Now now now. I have long admired Thomas Pynchon’s work. Perhaps it was foolish of me, but when I was very young (22?) I read Gravity’s Rainbow. It was challenging, and a lot of it went over my head, but it, along with a few other books I read that year, were seminal in showing me that literature could be something other than pure description of action and relaying of words and thoughts. There was another way.
Gravity’s Rainbow worked for me in part, I think, because the grounding of its setting is so well known, and carries with it more weight than perhaps any other. I speak, of course, of World War II. I didn’t need to know about Pynchon’s herero’s or how far his conspiracy theories went, but I knew Hitler and D Day and Churchill. Everyone does. I always had a hook upon which to hang my hat.
And then I read Mason & Dixon, V, and Vineland. They didn’t have the same level of grounding, and at times I was lost beyond that which I would like. I persevered, but Gravity’s Rainbow remained important to me, while the others works were merely excellent. I could see the genius, but it didn’t affect me as greatly.
Enter Bleeding Edge. This novel is set immediately before, and immediately after, the September 11 attacks in 2001 in New York. The characters are, more or less, connected to technology and the internet, and they are young and geeky. So, commensurate with my own good self at that time. I was 19 then, and many of the characters are in their early twenties. All of this means that the references, the lingo, the slang – it’s all mine. I recognise everything. I understand everything (well…).
And what does that mean?
I’m not sure. To be honest, I didn’t like reading references to Final Fantasy or Pokemon or Metal Gear Solid or – etc. I’m not entirely sure why, either. It was too close to the fluff of the life that I know, the purely entertainment side of that time period. But is that so different to his other books? Probably not, but those time periods are not mine, so to me they seem both exotic and interesting. But when it is mine I just find them a touch – problematic.
And yet, I think that in thirty years time when I am in my sixties and nostalgic for my twenties, Bleeding Edge will probably be a much stronger book. I’m too close, and was too connected, to the lingo and pop culture of Bleeding Edge, and thus I have failed the book. It hasn’t failed me.
Otherwise, of course, it’s Pynchon, which at this stage of his career means you know what you are getting in for. I’m not here to critically analyse the book (clearly), so let me instead say that it is on the level with, say, Against the Day or Vineland. Very good, but not critically important Pynchon the way Gravity’s Rainbow or The Crying of Lot 49 is.
The Books, Read page contains a list of all of the books I have read over the years.