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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Bleeding Edge

Bleeding Edge - Thomas Pynchon

We didn’t know it at the time, but Dickens’ phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” could be applied to the period of time following the dot-com bust and preceding 9/11. This novel is an exploration of life in New York City about six months prior to 9/11 and then about six months after. It's a reminder of how that moment of disillusionment caused by the evaporation of the dot-com dream suddenly turned into the innocent golden age of the past once 9/11 occurred.

The book is also a reminder of the collective paranoia that bounced around after 9/11. Conspiracies were seen everywhere. Truthers who continue to seek conspiracies will want to read this novel for inspiration, but I suspect they will be disappointed. This novel doesn’t have a Clancy novel ending with a clear victory for freedom and the American way. The ending is instead a bit reflective of life’s realities with no definitive conclusion and with the daily grind of life continuing.

This novel's story follows the activities of a Jewish Mother (two young children) who runs her own private detective agency in New York City. She receives an assignment to investiage a mysterious company that seems to be prospering among the wreckage of failed dot-com companies. There are also hints of secret government funding and the involvement of Arab speakers. (This is where truthers begin to salivate.)

I have been an admirer of Pynchon’s writing since 1997 when I listened to an audio edition of Mason & Dixon. It has been my intent since to listen to another book of his, but I never got around to it until this year when this book was published.

Indeed, his writing skills are on display in this book, but Pynchon is not exactly kind to the reader. Reading his prose is similar to groping one’s way through a fog of words. It has prompted the development of an ON-LINE WIKI for the purposes of deciphering Pynchon’s writing. It provides annotations of Pynchon’s books that are tailored to be spoiler free. I didn’t make use of this wiki so presumably I missed much of the depth of meanings found in this book. But there’s something to be said for allowing the story to flow naturally.

The following are example quotes from the book that caught my attention.

A demonstration of Pynchon's contorted humor:

“Maxine notices this one party out on a remote curve of the bar, drinking you’d say relentlessly what will prove to be Jägermeister and 151, through a Day-Glo straw out of a 20-ounce convenience-store cup. . . . Sure enough it’s him, Eric Jeffrey Outfield, übergeek, looking, except for the bare upper lip and a newly acquired soul patch, just like his ID photo. He is wearing cargo pants in a camo print whose color scheme is intended for some combat zone very remote, if not off-planet, and a T-shirt announcing, in Helvetica, <'P'>REAL GEEKS USE COMMAND PROMPTS<'/P'>, accessorized with a Batbelt clanking like a charm bracelet with remotes for TV, stereo and air conditioner, plus laser pointer, pager, bottle opener, wire stripper, voltmeter, magnifier, all so tiny that one legitimately wonders how functional they can be.”(p 222)

The following quotation could serve as a soliloquy about that moment in history, the end of the summer of 2001 which was the last summer before 9/11. It can also serve as an example of Pynchon's challenging prose. This quotation is describing the collective mood of people returning home after a late night party. The cyber speak portion reflects the left over trauma from the dot com bust, and if you look for it there are hints of ominous future happenings:

"... the crowds drifting slowly out into the little legendary streets, the highs beginning to dissipate out into the casting off of vails before the luminosity of dawn ... Which of them could see ahead? Among the microclimates of binary, tracking earthwide everywhere through dark fiber and twisted pairs and nowadays wirelessly through spaces private and public, anywhere among cybersweatshop needles, flashing and never still, in that unquiet vastly stitched and unstitched tapestry they have all sat growing crippled in the service of, in the day imminent, a procedure waiting execution, about to be revealed, a search result with no instructions on how to look for it." (p312)

This LA Times review contains (in the 4th paragraph) an interesting division of Pynchon novels between "then" and "now."

The trailer for this book seems to be making a big splash.
People can't seem to see any connection to the book.
LINK to NYT article about the trailer.