on, let alone where it's all headed.

Also they're so slangy, which is always such a shock from erudite genius Pynchon; he uses "spoze" for "suppose," "rilly" for "really," "sez" for "says," that sort of super-casual conversational thing. Rilly it's all broken phrasing and grammatically incomprehensible sleights of hand—a copyeditor's nightmare, I can only imagine. Also unexpected: so much pop-culture minutia, from '80s fashion accessories to obscure Norwegian death-metal bands to a t-shirt reading "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US," which, now that I think of it, is actually an anachronism since this book takes place in 2001. (J/k, not an anachronism! I have been summarily corrected!)

Anyway! What is actually in this book, you ask? Well, for once the back-cover blurb is pretty well done, if you want to go ahead and read that. It's like historical fiction but set in 2001, starring sexy Maxine, mother of two and bad-ass quasi-legit fraud investigator. She starts looking into some small financial thing with a hot-shit web property, which is really a string that leads her into a gigantic tangled ball of lies and deceptions and insider trading and money laundering and dot.com craziness and maybe down into Hell itself, sort of. There's a plethora of bonkers characters along the way, like a Russian ex-gulag rapper duo, a foot-fetishist hacker, a tween krav maga expert, a surfer acupuncturist, a Buddhist kids' videogame designer who accidentally maybe creates a parallel universe, Furbys with tracking devices under their fur, the Journal of Memespace Cartography, a haunted hotel pool, and on and on and on.

Another way of looking at this book (and another way that Pynchon seriously could not give a shit about the way a novel is supposed to be constructed) is that it's a nearly unending string of deus ex machina—things and people constantly just happening to appear on the scene at the exact moment they're needed. Like at one point our heroine is stumped about a crime investigation, having already been on the scene and uncovered absolutely nothing, and she's got an appointment with her acupuncturist, who is late, and it just so happens that the sexy stranger in the waiting room with her is a "professional nose," so of course through a series of clever subterfuges she sneaks him over to the crime scene and he recognizes the lingering whiff of an obsolete cologne in the air, which gets her that much closer to figuring out whodunit.

The whole book is like this. In a random bar bathroom, in the café at her new gym, wandering around lost on the Upper West Side, at a slinky dot.com party—everywhere she happens to go, why, wouldn't you know it? There's just the person she needed to see! There's even a character whose job is literally a secret delivery man: you never call him, but when he shows up at your door, he's carrying exactly the bootleg VHS tape or the secret dossier or the encrypted flash drive that holds the very information you so desperately need.

So yeah, it's all kind of strange. With these Pynchons it's always a wild ride, a fun but very intense disbelief-suspension, a wonky, weird-ass spin through a thickety overgrown maze world. Which I like but don't exactly love, not all the time anyway.

Except that his language, his language, his language, oh my god. It is so bizarre and brilliant and weirdly beautiful sometimes that it literally stops me in my tracks. I'll just be toodling along the pages, half-attentioned, in the midst of some strange gathering peopled with characters I only semi-remember who are talking about things I only sort of understand, words flowing by beneath my eyes to the point where I'm mostly only noticing the rhythm, lost and lost in his endless twists and feints—and then will come these passages that just slam through and make me gasp with joy, or rearrange my thinking in such a profound way that I don't know how I even was before.

Here's a paragraph for you, and if you don't react to it with a literal tingling in your fingertips and the ends of your hair, just please shut up and don't tell me about it:

Sometimes, down in the subway, a train Maxine's riding on will slowly be overtaken by a local or an express on the other track, and in the darkness of the tunnel, as the windows of the other train move slowly past, the lighted panels appear one by one, like a series of fortune-telling cards being dealt and slid in front of her. The Scholar, The Unhoused, The Warrior Thief, The Haunted Woman . . . After a while Maxine has come to understand that the faces framed in these panels are precisely those out of all the city millions she must in the hour be paying most attention to, in particular those whose eyes actually meet her own—they are the day's messengers from whatever the Beyond has for a Third World, where the days are assembled one by one under non-union conditions. Each messenger carrying the props required for their character, shopping bags, books, musical instruments, arrived here out of darkness, bound again into darkness, with only a minute to deliver the intelligence Maxine needs. At some point naturally she begins to wonder if she might not be performing the same role for some face looking back out another window at her.

Thank you Tom, you marvelous mad genius. May I never look at a subway ride the same way again.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,438 followers
May 13, 2016
Okay, here’s what I think: more women need to read this book. Looking over the reviews I note that most are from men who have read everything Pynchon has written. I hadn’t read anything by him (no, not even Gravity's Rainbow) and I thought the time was right for me to begin. He is considered a writer of great stature and I couldn’t remember why I ignored him.

This is a valentine to women. Even the title refers to women, in all its interpretations: The bloody edge of a knife held against the neck of the forces that will subjugate us; the (monthly) bleeding forward edge of an insurgency resistant to control; the bleeding heart of a mother's love for her children and the fury that unleashes itself when they are threatened. This story is about cool (mostly), calculating (sometimes) resistance against the machine. And it is so funny. I found myself shaking with laughter about three-quarters of the way through. His humor is cumulative. At some point you have to crack a smile, snort at a joke, choke out a guffaw.

I also didn’t know Pynchon was reclusive. My first thought that came to mind when learning this was that he doesn’t like the rest of us very much and can’t stand to interact. But that doesn’t appear to be the case from reading this book. Don’t think for a moment that because he is not in view, we are not in view. He is relentless in his observation, prodding and measuring our postures and attitudes. He apes us, “cans” us for future use. Now I know why he insists on anonymity: the better to catch us at our unconscious most. (best?)

But he likes us. He is gentle with his characters and the characters are us. Except Gabriel Ice. Pynchon is not nice to Ice, the cold industrialist who will collaborate with the forces of evil to achieve power at any cost to others. There is a thick vein of paranoia pushing the narrative forward: “paranoia’s the garlic in life’s kitchen…you can never have enough.”

Pynchon is described in articles about him as an "incomparable mimic," and in this latest novel, he captures the speech, attitudes, and manners of a Jewish mother in 2001 New York prescisely, though perhaps with more wit and humor than we usually enjoy there. This is a man who mines deeply what he encounters in his experience.

The first 85 pages or so may have been deliberately obscure--to keep out day-trippers perhaps--but starting any book is complicated, and this has lots of characters to introduce, including the Deep Web. We all get lost there the first time in. He tells us to hold on: “'It's all right, the dialogue boxes assure her, 'it's part of the experience, part of getting constructively lost.'” After this point, he becomes positively lucid.

He helps us along by including a woman for those of us “whose eyes glaze over” without a woman in the story. In fact, he makes her the lead: Maxine. She is a fraud investigator who’s had her license revoked, leaving her free to use slightly-less-than-perfectly-straight methods to find out about her clients and the objects of their scrutiny. She can also pack a Beretta. (I told you forensic accounting was hot: check out the Ava Lee series by Ian Hamilton.)

Maxine is a mother first and last, wife, and skeptic with antennae for a scam. She enjoys a wide circle of dubious contacts on the margins, and has an erotic liaison with an ambiguous hosiery-shredding King Lud Windust, a government (double?) agent. In the post internet boom of the nineties one firm, hashslingrz, the brainchild of Gabriel Ice, has come on her radar.

This feast of symbols has a larger message that is not too difficult to understand, but mostly it is just a fun ride. Not having encountered Pynchon before gave me an advantage, perhaps. I certainly didn’t think he was more difficult than others I have read, Bolaño for one, Pamuk for another. And he is a lot funnier. I did find myself wondering who is this guy?

Little is known of Pynchon the man, but a few souls have attempted to share what they’ve found out, including a 2013 vulture.com article by Boris Kachka: “For much of his life he would flee crowds and cities, dipping a toe into cultures and communities and then leaving and skewering them in turn.”

So this is what I’ve been able to glean about him from reading the book: he watches a lot of movies; he listens to music; he has a wide circle of friends who preserve his deliberate inconspicuousness. He listens. He observes. But does he read? Voraciously. Everything. But does he read novels? Recent novels? I think he does. I trust he does.

I like to think Pynchon has a measure of stability and pleasure in his home life now. Bleeding Edge doesn’t have the emptiness and alienation I associate with someone who is completely outside the life the rest of us enjoy. He is one of us.

I wish him well. Good vibes, coming your way.

The following writings will help immeasurably with your understanding of the novel. For a writer, Pynchon has a remarkably small body of published work, but he is consistent.

Pynchon on Sloth

Pynchon Review of Love in the Time of Cholera

Is it OK to be a Luddite?

The only other thing I would add which I did not mention before, is that Pynchon is suggesting that the surface web has devolved into crass commercialism and rubbish, burying the promise of an unleashing of creativity and knowledge-sharing that was so evident at its inception. This has been noted by Jaron Lanier in his book Who Owns the Future? and continues to rankle those who had a large part in shaping our experience to date. We need to be paranoid about who is monitoring and monetizing our data, Pynchon says. Yep. And, well, he goes further...that old radical...

Profile Image for Greg.
1,117 reviews1,876 followers
October 30, 2013
Real-ish Review

Dwell upon our memories, but there are no facts.

Mental note to self, next time you read a book but you can't post a review for a couple of months why don't you try writing the fucking review soon after you read the book, and not wait till the day before the book is to be published? Just a thought, stupid.

Whenever I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver. - attributed to Goering.

The re-occurrence of this line in the book for some reason sums up the book for me. I'm not sure what that says about the book though. But every time I think of the book, this what I think:

Maxine reached for her revolver.

Two months and change I've had to write this review.

I just haven't been able to do it.

Oh, yeah I'm supposed to mention that I got this book for free, from either Netgalley, the publisher, author or through some other way that I get books to read before they are published. Apparently it's a federal law to mention this (for reals?) and not just a cheap reason to float the shit out of my reviews. I haven't been given any monies, nor have I been coerced in anyway to write the review you just read. Huzzah!
Except for my screaming teen novelty review of Gravity's Rainbow, I've never reviewed Pynchon before. I've only grudgingly ever reviewed DFW before. It was a dare. I wouldn't have written about Infinite Jest otherwise.

I don't like to write reviews for my favorites.

Fuck yous are so much easier.

Song number one is not a fuck you song, we'll save that that thought for later on. You want to know if there's something wrong? ...You want to know what it all means? It's nothing.

Where to start?

First, this is minor-Pynchon. I'm expecting that there is never going to be another major-Pynchon novel, I hope that I'm wrong, but this is the Pynchon who gave us Vineland and Inherent Vice. It's not the Gravity's Rainbow / Against the Day Pynchon.

Not that they are really separate people, or that there is a massive difference in quality between the two, but there is something un-massive about some of his works. This is one of those books.

I kind of like them more when they feel all-encompassing.

In a way I'd best sum up this book as a more accessible version of Crying of Lot 49, one written by an older writer who no longer feels the need to confuse and obscure at almost every turn. It's got the same sort of female protagonist. She is caught up in the churning of events outside of her immediate control. She is sometimes more just floating through the events taking place than actively controlling her own destiny, but in Pynchon's world is anyone really in control?

While the work is more straight-forward than some of his other books, it's still filled with the slap-stick absurdity, paranoia conspiracies and screw-ball characters that categorize Pynchon's work (or at least to me). It's got all the good stuff, and a style of writing that will undoubtedly piss off that person at the New York Times.

Second, this is a early 2000's novel of New York City. You know, dot come bubble burst and collapsing buildings. Do you think there is room for some conspiracy riffing in those events?

Third, are you looking to see Pynchon really skewer the internet? Maybe you'll read the book differently than me, but that skewering doesn't happen. It's shitty and it's good. It's filled with villains and people futility trying to do good and create spaces outside of commerce. It's got Utopian dreams and unrelenting greed. But mostly it's just a bleeding edge--technology being created without the realization of what the technology can or will actually be used for. I guess one could say that the interwebs are sort of the rockets in this book, a technology everyone is scrambling around and which will ultimately change the world, but is it the technology itself or just human nature that is really at play here?

"Just to say evil Islamics did it, that's so lame, and we know it. We see those official close-ups on the screen. The shifty liar's look, the twelve-stepper's gleam in the eye. One look at these faces and we know they're guilty of the worst crimes we can imagine. But who's in any hurry to imagine? To make the awful connection? Any more than Germans were back in 1933, when Nazis torched Reichstag within a month of Hitler becoming chancellor. Which of course is not to suggest that Bush and his people have actually gone out and staged the events of 11 September. It would take a mind hopelessly diseased with paranoia, indeed a screamingly anti-American nutcase, even to allow to cross her mind the possibility that that terrible day would have deliberately been engineered as a pretext to impose some endless Orwellian 'war' and the emergency decrees we will soon be living under. Nah, nah, perish that thought.

But there's still always the other thing. Our yearning. Our deep need for it to be true. Somewhere, down at some shameful dark recess of the national soul, we need to feel betrayed, even guilty. As if it was us who created Bush and his gang, Cheney and Rove and Rumsfeld and Feith and the rest of them-we who called down the sacred lightning of 'democracy' and then the fascist majority on the Supreme Court threw the switches, and Bush rose from the slab and began his rampage. And whatever happened then is on our ticket."

The word zeitgeist may make you reach for your own revolver, but that's what this novel has succeeded in capturing. It's quite successful at capturing New York in the early oughts.

The novel feels like the New York I first moved to. Maybe it's that Pynchon captures so many minor and fairly inconsequential details of the city that makes his feel like a success. It felt like Pynchon had been walking among us back then, that it's quite possible he was that weird old guy who was also at some dive bar that had some Minor Threat blasting out of a Jukebox, or passing through neighborhoods that still stand but no longer have any of the same feelings about them. Trudging down that awful hallway that connects Times Square with Port Authority, telling you to abandon all hope. I think of the media-shy Pynchon as someone apart from the world, like Saligner hiding in his New Hampshire cabin, but he was really a guy living on the Upper West Side, who walked his kids to school and apparently also did a lot of other things in the city. When people don't know what you look like you can be the most reclusive media shy writer in the world and never have to lock yourself indoors (except when you get ambushed walking your kid to school one day).

Windust seem to think it's a date. he is done up, otherwise inexplicably, in somebody's idea of hipster gear-jeans, vintage sharkskin sport coat. Purple Drank T-shirt, enough dress code violations to get him thrown off the L train.

I feel like I should be giving thoughts, instead of just some vague and general impressions, but my shitty mind has nothing to analyze. Nothing to offer as criticism. Nothing but faint memories of the book, it's pitiful how quickly my wind cleans itself of so many details.

On some obscenely hot and humid July afternoon I should have jotted something down and given a review that would have said more, but even then I couldn't think of what to really say about this novel.

It wasn't just laziness.

I enjoy Pychon, I guess it can make me feel smart, but I mostly just get a pure enjoyment out of his books, I enjoy the dumb humor and the crazy conspiracies. The paranoia. The wonderfully bizarre characters. I'm sure other people will write much much much better reviews talking about how he succeeded or failed with the brainy stuff.

"For many people, especially in New York, laughing is a way of being loud without having to say anything."

What was here before the book was released
Fuck yeah! I have the best best friend ever!

Real Review coming 9.17.13
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,220 followers
August 18, 2016
Along with Yellow Dog this gets my vote for the worst novel ever written by an author capable of genius in his prime. A characteristic it shares with Yellow Dog is that there’s a sense the author is refusing to grow up, that he’s still straining to be cool like some middle class teenager strewing his speech with street patois.

I’m baffled how anyone managed to find the emotional engagement to actually remember who the endless cacophony of stupidly named characters entering into each and every chapter were. Not one of whom was even vaguely recognisable as a real human being. Every page is a garbage lot of acronyms, advertising and internet jargon, American media figures who no one outside the US will have heard of. The plot is frequently interrupted for stand-up comedian routines. Yes, there are moments of brilliance but boy are they outnumbered by the moments of sheer annoying nonsense.

I’m concluding that novelists should avoid conspiracy theory as a subject. The massively talented Jonathan Lethem wrote a monumentally dull novel on the subject. Or perhaps if you’re going to tackle the subject your challenge should be to remove the theory from the conspiracy as DeLillo did so brilliantly in Libra.

In this novel you spend four hundred pages waiting for 9/11 to happen even though you’re pretty sure it’s going to clarify absolutely nothing that has happened in this book. And that turns out to be the case. 9/11 comes and goes with little more significance than a rain shower. We’re not here invited to mull over the mysterious collapse of building 7 or question the size of the hole in the Pentagon; to be honest I was never sure what it was I was supposed to be looking at. Basically I wasted a month of my reading life on this.
Profile Image for Warwick.
844 reviews14.6k followers
August 30, 2014
There've been a few novels written about the 11th September 2001 attacks – DeLillo's Falling Man and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close come to mind – and most of them try to induce, not unreasonably, a visceral and immediate reaction to the tragedy. Pynchon has written about atrocities and tragedies before (most recently in Against the Day), but what's striking about Bleeding Edge is how determined Pynchon is to avoid talking about 9/11 in anything like the same terms. After huge amounts of foreshadowing, the event itself is thrown away almost in passing two thirds of the way through the novel, a remote occurrence that comes mediated through strangers and TV:

Maxine heads for work, puts her head in a local smoke shop to grab a newspaper, and finds everybody freaking out and depressed at the same time. Something bad is going on downtown. ‘A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center,’ according to the Indian guy behind the counter.

‘What, like a private plane?’

‘A commercial jet.’

Uh-oh. Maxine goes home and pops on CNN.

What follows is a lengthy examination not of the event itself – which is merely the pretext for a lot of conspiracy-theoretic playfulness – but rather of how people reacted to it. Pynchon sounds angry about it, angrier than I can remember him sounding for a long time. Typically, he hones right in on the vocabulary, objecting in particular to

‘Ground Zero,’ a Cold War term taken from the scenarios of nuclear war so popular in the early sixties. This was nowhere near a Soviet nuclear strike on downtown Manhattan, yet those who repeat ‘Ground Zero’ over and over do so without shame or concern for etymology. The purpose is to get people cranked up in a certain way. Cranked up, scared, and helpless.

Ah, the ‘purpose’. As with many of his books, it's never clear whose purpose, exactly, we're talking about, but there is a strong sense that there's one out there. Something to do with keeping everyone staring at the replaying images on the news channels, US citizens reduced to ‘a viewing population brought back to its default state, dumbstruck, undefended, scared shitless’. ‘Can't you feel it,’ one character asks—

‘how everybody's regressing? 11 September infantilized this country. It had a chance to grow up, instead it chose to default back to childhood.’

This sense of opportunity wasted runs throughout the book. The other opportunity under examination is the internet. The book is set in large part among the early 2000s geek culture, and there is a feeling of almost limitless potential that's about to be exploited or squandered. One pair of programmers has developed an interface for trawling the deep web (a version of the deep web that I don't think ever existed), and their software is being pursued aggressively by ultracapitalists and national governments – they're facing the

same old classic dotcom dilemma, be rich forever or make a tarball out of it and post it around for free, and keep their cred and maybe self-esteem as geeks but stay more or less middle income.

The internet for Pynchon is a way of transcending the constraints of reality – characters can log on and have conversations with people who seem already to be dead, victims of 9/11, victims of secret governmental machinations, whatever…an online version of the much-misunderstood ‘thanatoids’ from Vineland. The web offers a vision of the almost spiritual interconnectedness of humanity, it's a ‘small part of a much vaster integrated continuum’. And yet at the same time this is somehow thematically tied to the twin towers, so that when they come down, the possibilities of this new medium also seem increasingly to be built on very shaky ground.

And all of this is told in Pynchon's characteristically sly, amused, polymathic, stoned-incisive American narrative voice which fascinates me as much as it ever did. He writes dialogue like no one on earth: having spent the last few books doing away with such irritating formalities as ‘he said’, ‘she replied’ etc., he now relays lines of speech with no finite verbs at all, merely leaving you with a few present participles like the stage directions to a radio play:

‘So…’ some presentable young lady spreading her upturned palms, ‘warm and friendly here, right?’

‘And after the stories we heard,’ Lucas nodding, gazing amiably at her tits.

And this technique, writ large, is how he works at the level of paragraph and novel as well. He no longer does the boring necessities; he's found a way to jump straight from incident to incident. Key events or explanations arrive, smilingly without reason; characters bump into each other, simply because it is now necessary that they meet. (‘It seems accidental’, we are told at one point, ‘but there may be no accidents anymore, the Patriot Act may have outlawed them along with everything else.’)

He still believes as strongly as ever in the power of triviality and jokes, which is one of the reasons I'm able to take him so seriously. In this book we have comments about a woman on the side ‘stashed in London he's playing FTSE with’ – cute – a strip club called Joie de Beavre, and a long description of a Scooby-Doo cartoon set in Colombia which concludes with the line, ‘and I would've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those Medellín kids!’

His long ecstatic flights of descriptive fantasy are fewer here than in some earlier books, but he still puts phrases together perfectly when he needs to. Here's the last description we have of one character:

He's silent, wherever he is. By now one more American sheep the shepherds have temporarily lost track of, somewhere in the high country above this ruinous hour, cragfast in the storm.

Elsewhere attention focuses in on the sky, which is very typical of Pynchon: the threat in his books is always either somewhere above you, or deep below your feet. The sky here ‘takes on a brushed-aluminum underglow’; and later it's ‘a pale battle flag of the ancient nation of winter’. (I love that.) Near the end, our heroine notices ‘clouds moving across a smear of light, maybe the sun, maybe something else’, which is precisely the sort of minatory vagueness that Pynchon has made all his own. There is a paragraph along similar lines in Against the Day, and for that matter in this context one can't help also thinking of the famous opening line to Gravity's Rainbow.

How does he do it? There are lines in his books I read over and over and I still have the feeling that the sense can't be reduced to the words on the page. And this may be the last book we get from him: he was 76 when it came out, half a century since the publication of V. You don't expect people in their mid-seventies to be writing about (to pick an example from this book almost at random) a couple dressing up for Hallowe'en respectively as ‘a NAND gate and Aki Ross from the Final Fantasy movie’.

Bleeding Edge does include one para that's as good a summary of Pynchon's general philosophy as any:

‘No matter how the official narrative of this turns out,’ it seemed to Heidi, ‘these are the places we should be looking, not in newspapers or television but at the margins, graffiti, uncontrolled utterances, bad dreamers who sleep in public and scream in their sleep.’

What he's been bringing us for fifty years. And still showing people a third of his age how it should be done.
Profile Image for Nathan "N.R." Gaddis.
1,342 reviews1,372 followers
May 20, 2017

Me and Tome

I have a reputation on goodreads for being hyper-intelligent, indulging in reading difficult novels. It’s a reputation I like to nurture. It’s been many years of failure, in fact.

Back in college daze I was at the check-out desk of the smucker=jam/jelly library and this friend of mine comes in, fresh out of one of his English=major classes. This is one of those rare-birds on college campuses, an intellectual who actually gave a damn about getting an education beyond mere job=training. He came up to me all thumbs up saying, Pynchon is where it’s at. That was a strong enough argument and I’ve been failing to read Pynchon for many years now. Well, I mean, right up to 2009 when I read Inherent Vice.

In short order I gather’d together V, Lot 49, and gravity’s rainbow courtesy of one of those use’d book=shops I hung out at (hipster!!). Lot 49 I read twice and didn’t see too much to make a fuss about. I read V with what I recall from today’s point=of=view as zero understanding except the nose;job chapter and at least once reading it at dip=co with a couple rounds of sam adams at the bar looking like a real Pynchon hipster before I used the word hipster like this in a self-deprecating manner. Well, whatever the hell that was, I mean V, I still have that same Bantam edition. A few short years later I believe following on the heels of reading IJ I started into gravity’s rainbow and said, Ah, Yes, I get it ; This is fantastic and I have no idea what’s going on. But so I only got about 2/3 through what is today simply call’d “GR” due to some non-literary distractions. Still haven’t gotten back to it.

Meanwhile, Mason and Dixon was published and I got one of those hot=off=the=presses exemplaren. Over the course of several highly distractive months I read the words on its pages ; I recall a few nice things like presidents getting high, big rounds of cheese, a mechanical duck ; snow=balls chance in hell of me understanding it. But anyway I even bought a copy for a friend of mine who taught English, or was it History. Anyways, total failure.

Then I bought a copy of Against the Day, also hot off the presses. In fact, it may have been my first amazon PRE=order -- I order’d it before I order’d it. It sat beautifully on my dresser for approximately three years. [meanwhile, somewhere along the line, I placed one of those ubiquitous used copies of Vineland and probably Slow Learner on my shelf]. Pre=order’d Inherent Vice in 2009 ; received it in the Post ; read it ;; and Pynchonian=shape’d light bulbs began to light up in my meager brain. I GET IT NOW!!! I sail’d through Against the Day at speeds air=ships can only fantasize about. I dove quickly into Vineland -- thankful that I hadn’t read it in 1990 with all the other post-GR Disappoint’d. I was a slow learner, but I read that one too. I mean, by this time of course I was well and deep into Encyclopedic Novel Territory (“ENT”=space?), having enter’d via IJ, Sot=Weed, and The Don of Quixote.

Now here I stood, looking forward to what I’ve come to think of as Type II PYNCHON == Lot 49, Vineland, IV. Those Pynchon=Lite volumes. What I want’d from Bleeding Edge was some of that Lite Tome. That’s what it is. And I’m a Pynchon FAN=BOY. So whatever, I’ll read it. I read it. Here I am. See, I’m a DFW FAN=BOY too. And but I’ve move’d on, see. I’ll read everything that says “DFW” but mostly I’ve moved onto fanning other flames. With Tome too I’ve moved on ;; but in the case of Tome I’ve move’d on by moving backwards -- 2014 I need to retrace my steps from V through GR to M&D ;;; to make up for that failure I mention’d up there above.

Read Bleeding Edge ; don’t be disappoint’d ;; take the ride with Maxine. It’s still Tome. And something about the world feels different today.
421 reviews167 followers
August 6, 2016
Bleeding Edge begins after the dotcom crash and takes us through to a few months after the events of September 11. It is a portrait of New York during this period. A "lovably scruffy comedy of remarriage," as the Publishers' Weekly review calls it, and a really wonderful piece of urban literature, keenly detailing the visible and invisible environs of New York City and its psyche at that time. The back of the advance reading copy I got calls it a "historical romance." That too is accurate.

It's also a very funny, very Pynchonian crime thriller. Think Raymond Chandler-as-Jewish-mother. There's a strip club named "Joie de Beavre."

Dividing any writer's output into categories is problematic, but the impression I got while reading the first three hundred or so pages of Bleeding Edge was that it was more like Vineland or Inherent Vice than Pynchon's other work, while also reading a bit like a revision of The Crying of Lot 49 at times (Maxine is reminiscent in many ways of Oedipa Maas). In other words, this book feels, for most of its length, like an "accessible read" (and I know that's problematic too), relative to Gravity's Rainbow or Against the Day.

Then the events of September 11 enter the novel's world, and they immediately alter the way this book reads. The stunning way Pynchon handles the impact of September 11, on these characters and on New York and on the USA's mentality, has a retroactive impact on the first two thirds of the book, and on any retrospective thought about the book.

I doubt I'm the only person who wondered, when this novel was announced, what Pynchonian paranoia would look like when it met the Information Age more or less approaching full stride, and/or when it met the events of September 11. What this book does with paranoia is utterly fascinating. I think I'd have to read Bleeding Edge again before attempting any lit-crit-type analysis of paranoia's role in this novel vs. its role in, say, The Crying of Lot 49 or in Gravity's Rainbow. So I won't attempt any such analysis. But I'll say that just as a reader, as an admirer of Pynchon's work, I really dug reading this book's rendering of paranoia, of the Information Age and post-September 11 versions of paranoia. Differences and similarities between paranoia as rendered in this book and paranoia as rendered in Pynchon's other books are worth noting, and smarter people (or people more or less exactly as smart as I am, as in the future version of me when I've thought about this some more) will likely comment on this stuff more eloquently.

In many ways, and maybe it's just because I haven't read many of the other contemporary novels that probably exist and deal with the internet and its impact on today's world, Bleeding Edge does a better job than any other work of fiction I've read of detailing the exact weird realities (and exactly what's weird about those realities) of living with this stuff and all it entails, yes for the paranoiac but also just for everyday life. Puts a lot of stuff into perspective that we probably really need a seriously great fiction writer like Pynchon to put into perspective.

Bleeding Edge is linear and straightforward, relative to some of Pynchon's other work, though Maxine's quest makes for an endlessly complicating adventure with a stellar cast of supporting characters, and relentlessly multiplying red herrings. But the book's weight and depth both grow and grow more apparent as it goes along, though it only briefly and appropriately stops being funny. I think this is ultimately a scary and profound book, but there's of course lots of fun to be had, even with fairly serious stuff ("The Wahhabi Transreligious Friendship (WTF) Fund").

Pynchon is, of course, a master of portraying pop culture, regardless of which time period is in question. He manages here to find space even for a Kenan and Kel reference.

Nobody's better than Pynchon at communicating the full range of human experience. This is partly a virtue of the high-low divide meaning absolutely nothing to Pynchon, but he collapses that distinction in a much less trivial way than most writers have since the whole pomo thing got started. Very few writers can write novels that are real funny and real frightening, real serious and real ridiculous, real human and real artificial. Pynchon's books are all these things at once. Bleeding Edge is no exception. This is a serious historical novel, one that expresses real important truths about the human condition, whether specific to the age we live in (internet stuff, terrorism, and other stuff) or universal (love, this being emphatically one of the better love stories I've read, and paranoia, and other stuff). It's also a love/hate letter to NYC and the USA. It's also one of the funniest books I've ever read. It's also a paradise of language and style. Plus none of this stuff makes the whole thing fragmented or disjointed. Plus the stuff Pynchon writes about, whether love, sex, paranoia, violence, whatever, he's also capable of evoking their corresponding emotions. So it's never this distant exercise and instead it's always immediate. You get the idea.

There's an impulse somewhere in my gut to call this one of my favourite Pynchon novels, but that's not the kind of distinction worth making because there really aren't "minor" and "major" novels by Thomas Pynchon.

This is not one of my better reviews, I'm afraid, a fact made more embarrassing by my having had the honour of receiving an advance copy and being one of the first people to review this book on GR. But I hope I've communicated, somewhat at least, why and how Bleeding Edge offered me a glimpse, as Pynchon's stuff always does, of the heights of literary experience, and of its value to us as human beings. Or something like that.

So, uh, not a disappointment.
Profile Image for Mattia Ravasi.
Author 5 books3,550 followers
September 12, 2020
#1 in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIWkw...

An amazingly lucid and majestically heartbreaking elegia for the early-age of the Internet and the pre-9/11 world. Filled to the brim with action, humor, pop-culture references, and most importantly, with clever, honest, disinterested* reflections on the world we're all inhabiting since about 14 years. The most clever book on what the Internet means I have yet read, never too cynical, never too naive.
And that doesn't even take into account that this is mainly (well, also) about 9/11 (!!) and handles that topic too as cleverly. That's how much of a treasure chest this is.

The fact that a guy as old as Pynchon as this wrote this is absolutely mind-blowing. A must-read for any late-80s/90s kid.

*My main man Matthew Arnold would have loved old Pynchon.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,729 followers
December 24, 2015
“Culture attracts the worst impulses of the moneyed, it has no honor, it begs to be suburbanized and corrupted.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge



Pynchon could write the linear notes to an obscure hipster band and I would track that CD down and read it. At one level there is a certain amount of potential, sulfuric, fizzle genius that you can definitely smell but in this novel never quite explodes (gets expelled?). Pynchon is tracing and mapping the same subterranean ground he has fixated on from the very beginning: technology, paranoia, humor, dark entropy, etc., it is all here. It just isn't masterpiece level. It surfs at the same literary shelf as Inherent Vice and Vineland. A 4-star, VG PoMo novel, sure sure, just not a Gravity's Rainbow, a Mason and Dixon, or an Against the Day.

Another challenge Pynchon is facing is the world and its interwebs have just grabbed his schtick with both invisible hands and apparently most of us in meat world just don't give a flying purple Leonhart Fuchs that there is nowhere left to hide. My own private Idaho mother is now slowly feeding info into Pinterest's and FB's databases, my brother and father I recently read are both in a heavily redacted FBI file dealing with Michael Hastings, and I'm writing reviews on Goodreads and Audible (read AMZN; all your reviews are belong to us), cross-posting it on FB/Twitter, etc., and helping the overlords of Zuckerberg, Bezos, et al. make their next few $Billion$.

Maybe, one-day (like an oversexed Oneida Community) this complexity will all get worked out in the end. Maybe with Jesus 2.0's help, one-day, we will join hands to feed the world's hungry with more than bytes, but like Pynchon, I'm not going to hold my breath for that WTF moment.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
874 reviews2,266 followers
December 21, 2017
Mitch Hedberg Memorial Joke Introduction

I used to love Thomas Pynchon. I still do, but I used to, too.

"All Your Book Are Belong to Us"

"Bleeding Edge" is Thomas Pynchon's bid to escape the Falsche Freunde of American Post-modernism.

In it, he determinedly embraces plot as a framework within which to create a fiction of his own (not for him, submission to the tiresomely insistent demands of those "wised-up urban know-it-alls" who intermittently praise his work [when it appears to comply with their grab bag of dogmata] and demean it as "pynchon-lite" when it doesn't).

Pynchon is accountable to nothing and nobody but his own muse. He writes his own way, and he has written differently in each of his novels, notwithstanding the similarity of subject matter in some of them.

"Are You With Me, Doctor Wu?"

Let’s get the length of the novel out of the way first.

My copy was 477 pages long. There were 41 chapters in total, which made an average of about 11.6 pages per chapter. I always knew how far I was away from the next break, if I needed one. Pretty soon, I felt that I was in the hands of a master. Pynchon had set himself a goal for each section he was writing and how much time and effort he wanted to devote to it, which coincided with how much time and effort was required of us, the readers.

Once I got started, I tried to knock off about 100 pages a day.

"Help, Too Byzantine, Make It Stop!"

Pynchon’s writing was consistently lucid and entertaining, hardly purple or byzantine at all (though there were a lot of beautiful sentences in chapter 39). There's a difference between his subject matter and his writing style. His sentence and paragraph structure doesn't necessarily reflect the complexity of his subject or the sophistication of the subject.

"A Valentine to the Big Apple"

The best analogy for his style that I can think of is a cross between a television sitcom and a stand-up comedy routine. This makes sense when you consider that Pynchon name-checked Jerry Seinfeld in the jacket copy, and Jennifer Aniston and Mitch Hedberg in the body of the novel. Two things can be inferred from this: even at the age of 77 (when he published the novel), Pynchon was keeping up with what’s on TV and on the comedy circuit. This has to be the most consistently funny of Pynchon’s novels. And that applies to both his script and his timing (i.e., his overall delivery). Secondly, he wasn't trapped in the sixties (as some critics have suggested). His cultural awareness extended over the full 80 years of his life.


Susan Sontag

"A Deep Sympathy Modified by Contempt"

Some of Pynchon's most cerebral and satirical content is conveyed by way of asides and punchlines. There's a strip club in Queens called "Joie de Beavre", which reminds me of Sartre's nickname for Simone de Beauvoir.

In case you haven’t already read it elsewhere, here is a classic jest about Susan Sontag:

“You know what Susan Sontag always sez.

“‘I like the streak, I’m keeping it’?

“If there’s a sensibility you really want to talk about, and not just exhibit it yourself, you need ‘a deep sympathy modified by contempt.’”

So the joke segues into a more serious comment/quotation that’s very relevant to Pynchon’s own relationship with his subject matter: popular culture, web culture, capitalism, business culture and post-modernism.

"Greedy Fuckin Dotcommers"

March Kelleher, an old-lefty turned weblogger and gadfly in the eyes of Republican war criminals, and scumbag developers and landlords ("Back when I was getting into the business, all 'being Republican' meant really was a sort of principled greed"), continues the conversation with her friend, Maxine:

“Their idealism, their youth...Maxi, I haven’t seen anything like it since the sixties. These kids are out to change the world. ‘Information wants to be free’ - they really mean it. At the same time, here’s all these greedy fuckin dotcommers make real-estate developers look like Bambi and Thumper.”

The contempt extends to Gabriel Ice (the estranged husband of March’s daughter, Tallis), who is the owner of hashslingrz, a crooked downtown computer security firm. Gabriel has mastered the time-honoured capitalist strategy of trailing other people's money and skimming a bit off the top. Gabriel doesn't value-add. Instead, he erodes what is already there and pockets it for himself.

"Old Lefties"

Maxine Tarnow (AKA the former Mrs Horst Loeffler and mother of two adolescent boys) is the novel's chief protagonist, a decertified fraud examiner from an old leftie Jewish background (her parents demonstrated against Reagan’s covert interventions in El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 80’s; her father, Ernie, "still believes the Rosenbergs were innocent and loathes the FBI and all clones thereof"). Of Pynchon’s previous characters, she most resembles Oedipa Maas from "The Crying of Lot 49" and Frenesi Gates from "Vineland" (“a third generation lefty”). Like Frenesi with regard to agent Brock Vond, Maxine has a soft spot (between her legs) for Nick Windust, a former CIA agent who supported neoliberal terrorists in Chile and Argentina in the 70’s, and who now masquerades as the founder of a conservative think tank called TANGO (Toward America’s New Global Opportunities), while specialising in undercover surveillance and corporate espionage.

No matter what contempt Pynchon or his characters display for the agents of the military-industrial complex, it seems that Pynchon allows his characters some interactive horizontal sympathy, at least.

"Wacky Sidekicks"

Maxine’s other school chum, close friend and romantic rival is Heidi Czornak, who has recently been given tenure at the City College of New York in the pop culture department (the irony being that, pre-New Left and Neo-Con days, CCNY was known as "the Harvard of the Proletariat"): “Heidi’s idea of the echt Latina seemed to be Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961).” She thinks of herself in terms of Grace Kelly, “not career Grace Kelly, only, specifically, Rear Window Grace Kelly.”

Heidi is working on an article for the Journal of Memespace Cartography, which argues that -

"Irony, assumed to be a key element of urban gay humor and popular through the nineties, has now become another collateral casualty of 11 September because somehow it did not keep the tragedy from happening...as if somehow irony, as practised by a giggling mincing fifth column, actually brought on the events of 11 September, by keeping the country insufficiently serious - weakening its grip on 'reality'. So all kinds of make-believe - forget the delusional state the country's in already - must suffer as well. Everything has to be literal now."

Pynchon also pokes fun at one of Heidi’s peers at NYU, a professor of film. He encounters Reg Despard, a friend of Maxine’s who videotapes first-run features off the screen (with occasionally inadvertent audience participation), from which he duplicates cassettes that he sells for a buck on the street. The professor asks him if he knows “how far ahead of the leading edge of this post-modern art form [you are] working, with [your] neo-Brechtian subversion of the diegesis.”

Reg's implicit response comes much later:

"Ain't like I was ever Alfred Hitchcock or somethin. You can watch my stuff till you're cross-eyed and there'll never be any deeper meaning. I see something interesting, I shoot it is all. Future of film if you want to know - someday, more bandwidth, more video files up on the Internet, everybody'll be shootin everything, way too much to look at, nothin will mean shit. Think of me as the prophet of that."

“Holy Shit, It’s the Edge of the World!”

Shortly afterwards, “bleeding-edge technology” is defined as “no proven use, high risk, something only early-adoption addicts feel comfortable with.”

Thus, there’s a sense in which fatuous post-modernism, pseudorandomness, illiteracy, greed and the bleeding edge of culture or technology are conflated in this novel. Post-modernism is both the target of the novel’s satire and the literary practice from which Pynchon seeks to liberate himself (and us).

Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book936 followers
February 9, 2020
Bleeding Edge (2013) is Thomas Pynchon’s most recent novel. The action takes place in NYC, some twelve years before publication, around the traumatic time when the World Trade Center collapsed under terrorist attacks (although 9/11 only appears in the background). The story follows the investigations of Maxine, a fraud examiner and housewife, through a maze of illegal Internet and financial activities, linked to Middle-Eastern and Russian connections, all steered by a mysterious magnate called Gabriel Ice.

This novel is an indecipherable and paranoid labyrinth, where we come across Bernard Madoff’s rotten investments, illicit videotapes, underground complexes haunted by dwarves, Web ventures with strange names (hashslingrz.com, hwgaahwgh.com), a Deep Web virtual reality by the name of DeepArcher (departure ?), a man who has a superhuman sense of “foresmell”, debauchery parties, conspiracy theories, microwave attacks on server farms, a joint called Joie de Beavre (wtf?), so on and so forth. In the end, nothing much to hold on to but the tasty and colorful dialogues that intersperse this chaotic roman-noir-ish plot (by the way, I was much impressed by the “swag” and vitality of Pynchon’s language).

All this is, at the same time, fascinating, puzzling, mysterious, daunting, and totally annoying, perhaps just like the author himself, perhaps just like our postmodern reality.
Profile Image for FotisK.
367 reviews167 followers
April 18, 2019
Κατά τον κριτικό και θεωρητικό της λογοτεχνίας Terry Eagleton (ο οποίος δεν υπήρξε ιδιαίτερα συμπαθών), το μεγάλο μειονέκτημα του μεταμοντερνισμού έγκειται στο γεγονός πως αρνείται την εγκυρότητα των παγκόσμιων αρχών και των βασικών καθοδηγητικών κανόνων που διέπουν τα προηγηθέντα ρεύματα εν γένει, "ενθαρρύνοντας ένα είδος ηδονιστικού ετερόκλητου browsing στο πολιτισμικό shopping mall των ιδεών και των εμπειριών".

Η αρνητική στάση του Eagleton εδράζεται στο γενικότερο πλαίσιο της επικριτικής του στάσης απέναντι στον ύστερο καπιταλισμό, θεωρώντας πως το μεταμοντέρνο συνιστά τον πολιτιστικό "πολιορκητικό κριό" τού τελευταίου, και με βρίσκει σε αρκετά σημεία σύμφωνο – κυρίως στο ότι ανεξάρτητα από τις όποιες εξαγγελίες του, στην πράξη το μεταμοντέρνο (εξ όσων πάντα η περιορισμένη μου οπτική μπορεί να διακρίνει) δεν έχει κατορθώσει να ξεπεράσει τις κορυφαίες στιγμές του Μοντερνισμού στη λογοτεχνία (μα και στην τέχνη συνολικά).

Δευτερευόντως, ο λογοτεχνικός σχετικισμός που κατά περίπτωση ευαγγελίζεται η μεταμοντέρνα ανάγνωση, με βρίσκει αντίθετο, καθώς το μόνο που τελικά καταφέρνει είναι να κατατεμαχίσει την έννοια του Αριστουργήματος (κι όμως, υπάρχουν Απόλυτα Αριστουργήματα!) σε επιμέρους "αριστουργήματα" (ανά γεωγραφικές περιοχές/ φύλο/ σεξουαλικό προσανατολισμό/ θρησκείες κ.ο.κ.) που αναζητούν τα 15 λεπτά δημοσιότητάς τους με τις ίδιες αξιώσεις προτού επιστρέψουν στη λήθη.

Προφανώς υπάρχουν εξαιρέσεις – μία μάλιστα πολύ σημαντική για να την αγνοήσει κάποιος: εκείνη του Πίντσον. Δικαίως θεωρείται ο μοναδικός άξιος συνεχιστής του Τζόυς όσον αφορά τον τρόπο με τον οποίο χειρίστηκε τον γραπτό λόγο, καθιστώντας εκ νέου στη σύγχρονη εποχή της "γενικευμένης άγνοιας" επίκαιρο το πρόταγμα της "λογοτεχνίας ως μεθό��ου εκμάθησης της ανθρώπινης γλώσσας". Δεν είναι τυχαίο πως για κάποιους από εμάς τους απλούς αναγνώστες, η ανάγνωση του Πίντσον ομοιάζει με την εκμάθηση (επιτυχώς ή ανεπιτυχώς) μιας ξένης γλώσσας με παραπάνω από έναν τρόπους.

Ας έρθω όμως από το γενικό στο ειδικό, με ένα... άλμα. Λίγες δεκάδες σελίδες προτού ολοκληρώσω την "Υπεραιχμή", έσπευσα να διαβάσω εκ νέου τις 30 πρώτες σελίδες του "Ουράνιου τόξου της βαρύτητας", ενός βιβλίου το οποίο είχα…απογοητεύσει κατά την πρώτη μου επαφή μαζί του, καθώς δεν μπόρεσα να κατανοήσω τη "βαρύτητά" του και το πρω��οποριακό του ύφος. Αυτή τη φορά, ένιωσα πως ήδη στις λίγες αυτές σελίδες ο συγγραφέας κατόρθωσε να πει όσα δεν μπόρεσε στις περίπου 600 της "Υπεραιχμής".

Δεν θα τολμούσα να ισχυριστώ πως το τελευταίο είναι ένα κακό ή ακόμα και μέτριο βιβλίο - ο Πίντσον είναι ανίκανος για κάτι τέτοιο. Εντούτοις, είχα την αίσθηση καθ' όλη τη διάρκεια της ανάγνωσης πως κάπου χώλαινε το όλο εγχείρημα. Προχωρώντας, άρχισα να συγκεκριμενοποιώ τι μου έφταιγε. Με λίγα λόγια, η sui generis Πιντσονική υπερφόρτωση με καταιγισμό πληροφοριών φοβάμαι πως δεν λειτουργεί ως όφειλε, (φέρνοντάς μου στο μυαλό τους "φιλιππικούς" του Eagleton ενάντια στο μεταμοντέρνο), καθώς δεν συνοδεύεται από τη συγκολλητική ουσία, το βάθος εκείνο της σκέψης και τον λυρισμό που κρύβεται κάτω από την επιφάνεια, όσο ακατανόητος κι αν είναι εκ πρώτης (βλ. "Ουράνιο τόξο").

Από την άλλη, η "Υπεραιχμή" δεν είναι ένα δύσκολο στην κατανόησή του βιβλίο, οπότε δεν υπάρχει εξαρχής κάποιο φράγμα για να εμποδίσει την απόλαυση του ιδιαίτερου αφηγηματικού ύφους του συγγραφέα. Αυτό βέβαια δεν λειτουργεί απαραίτητα υπέρ του βιβλίου, μιας και στην πολυπλοκότητα ενοικεί η ιδιαιτερότητά του, κατά πώς φαίνεται. Αν και οι θεματικές του, για μην πω οι εμμονές του, παραμένουν αειθαλείς και πρόδηλες κι εδώ, η "Υπεραιχμή" δείχνει να έχει στομωμένη την …αιχμή της – τα αλλεπάλληλα στρώματα λεκτικών αιωρήσεων και λαβυρίνθων δεν φαίνεται να καταλήγουν κάπου, προκαλώντας πλήξη σε σημεία.

Σίγουρα από τη μέση και μετά το βιβλίο αποκτά νέα πνοή, οπότε ο φίλεργος αναγνώστης βαδίζει αγόγγυστα στα μονοπάτια που έχει χαράξει η ιδιαίτερη γραφή του Πίντσον, αν και δεν νομίζω πως είναι αρκετή για να αλλάξει άρδην την τελική εικόνα.

Γνώριζα βεβαίως εκ των προτέρων (καλοί φίλοι, πολύ πιο εξοικειωμένοι με τον συγγραφέα, με είχαν προειδοποιήσει) πως η "Υπεραιχμή" επουδενί δεν αποτελεί την εντελέστερη στιγμή του μεγάλου αυτού δημιουργού. Σε τελική ανάλυση ό,τι είχε να προσφέρει το παρέδωσε άπλετα στις λοιπές του δημιουργίες που διατηρούν άφθαρτο το άρωμα της υψηλής τέχνης του.

"Ο ουρανός πάνω από το λιμάνι θύμιζε τηλεόραση συντονισμένη σε κανάλι χωρίς εκπομπή". Όταν κυκλοφόρησε ο "Νευρομάντης" το 1984, ο αντίκτυπός του υπήρξε δικαίως τεράστιος, ανακινώντας τα λιμνάζοντα νερά της sci-fi λογοτεχνίας, φέρνοντας στο προσκήνιο μια νέα γενιά συγγραφέων υπό τη σκέπη του λεγόμενου cyber-punk. Υπήρξαν στιγμές που τον νοστάλγησα, διαβάζοντας την "Υπεραιχμή".

Profile Image for Madeleine.
Author 2 books866 followers
October 17, 2013
(This review was originally written for and posted at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography's site. I paid for and preordered this book back in March? April?, which was months before I knew I'd be writing for CCLaP.)

It is all too easy to dismiss Thomas Pynchon's most recent novel as another one for the "Pynchon Lite" pile, which is by no means fair to a book that can't help counting the likes of such heavyweights (both in the literary and literal senses) as Against the Day, Mason & Dixon and the undeservedly Pulitzer-snubbed Gravity's Rainbow among its older, beefier brothers. Bleeding Edge takes place in a world immediately surrounding September 11, meaning that it is finally a Pynchon book set in a time period with which all of its readers, especially its American audience, are familiar (this is, of course, assuming that there aren't any post-millennium-born kids out there surreptitiously paging through their parents' copies of a tantalizingly shiny-covered tome), thus minimizing the frantic research that usually punctuates a Pynchon novel's obscure cultural allusions and mathematical formulae rendered in high-minded gibberish, allowing for an appearance of simplicity and uninterrupted reading that may lull one into a false sense of knowing which way's up when Tommy P. is navigating the screaming that comes across the sky.

No, this is not a postmodern labyrinth housing a lunatic beast that is just itching to pummel the unsuspecting and unprepared with tricksy words and engineering metaphors. This is a love letter to New York City that knows all too well how The Big Apple can be a finicky--but ultimately rewarding--mistress. This is a September 11 story that does not cash in on a day burned into a nation's collective conscience. This is, quite possibly, the most from-the-heart novel Pynchon has written since Vineland--though it's still peppered with paranoid brilliance and an understanding of early-aught pop culture and tech savvy that most septuagenarians simply can't summon.

Bleeding Edge follows Maxine Tarnow, a defrocked fraud investigator and mostly divorced mother of two elementary-school-aged boys, on a madcap rush that scrambles atop NYC rooftops and dives to the depths of the as-of-yet unexplored nether regions of an internet the public was just beginning to embrace en masse. It is the standard Pynchonian detective fare in that it derives its own flavor from a cast of characters bearing Muppetesque monikers, a balance of humor and heartache that is nothing short of scientifically calibrated for maximum effect, a tangled web of paranoia surrounding a shady computer-security firm that only works itself into a tighter knot the more Maxine prods at it, and a healthy dose of parental concerns augmented by a Jewish mother's terminal worry.

While Pynchon's previous works had a tendency to spiral off into myriad directions, Bleeding Edge seemed more streamlined than its predecessors. An old acquaintance brings the questionable finances of an as-of-yet defunct dotcom to Maxine's investigatory attention before the pages even reach the double digits and the plot tirelessly tears ahead from there. Each question posed by our unflinching protagonist does, unsurprisingly, bring three more questions to the surface but there is a sense of overall connectedness and bigger-picture relevance threading its way through each new twist and turn that Maxine & Co. face.

Allowing the plot to remain unusually unfettered by carefully choreographed chaos and divergences, along with wrangling a comparatively small cast, allows Pynchon's writing to take center stage in Bleeding Edge. For all his ability to weave masterfully complex scenarios into a rich tapestry of life-imitating, intricately layered storytelling, Pynchon cannot ever get enough credit for simply being one hell of a writer. The man knows his way around the English language like few others do, deploying ten-dollar words just as easily as he plays casual comedy against understated devastation.

The events of September 11 occur more than halfway through the book, and the day itself is relegated to roughly three pages. It is tempting to submit to the urge that allows that day to dominate whatever it touches; however, Pynchon's deliberately tactful approach to encapsulating the day allows for its aftermath to come to the forefront, as its lasting effects and the inevitable changes it brought--especially to New York City and the areas close enough to both it and Washington, D.C. to feel the ripple effects for years to come--were the true test of a population's endurance. This is where so much of the book's heart comes into play, as September 11 and parenthood become inextricably linked: As we cannot protect our children from the unpleasant truths of life, we could not protect ourselves from one Tuesday in September that rocked everything we thought to be true more than a decade ago. For all of her professional acumen, Maxine is, at her very core, a loving Jewish mother who wants to give her boys the world and can't shake the guilt over such a world being a dangerous place that, like the parade of girlfriends they'll one day bring home to her, will never be good enough for them.

The point is, one has to adapt to and learn from life after trauma, as one can't become stronger without facing an event that demands personal growth and paradigm-shifting perspective tweaks to overcome it. Which is as close to a resolution as Bleeding Edge really has. Because sometimes things aren't neatly settled. People die but the world marches forward and will not stop as a courtesy to all the survivors who are left shaken and grieving. Unplanned growth is the universe's way of pushing us beyond our comfort zones to become the best version of ourselves. Admittedly, it is initially frustrating to come to an end of the book that leaves a trail of loose threads in its wake but the questions that this novel asks still don't have answers. And the questions aren't nearly as important as the discoveries made while searching for a solution, anyway.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,493 reviews2,374 followers
May 31, 2022

Compared to Gravity's Rainbow this was light work. Compared to most other writers though, due to a plot that ends up losing the plot, it's anything but. It doesn't take long to realise you're in a Pynchon novel alright, and with names like Horst Loeffler, Driscoll Padgett and Conkling Speedwell, and companies like hashslingrz & hwgaahwgh, it was good to see that Pynchon hadn't lost his edge in that respect - although it wasn't till around the 100 page mark that he really kicked in, when the Jewish heroine Maxine Tarnow has a dream about a talking penis wearing a football helmet.

Here, like in Vinland, it's more character driven, and is linked more to that novel than others in the fact that there we had the villainous goverment agent Brock Vond, and in Bleeding Edge we get the bad guy too; tech security firm mogul Gabriel Ice. Both novels had a similar zany tone too, both have pop-culture references and some great glib-in gags. There is are two big difference though - Vineland was shaped by TV and hippies, here it's all centered on capitalism and the world wide web. Secondly, Vineland is a much better novel. This does feature a multitude of genres though. Taking in sci-fi, cyber-crime, some chick lit, The Bonfire of the Vanities-ish satire, detective story, YA, and more. It is also VERY American. No globe-trotting here. The biggest thing that bothers me about the novel though, was when 9/11 was thrown in around the half way point. It kinda went off kilter from there on. Also, I found it too long. Not far off 500 pages, it could have done what it set out to do in about 300-350.

Overall, 3.7 rounded up. I found it better than V & The Crying of Lot 49, not quite as good as Inherent Vice, and miles off Gravity's Rainbow. Vineland though remains my fave. Which might come as a surprise to some. But I thought it was great.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,889 reviews1,416 followers
October 20, 2013
My friends and I created our online reading group samizdat in the summer of 1999. Our first selection was Gravity's Rainbow and we've made a number of efforts since then to recreate that cherry high. Those distant days of yahoo and dial up are recreated in Bleeding Edge, though most of its characters play with a heavier set of clubs. The Kabbalic notion of a deep web where the eschatological becomes, well, virtual is hardly a new idea. Pynchon drapes it all in a noir apparatus with a crime scene at Ground Zero.

Pynchon goes with a female protagonist, Maxine - mother of two and fraud investigator - Frau investigator. It has been a long time since Oedipa Mass and I think Maxine finds her form with verve. It is rife with all the standard Pynchonian parodies. There is a biopic channel where all notable personalities receive 100 minute, big screen treatment. there are song lyrics at every turn and an entire football roster of blurry men on the grassy knoll. There are fingers pointed to Wahabi networks funded from dot.com dividends, a scratchy DVD showing a fail-safe with Stinger missles being used if the planes didn't complete their mission. There is also a host of Mossad and Russians running around, not to mention an entire room of Jihadis with an ElectroMagnetic Pulse. Oh well, one shouldn't expect subtlety.

There is a scene towards the end where Maxine is discussing the internet with her father. He rebukes here deterritorialized utopian view and tells her point blank that it was designed by cold warriors, that intent has to linger.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,634 followers
October 29, 2016
I loved this book to be honest. The idea of an old white WASP like Pynchon choosing a 40 year old single Jewish mother as a badass protagonist was great. The plot was quite topical (deep web and conspiracy) and yet believable. Ice was a great bad guy, the minor characters including the love interest were fun and interesting. But mostly, I loved the fully fleshed out heroin and her moral code adjusting to changing circumstances and priorities as the story advanced.
Profile Image for Arthur Graham.
Author 72 books655 followers
December 19, 2017
"That was the moment, Maxi. Not when 'everything changed.' When everything was revealed. No grand Zen illumination, but a rush of blackness and death. Showing us exactly what we've become, what we've been all the time."
"And what we've always been is . . . ?"
"Is living on borrowed time. Getting away cheap. Never caring about who's paying for it, who's starving somewhere else all jammed together so we can have cheap food, a house, a yard in the burbs . . . planetwide, more and more every day, the payback keeps gathering. And meantime the only help we get from the media is boo hoo the innocent dead. Boo fuckin hoo. You know what? All the dead are innocent. There's no uninnocent dead."
After a while, "You're not going to explain that, or . . ."
"Course not, it's a koan."

I remember that morning quite vividly, like most Americans probably do. I was getting ready for class, and the TV was on the background. I can't remember exactly what I'd been watching at the time, but when the set abruptly switched to show the first smoking tower, I was only marginally less irritated than when SNL got interrupted by Princess Di's little mishap, only four years before.

And, as heartless and insensitive as this must sound, after I'd gathered that Islamic terrorists were (supposedly) behind the attack, my very next thought was "about damn time."

Which wasn't to say "yay for terrorism" or anything, but more like "who didn't see this shit coming?" Because if it really was disgruntled Arabs who'd hit us, then an attack of this magnitude actually felt quite a bit overdue.

That was my perspective as a cruel young person with some knowledge of modern history, and I'm afraid to say that it hasn't changed much in the past fifteen years.

See, if violence is like a boomerang, we can probably expect it to come back to us now and then when we throw so much of it around the world. So, with all due respect to the dead of that day and those they left behind (and proceeding from the dubious assumption that al-Qaeda was indeed behind the attacks), perhaps I'll take a stab at explaining the little koan mentioned above.

The Americans who died that day really were innocent, you know? At least in the sense that none of them had personally done anything to provoke the attack. Probably very few of them had ever even set foot in the Middle East, let alone participated in any of the geopolitical meddling that has rightfully earned the West so many enemies in that region over the years. They didn't install the Shah of Iran, arm the mujahideen, or blunder into Iraq like a bull in a china shop, after all. By and large, these were just regular, ordinary people who wanted nothing more out of life than their own small slice of the American dream.

But just how innocent were they, really? How innocent are any of us, in aggregate? Like those other Americans who were lucky enough to have been somewhere far away from lower Manhattan that morning, they did collectively add to our nation's obscene dependence on foreign oil. They did elect Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes, all of whom worked to get us our fix under various pretenses. And, given what we know about the average American's knowledge of the world, it's probably safe to assume that most of them turned a largely (perhaps willfully) blind eye on U.S. foreign policy, just so long as things were good at home.

Given all this, it's hard to shake the suspicion that we all weren't accessories to 9/11 in some way or another. Perhaps we really didn't start the fire, as Billy Joel once tried consoling us, but we sure didn't do a lot to try putting it out, either.

This is neither an apology for terrorism nor my way of saying "those people deserved to die," but let's cut the shit here — America is not, was not ever innocent. And if we ever really were somehow innocent before 9/11, we lost that innocence by filling untold sets of twin towers with the bodies of dead Afghanis and Iraqis in response.

End rant. Begin review:

Much like the illusion of American invulnerability was shattered by 9/11, so too was our fantasy of limitless tech sector growth when the dot-com bubble burst. Back in the booming 90s, companies could actually inflate their stock prices by simply adding an "e-" prefix or a ".com" suffix to their name. But by the time the whole Y2K mania had finally begun to die down (another cynical cash-in bonanza, incidentally), the jig was officially up, and some of the speculators got screwed while others walked away flush. The smart kids started looking for the next big racket, and just in time for sales of "patriotic" (read: jingoistic) goods to suddenly shoot through the roof, everything from giant flags to tiny lapel pins. I do believe that manufacturers of body scanners and travel-sized toiletries eventually got a shot in the arm as well.

Thanks, Osama! I will admit that it was pretty obnoxious seeing so much red, white, and blue everywhere for a while there, and let's face it, no one particularly cares for the TSA, but without you I never could've bought my second boat, so again, I thank you.

All facetiousness aside, from an economic standpoint, both 9/11 and the dot-com bubble could have been (and in fact actually were) predicted, so if you're telling me that crooks and legit businessfolk alike didn't cash in on both events (foreknowledge or not), I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. And if you've failed to notice the overlap between the tech and "defense" (read: offense) sectors (IBM, GE, anyone?), then you've got your head even further up your ass than the truthers and the true-believers combined.

Whatever happened when the bubble burst and the towers came down, the fact is that it actually worked out pret-ty darn well for certain obscure parties — perfect fodder for Pynchon's brand of all-encompassing paranoia. But is it really all that paranoid to assume that folks with money and power will use the former to protect the latter and vice versa? I'm more of the camp that sez it's naive to assume anything otherwise, but this is supposed to be a book review, and I was supposed to be done with my rant.

Like al-Qaeda, the Internet was a product of the Cold War. Only difference now is that we do a fine enough job surveilling ourselves. On that note, I'd like to conclude my review by giving a shout-out to all my peeps at the NSA! Seasons greetings to you and yours, and please do not rendition me.
Profile Image for AC.
1,722 reviews
January 29, 2016
There are some really fabulous reviews of this book by some of our common GR friends, and so I’ll simply (and gladly) defer any future readers to those; I will just make one brief point, which seems to have been missed by other readers, but which I think is quite certain and obvious about this book.

There is a lot of fabulous writing here, but (as others have certainly noted) also a lot (too much, for my taste, frankly) of monkeying-around. This can get kind of tedious – and so the book gets a lot of four-stars (including from me) and gets classified as ‘Pynchon-lite’. Fair enough…

But here’s what needs to be said about Bleeding Edge. The book mainly deals (of course) with the somewhat slapstick spy-capers of Maxine Tarnow. But the Deep Web runs through this plot line as a leitmotif, and it is in these sections on the Deep Web that one finds the most compelling and seductive writing.

What Maxine finds there, in DeepArcher, is kind of a Second Life series of topographies and avatars. But Pynchon describes these inhabitants with obvious allusions to the shades and dead who inhabit the underworld in Homer (Od. 11), Vergil (Aen. 6), and in Dante (Inferno). They are the dead, lining up along the rivers that course through the nether regions. Thus, descriptions of the Deep Web, DeepArcher, as Sologdin reminded me the other day, are but a Pynchonian Katabasis. This, I think, is textually certain.

Lke the reader, Maxine is utterly captivated by what goes on there – and thus we are led (throughout the course of the book) to think that what goes on down there in the netherworld is ‘realer’ than what occurs up here, in the slapstick world of meatspace.

But none of it, in fact, as a minor character points out at the very end (Chazz Larday, Tallis’ fiber-salesman and boyfriend), is real. Fiber is real – but the Deep Web is just code… and when the power systems go out, all this Second Life bullshit will vanish – into nothingness – into insubstantial shades. (Maxine, of course, herself makes this point about ‘just code’ several times throughout the book.)

What is real, then, is just our life – our First and only Life – in meatspace – which consists of love and sex and laughter and slapstick and capers and parties and humor and jealously and television and… most novel for Pynchon – of one’s children (Ziggy and Otis)…. And THAT is the life that is real and that we must learn to value and enjoy – not the seductive and poetic illusions of DeepArcher.

This, then, is Pynchon’s final message to us…, as he turns the corner into the final course of his own life – he is now nearly 77 years old – and THAT is a message, despite all the (oft-commented upon) cultural date-stamping of so much of this text, for the ages.

A worthwhile book, then… warts and all.
Profile Image for Eddie Watkins.
Author 6 books5,471 followers
October 8, 2014
Not Pynchon lite! Not heavy either. More like Pynchon pot-bellied but taut. What at first struck me as a slackness in the prose, became over time and into a second reading an intentional casual naturalness. Casual and natural because speech (and thought) based. This is Pynchon the pal, exuding kookily aloof warmth, while still insightfully penetrating into sociopolitical machinations. Warm because he loves Maxine, the adorable mid-aged mule who carries his (admittedly borderline schematic at times) byzantine story of layer upon layer of corruption and collusion in NYC and beyond. Yes it is also his “9/11 Novel”, and though he handles the attack and its immediate aftermath with sensitivity and a Manhattanite’s engagement, the real point here is that the attacks were not our loss of innocence (as so often trumpeted) but rather the culmination of systemic nefariousness, both political and corporate (or is there any difference?). Yessiree Late Capitalism is the culprit, though to even track that down is impossible, it is so shape-shiftingly pervasive… The only out? Keep pressing toward the edges and beyond, maintaining the Weird while keeping alert and caring for whatever constitutes family. Bleeding Edge is a hymn to Motherhood and must in some way constitute a late love letter to his wife. For all its investigative adventuring into heinous levels of corruption, this novel still filled me with warm fuzzies. Warm dark urban fantasy fuzzies. Admittedly this is largely due to my abiding interest in how paranoia widens one's eyes to perverse wonders of the world, so that while reading Pynchon my daily world and my mind unfurl petal by petal flowerlike enhancing mundane details with auras of possible significance. My first time through I was haunted while reading during lunch by a strange co-ed military fashionisto who on three consecutive days walked around me handlessly talking on his phone to surely some unseen other strange military fashionisto about wars and killing and conspiracies and such. At one point I heard him say “You’re not thinking about burying your id while tomahawking children.” And on the third consecutive day, as I approached the accounting of the 9/11 attacks in the novel, I heard him mention 9/11. It freaked me out! But I loved it! This is what I want while reading Pynchon. Reading Pynchon never fails to add a layer of Dark Romance to my daily life, and as this Pynchon details a world that is closer than ever to my current world I felt my life more altered than ever while reading it. So altered in fact that I jonesed upon finishing it, and so started in on it again in a week. I’m still rereading it in fact, and this time, as I am wont to do while reading Pynchon, I am compiling a character list so that I can keep tabs on his relentless stream of characters who are admittedly usually so poorly developed that only my list helps me know them. But compiling my character list draws me ever deeper into Pynchon, as I reference and add to it from page to page reading closer and closer, and since knowing Pynchon and all his tics and quirks at the word level as his mind transfers his vision to the page is tantamount to enjoying Pynchon, I end up knowing them and enjoying them as if known and enjoyed through Pynchon’s own mind; and Pynchon’s mind is a wonderful place to be. It is after all the mind that put me fresh on the trail of the Deep Web just as so much shit when down in there… Pynchon’s world’s a miraculously deep dark place lit by doubly and triply (and trippily) reflected flashes of brilliant light.
Profile Image for roz_anthi.
158 reviews121 followers
October 12, 2017
Αναλυτικότερα τα έχω γράψει εδώ

Πρόκειται για ένα δύσκολο βιβλίο. Είναι περίτεχνο σαν ζωντανός οργανισμός. Μην προσπαθήσετε να παρακολουθήσετε την υπόθεσή του -κατά τη γνώμη μου είναι ήσσονος σημασίας. Η Υπεραιχμή είναι ελκυστική ως ανάγλυφη ανθρωπογεωγραφία, ως κωμικό νουάρ που αφηγείται την ανήσυχη κατάσταση μιας κοινωνίας πριν και μετά το μεγάλο σοκ.
Profile Image for brian   .
248 reviews3,120 followers
November 14, 2013
and late capitalism dissolves/(d?)evolves into messy virtualworld complete with pynchonian paranoia, truther conspiracies, ADHD hyper-prose, forgettable characters, a pun a minute, convoluted pomo-chandlerian plot 5 steps ahead of a (probably intentionally) passive lead heroine. disappointing.
Profile Image for sologdin.
1,717 reviews642 followers
March 18, 2019
A parable of reading. Protagonist is a fallen CFE, with her “skill set being a tendency to look for hidden patterns” (22), which is the sole necessary skill for reading a Pynchon novel. We have met the protagonist, and found that she is us.

Principal text that CFE reads is work product of a film bootlegger, whose poor hand-recordings in the theatre are taken to be “leading edge [NB] of this post-postmodern art form” with “neo-Brechtian subversion of the diegesis” (9). We should take this commentary as both lovingly satirical and smugly self-reflexive. Despite the irony (or maybe because of it?), one film by bootlegger eventually becomes the keystone object of interpretation, out of which spins the normal pynchonian paranoia.

Novel is structured around the binary of surface/depths. Bootlegger engages CFE early, for instance, on a whistleblower case regarding a “dotcom that didn’t go under last year in the tech crash” (9). Client confides that the information he seeks “probably won’t be anyplace any search engine can go” (10), but rather in the “deep web” (id.). Believes it to be more than mere embezzlement, which belief is confirmed by the uncovery of the principal text-within-the-text, supra.

This structuration is eponymous, as the principal mystery, DeepArcher, is “bleeding edge technology […] No proven use, high risk, something only early-adoption addicts feel comfortable with” (78). Its “roots reach back to an anonymous remailer,” “looking forward to various onion-type forwarding procedures nascent at the time” (id.). Whereas remailers “pass data packets on from one node to the next with only enough information to tell each link in the chain where the next one is, no more,” “DeepArcher does a step further and forgets where it’s been, immediately, forever” (id.). It is “an invisible self-recording pathway, no chance of retracing it” (79), which gets us into Derrida pretty quickly.

The surface/depth structure also pulls us into Foucault, with the appearance of “freelance professional Nose” (201), who can smell what has happened “all in time sequence, each indication layered on top of the one before. You can put together a chronology” (202)--an olfactory archaeology, “nasal forensics” (203). Because it’s Pynchon, nasal guy is crazier’n a shithouse rat, as he’s obsessed with “what did Hitler smell like?” (234). Dude nevertheless knows another Nose, who is “proosmic--she can foresmell things that’re going to happen” (236), which indicates that not only is nasal archaeology useful in reconstructing foucauldian historical discontinuities, but can be used to predict on the basis of continuities.

A couple of nice architectural palimpsests (4, 241) demonstrate Benjamin’s notion of progress from thesis on the philosophy of history #9.

The structure finds its way into a story of Xibalba (443), “a vast city-state below the earth, ruled by twelve Death Lords. Each lord with his own army of unquiet dead, who wander the surface world bringing terrible afflictions to the living.” The depths are accordingly not necessarily a good thing here.

There’s plenty more surface/depths tropes & figures in here, but we might sum up how this structure works with “Everybody thinks now the Eisenhower years were so quaint and cute and boring, but all that had a price, just underneath was the pure terror” (419).

With that last bit in mind, we might then identify the master figure as late capitalism, as designated in these bits: "i don’t do lunch. Corrupt artifact of late capitalism” (115); “Doom […] just came out for Game Boy. Post-late capitalism run amok. ‘United Aerospace Corporation,’ moons of Mars, gateways to hell, zombies and demons” (139); “late capitalism is a pyramid racket on a global scale, the kind of pyramid you do human sacrifices up on top of, meantime get those suckers to believe it’s all gonna go on forever” (163); “everything’ll be suburbanized faster than you can say ‘late capitalism’” (241); “there was AIDS and crack and let’s not forget late fucking capitalism” (308); “U.S. engineered regime changes, children with AKs, deforestation, storms, famines, and other late-capitalist planetary insults” (378-79); “it’s a Twelfth Night of late capitalist contradictions” (395).

This concept has a long marxist lineage, most recently given serious attention in Jameson’s Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Frankfurt marxism tended to see it as a system of “bureaucratic control” with “state capitalism” such that “Nazism and the New Deal are related systems” (loc. cit. at xviii). Jameson’s usage supersedes Adorno’s, though, which has become “natural” (id.); rather, “not merely an emphasis on new forms of business organization […] but above all the vision of a world capitalist system fundamentally distinct from the older imperialism, which was little more than a rivalry between the various colonial powers.” (loc. cit. at xix). Other features include “new international division of labor, a vertiginous new dynamic in international banking and the stock exchanges […] new forms of media interrelationship, […] computers and automation, the flight of production to advanced Third World areas, along with all the more familiar social consequences, including the crisis of traditional labor, the emergence of yuppies, and gentrification on a now-global scale” (loc. cit. xix) (emphasis added).

Two thirds the way through, a screaming comes across the sky. Not those famous words, of course, but the same factual scenario. Destruction of lower Manhattan is ironized by the imagined destructions that precede it, such as some kids playing “a first person shooter, with a generous range of weaponry in a cityscape that looks a lot like New York” (33), wherein the player “swivels to point at the human pest, and, accompanied by bass-boosted machine pistol sound effects, blows her away clean. She just disappears, not even a stain on the sidewalk. ‘See? No blood, virtually nonviolent’” (34)--the game is designated as “yuppicide” (35): “they’re blowing away New Yorkers, how cute?” (id.). Kids later play at “violent assault, terrorist shoplifting sprees, and yup discombobulation, each of which ends in the widespread destruction” (68) of a toy shopping center. New York cab driver intones that “Jesus would love it if every Jew got nuked” (123). Kids play game set in “post apocalyptic New York, half underwater” (292). The novel’s characters envision the destruction of Manhattan in numerous ways, prefiguring 9/11 and echoing the ruin that the US had made of other states during its history. Looped back through the Jameson bits, supra, it’s fairly plain that 9/11 is held out as an epiphenomenon of late capitalism--as Ward Churchill said, “some people push back”--all that is solid melts into air, after all, and some true rightwingers don’t like that.

There’s plenty of techtalk and internet nerd stuff. No idea about any of that; it’s about as interesting to me as what the bleeding edge of tech would’ve been in 1950 or 1850 or 1550. What’s important is not the engineering details, but the fact that there is a bleeding edge--and that it really is irrelevant. The depths can be razor sharp; but old tech always beats new tech; that's why the surface attack of 9/11 can bring all that shit down, whereas the use, if any, of DeepArcher, or why anyone would want it, remains nebulous throughout the novel.

Otherwise, speculative element in the inclusion of the Montauk Project (117 et seq.), which apparently is filled with fey or ghosts or something (no shit--see 193-94). Further speculative bits regarding a boot camp for time-travellers (242), given weird pseudo-confirmation thereafter. We also have a Ring of Gyges/Sauron’s ring (430-31): wtf? (Perhaps tied in the lack of phenomena as the surface impression, whereas the depth of the noumenal remains unaffected?) A ghost figure runs throughout, which someone with more energy might turn into a derridean reading of hauntology from Spectres of Marx.

Just as leftwing as ever, though, presenting the normal radical critiques of surface propaganda:

“The trolls and wicked sorcerers and so forth were usually Republicans of the 1950s, toxic with hate, stuck back around 1925 in almost bodily revulsion from anything leftward of ‘capitalism’” (101); or

“How right-wing, Maxine wonders, does a person have to be to think of the New York Times as a left-wing newspaper?” (105); or

“one of the globetrotting gang of young smart-asses, piling into cities and towns all over the Third World, filling ancient colonial spaces with office copiers and coffee machines, pulling all-nighters, running off neatly bound plans for the total obliteration of target countries and their replacement by free-market fantasies” (110); or

“her M.B.A., ordinarily a sure sign of idiocy” (128); or

“Addiction to oil gradually converging with the other national bad habit, inability to deal with refuse” (166); or

“Same as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ronald Reagan and his people, Shachtmanite goons like Elliott Abrams, turning Central America into a slaughterhouse all to play out their little anti-Communist fantasies. Guatemala had by then fallen under the control of a mass murderer and particular buddy of Reagan named Rios Montt, who as usual wiped off his bloody hands on the baby Jesus” (170); or

“all ‘being Republican’ meant really was a sort of principled greed. You arranged things so that you and your friends would come out nicely, you behaved professionally, above all you put in the work and took the money only after you’d earned it. Well, the party, I fear, has fallen on evil days. This generation--it’s almost a religious thing now. The millennium, the end days, no need to be responsible anymore to the future” (284); and

Chapter 30 is almost entirely a beautiful little rant about 9/11.

Plenty of baudrillardian hyperreality moments: e.g., “the dark focus of Big Apple waste disposal, everything the city has rejected so it can keep pretending to be itself” (166). Plenty of dream narratives, fertile for the Freudian & Lacanian interest noted in the text expressly at several points. Both are riffs on the surface/depths structure: On the one hand, Freud & Lacan will eschew the surface emanations in order to pull from the depths of the unconscious mind, whereas Baudrillard, on the other, will locate the surface emanations as the fundamental reality: the copy that is more real than the original.

Lotsa Jewish jokes; plenty of silly absurdities; standard pynchonian allusiveness to mass culture--but no pynchonian analepsis. Usual fascination with persons on the margin. Protagonist has at least as much Tyrone Slothrop as Oedipa Maas; she notices arousal on most men whom she meets, and ends up in plenty of bizarre sex acts with them. Accessible, smart, committed. Go read now.
Profile Image for Sara.
27 reviews23 followers
October 5, 2013
Don't expect an astute review comparing this to any other Pynchon novels. This was the first one of his I've completed. Perhaps I'm not "ready" to read him yet - or maybe, rather, Pynchon was not ready to write a book like this?

Although it seems to be part of his "schtick", Pynchon's jivey, wisecracking voice grew tiresome to wade through. The narrative was punctuated with moments of true beauty - describing passengers you glimpse in an opposite train as a tarot card draw, and the geeks' cotillion, were two of my favorite scenes - but the rest was an onslaught of forced hipness and disembodied voices. Perhaps our humors are on different wavelengths, and I certainly am not savvy when it comes to NYC, but few of the jokes amused me, the Jewish tropes grew stale, and Pynchon's random forays into songwriting - well, I'll leave it there.

A primary theme in this book, in terms of the readers' experience, is nostalgia. Chances are, if you're reading Pynchon a the date of this review, you probably lived through September 11 (or 11 September as the book had formatted it, which seemed odd considering the "Americanness" of the story). References popped up that drew me back to my own childhood, like Melanie's Mall (what!) & even a bizarre mention of my birthplace.

But what was disheartening is that Pynchon completely failed to capture the spirit of what it was like to truly be immersed in the Internet at that time period. Sure, I was a "start up" myself back in 2001, but already a lot of my life and friends, mystery and (dare I say) magic exploded from wires hooked up to my computer. Of course this story takes place on a grander scale than a teen's bedroom, but Maxine's travels in DeepArcher, a kind of (from what I gathered) Secondlife virtual reality, was almost laughable. It was a bizarre deviation into cyberpunk territory. Would I next be reading Maxine downloading a Russian form of Kung fu to her head to combat the Russian mafia twins?

Pynchon invents something called the "deep web" where people can get lost looking for themselves it seems, a place where you glimpse celebrities and witness beautiful graphics. But frankly, in those nascent days, the tech was just not that available to consumers to power such a program that it would work. I willingly suspended disbelief but after a few bouts it just seemed that Pynchon was not truly writing about the tech of 2001. Another nitpicky thing that would have been amusing in a mid 80s cyberpunk novel was his continual "hash slinging" (hah) of web and programming terms that seemed out of place or used inappropriately. Another reviewer noted that there's also occasional heavy handed foreshadowing. Ooh, this guy's talking about YOUTUBE. Clever.

I'm totally willing to admit that I had a difficult time a. following the narrative, b. staying invested in the heroine(more on that later) and c. understanding the plot. So I could be wrong about the plot point in my next bit. But the real shocker was the bizarre "truther" undercurrent to this story. Um, Mr. Pynchon, your tinfoil hat is showing? If you want to use that as the crux of your book, fine. But such a debatable and far fetched conspiracy theory is going to detract from the rest of your book which, despite my qualms, does a decent job of depicting the era.

The characters seemed stereotypical and cartoonish - Maxine and Windust's affair was so bizarre. And WE GET THAT SHE IS JEWISH! Even the big, scary, microchipping villain is a letdown. In the end, the affair is taken care of with a screaming match in the streets that seems more appropriate for some alley in a ghetto (or MTV reality tv). There's no real resolution, no big sigh at the end, no pay for slogging through the flights of fancy prose. Quite frankly the only character I could identify with and wanted to read more about was Maxine's Ben & Jerry's scarfing, biopic watching, Midwestern "silo" husband Horst, but perhaps that says something about the types of books I SHOULD be reading instead!
Profile Image for Nate D.
1,595 reviews1,027 followers
June 21, 2021
Here it is, just the thing to jump on board and ride out of this tunnel that is 2020/1 quarantine New York, to remind me anew of this limitless city and its endless encounters, surprises, and fortuitous wrong turns that are in fact no mistake at all but an arrival. To Inherent Vice’s absurdist west coast noir (which speaking of, where’s the Bleeding Edge movie already?!), this is Pynchon’s east coast flipside, oddly moved into the very recent historic past: spring 2001, just after the traumatic deflation of the dot com bubble and so-called silicon alley, just before the the much greater breach, a recent but no less marked historical inflection point. It’s not clear that Pynchon, already mid-70s by the time this hit the shelves, really knows how to write about the internet, which he tends to represent as a fluid series of almost-physical locations with various personages, sorry, “avatars”, wandering about them trading insider quips, but what he gets, always, is how open fields of possibility get co-opted and commodified by the Structures of Power and that comes through here in spades. And he gets New York, not in that irritating “let me reveal to you this city” way but as a slew of references that become the fabric beneath the story, assuming the reader to be already in the know about Staten pizza joints or Inwood marinas or whatever, or at capable of catching the gist and rolling with it if not. To me, it’s filled with moments of recognition, less of references than of the actual feel of things. I came here in 2004, after one major shift, but still in the early part of the Bloomberg-massaged real estate boom that continues to reforge the skyline. This is the place I want to recall, rapidly lost but always re-emerging in bursts in unexpected gaps in the cityscape. And the lead here, a scrappy upper west side Jewish mom fraud investigator, game and level-headed through whatever plot contortions, is one of Pynchon’s best. For once, I think he’s really endeared to her, invested well beyond her role as a simple vehicle of shaggy dog story delivery. This lacks the scope of his true epics, but there’s heart beneath all the capering of Russian mobsters, venture capital sleazes, Jennifer Anniston lookalike hackers, manipulating government agents, and tech start-up wives. Welcome back, New York.
Profile Image for Chris_P.
382 reviews269 followers
October 29, 2022
Thomas Pynchon - Bleeding Edge

Intoxicated scene transitions, characters with no real depth that simply pop up without proper introduction, ironic humor that can make people bleed, conspiracies in the heart of a New York that shyly starts to show its cyber face right before the Collapse, and a plot that doesn’t really lead anywhere but serves as the launcher of bombs aimed at our minds. Not my cup of tea exactly. Rather my bottle of gin.
Profile Image for Boris.
431 reviews171 followers
December 28, 2017
Когато за първи път прочетох книга на Томас Пинчън („Обявяването на серия 49“), открих ново измерение на литературата. Език, герои, обстановка – основните части на всеки роман бяха развити до степен, в която можеш да четеш веднъж само заради езика, после само заради героите и накрая само заради обстановката. Дотолкова ми направиха силно впечатление, че когато говорех за тази книга, трябваше да спомена всяка една от въпросните части поотделно, за да мога да изразя одобрението си. Някои специалисти го наричат постмодернизъм или пост-пост-модернизъм. За мен беше откриване на нов начини, по който може да се пише и съответно да се чете роман.

Наскоро на български език излезе последният роман на Томас Пинчън „На ръба на света“ (изд. „Colibri“). В рамките на обстановката, героите и езика си тази Пинчънова творба ме остави с много мисли, които не спират да ме занимават дори след като съм затворил последната страница.

Доста е странно чувството да четеш исторически роман за период, който се е случил преди 16 години, когато си бил на 10 години и имаш ярки спомени за част от събитията, които са описани. Едно от тях е 11/9. Както преди години всеки американец си е спомнял какво е правил в деня, в който е убит Кенеди, така днес всеки човек на планетата си спомня деня, в който е видял по новините видеото с врязващите се в Кулите близнаци самолети. „На ръба на света“ показва по-голямата картина на този ужасен момент от историята. Той започва от един пролетен ден през 2001 година в Ню Йорк и въвежда читателя в реалността на един от сериозните икономически сривове, известен терминологично като „спукването на дот-ком балона“.

Цялото ревю: https://goo.gl/rBCrJg
Profile Image for Håkon.
34 reviews48 followers
April 7, 2022
Same old Pynchon brilliance. Weird paranoiac characters, hilarious irony and some good old tearjerker moments about friendships and familial relationships and generational gaps. This time in New York in the wake of terrorism, virtual realities, techno-geeks, late fucking capitalism and neoliberal war criminals. Some sad paragraphs on the unrealized possibilities of cyberspace and the ways technology is co-opted by rich sociopaths in favor of money and violence. And something about Hitler's aftershave.

Not as dark as his previous works perhaps; more sentimentality and less irony. Probably because Pynchon is getting old, and is more concerned with the things that really matter: family and friends and good jokes.

It is very good. I hope Pynchon can squeeze out another work before he leaves us to stumble around like morons, the way we always have.
Profile Image for Justin Evans.
1,553 reviews814 followers
December 5, 2013
Everyone's favorite parlor game for BE is to decide whether it's major, minor, or minor-major Pynchon, except that nobody can even decide what other books go in which slots, let alone where this one falls.

Another fun game is to decide whether this is a 'now' book, or a 'then' book, with the temptation being to say that his late-twentieth-century books are minor (with the exception of V., which doesn't count).

And finally there's the all time punk classic parlor game of complaining that Ilikehisoldstuffbetterthanhisnewstuff*, because his old stuff was, like, incomprehensibly difficult and this just seems too easy.

None of these games makes for a very good review, let alone good literary history or criticism. It's worth comparing BE to Pynchon's other late work: it's like Inherent Vice, yes. It's closely tied to one investigator's point of view, that investigator is dealt with sympathetically, and it's in the late twentieth century. Like IV and Against the Day, BE concerns the possibilities and limitations of novel phenomena, whether that be IV's hippy California, AtD's development of modern industrial capitalism or, as in BE, the internet. All three of them are more or less linear stories, without much of a conclusion--but the indeterminate endings to these shaggy dog stories point out the uncertainties of the world they're depicting, rather than just trying to piss off the audience. Also, they include lots of puns and--a word I just learned, which is worth it--feghoots.

[Before I get to why this is a great book, I should point out one very odd element of it: Pynchon has written an historical novel, full of period detail, about a period of time 10 years ago, which means his readers get *all* the references. Some reviewers have complained about this, which suggests that they really only like his other books because, hey, if you're cool enough to read a book that not even you understand, how much cooler must you be than people who don't read it at all? Pretty *damn* cool, that's how cool. 'I don't like this book because I understand it' is a pretty Twainian complaint, but there is something weird about the way BE wallows in shit culture. I hope it's connected to my defense of the book below, in a positive way.]

But BE gets very interesting when you compare it to what Pynchon is *supposed* to be about (cue: I like your old stuff...) He's all about epistemological uncertainty, ontological weirdness, the End of the Subject, The Death of the Author, self-undermining literature and what-am-I-rebelling-against-well-what-have-you-got? BE makes it very clear that he's not about that anymore, if he ever was (and I don't see how you could read V. and believe any of that about that novel).

Here, postmodernism (a catch phrase for the above themes) is relegated to the toilet, literally: at the party which stands at the intellectual heart of the book, "Eric and Maxine enter the godfather of postmodern toilets... with three dozen stalls, its own bar, television lounge, sound system, and deejay." This is what postmodernism-the-theory was c. 2001, and what it still is--the swan-song party of the decadent rich who would rather claim that There Is No Truth Nor Subject than accept the truth that their own lives contribute to the massive injustice of "that unquiet vastly stitched and unstitched tapestry they have all at some time sat growing crippled in the service of". The internet is just late capitalism. The day after the party, planes crash towers, and everything changes.

What precisely changes? Now we have to be post-ironic; cultural norms suggest that irony "actually brought on the events of 11 September, by keeping the country insufficiently serious... So all kinds of ake-believe... must suffer as well. Everything has to be literal now." The children aren't allowed to read fiction. Maxine's friend Heidi suggests that reality TV exists mainly to convince people that they're now "hardened and hip to the human condition, freed from the fictions that led them so astray, as if paying attention to made-up lives [i.e., fiction] was some form of evil drug abuse that the collapse of the towers cured by scaring everybody straight again." But all this 'reality' doesn't make people grown-up and mature at all, instead "11 September infantilized this country. It had a chance to grow up, instead it chose to default back to childhood." Lest we miss the point, Eric later says that 9/11 could have been "a reset button for the city, the real-estate business, Wall Street, a chance for it all to start over clean. Instead lookit them, worse than before." Even 'Ground Zero' is claimed for profit.

And the men and women of Bleeding Edge do indeed regress, searching out ever new ways to appear wise and hardened--all of which are ultra-commercialized or simply depraved. Compare, for instance, our ideologues of meaningless and pessimism (all too prevalent among the literati), all trying to out-realist each other ("death is my copilot"), and ignoring the fact that life somehow continues to be worth it.

But this is not because we/they are actively evil: we/they've been made this way by some "new enemy, unnamable, locatable on no organization chart or budget line." There was always someone to point to in previous Pynchon novels; here, the great big bad guy is just another dickhead who doesn't seem to have much control over anything. The evil is completely diffused throughout the population. As with the internet, "Call it freedom, it's based on control. Everybody connected together, impossible anybody should get lost, ever again." Unlike industrial capitalism, capable of making everything we need with minimal effort, but perverted by the profit motive, the internet never had any liberatory potential at all. The Deep Web may have done at some point, but it's doubtful even that could shake off the military-industrial origins of the www.

So without any pure places left, and with everyone so guilty, where can we find innocence? Only with Tallis (presumably named for the 16th century English composer), "running with Gulf Coast gangsters, party to international money laundering, any number of Title 18 violations..." How can she be innocent? "Everybody thinks they live in 'the real world' and she doesn't... that's what it is, to be an 'innocent person.'"

Innocence, which is worth finding, can only be found beyond the real world; we can't live beyond the real world, sure, but we can aspire to do so. And so the novel ends, incongruously for a Pynchon book, with Maxine looking at her two kids, thinking about how 'good' (i.e., innocent) they are. "She can watch them into the elevator at least." Keep alive, in them, the hope and promise of innocence; keep them protected from the 'real world' that everyone--I.R. gurus, military strategists, public philosophers, academic intellectuals, financial consultants--seems so eager to promote.

Another place we can find some kind of innocence: non-self-undermining fiction, which is willing to be ironic but not cynical. Fiction like Bleeding Edge.

*: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JwT5P... The first 'Gurge album was a classic, and I still hate the second one, which features this track.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,488 followers
August 9, 2015
The other day we were talking about the Awkward Role of Technology in Fiction: tech talk tends to sound instantly dated and embarrassing. Bleeding Edge takes place in 2001 as the tech bubble was bursting, and it's a prime example of that problem. Pynchon actually does have a pretty good handle on the state of the internet in 2001 - I say this as someone who was right in the middle of that - but it still doesn't really work. A lot of scenes remind me of Gibson's trippy descriptions of hacking in Neuromancer, but without the graceful "I'm not even trying" feel that Gibson gave it. (And what he's referencing with DeepArcher is Second Life, a weird little cul de sac of the internet that should never have gotten the attention it did.) It takes place in the uncanny valley of nostalgia: far enough back that everything sounds dated (Shaq reference! "That time they had all the naked chicks out in the freight elevator covered with Krispy Kreme donuts!") but not far enough back for it to be cool again.

And Bleeding Edge wears the costume of a mystery, but it doesn't proceed fairly. Instead of dropping clues that one might follow, a guy with a magic nose just shows up and tells you, "I smelled that this guy did it." This is one of Pynchon's more annoying trademarks; it feels unsatisfying.

And then there's Daytona, who would like to know, "What you be lettin all these ghetto-ass g's walk in here all the time?" If that's not actively racist, it's certainly not pleasant to read either. Pynchon is making a point here - he's aware of how that will make me feel - I just think it's a stupid point.

And then there's the language. Would you like "says" to be spelled "sez"? Are you sure you'd like that, even after the 100th time? What about this construction: "A single beet, sitting, one would have to say insolently, on a plate." That happens a lot. I thought it was funny the first three times.

Because this is a book set in Manhattan in 2001, you know one major plot development going in. And just when you thought you couldn't dislike Bleeding Edge any more, Pynchon lends serious weight to the Truther conspiracy theorists. And one of Pynchon's trademarks is conspiracy and paranoia, yes, and it can be effective. When he deals in vague, vast, shadowy conspiracies, it taps into some essential societal feeling: the feeling that we're not in control of our destinies, that we're cogs. The feeling that for all our posturing, for all our grasping towards decisions, we don't get it. That feeling is real and true. A feeling of conspiracy is one thing. A specific conspiracy, though - 9/11 conspiracies, JFK conspiracies, moon landing conspiracies - these are different, more tawdry things. And they're not true.

So: we've covered theme, plot, language and politics. What else? Sex? Female protagonist goes undercover as a pole dancer. And I sez man, why you be writin this, one would have to say terrible, fucking book?
Profile Image for Lyubov.
370 reviews197 followers
March 5, 2018
Веждите ми осцилират (по Пинчън) и не съм в състояние да озвездя книгата.
Засега ще я оставя без оценка докато си изясня отношението към нея.
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