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Thomas Pynchon. Bleeding Edge.

Thomas Pynchon. Bleeding Edge. Penguin Press, 2013. 477 pp. Cloth: $28.95.

Thomas Pynchon has continuously returned to those geographic spaces--the Zone in Gravity's Rainbow, the West in Mason & Dixon, Shambhala in Against the Day--that represent openness, innocence, and an infinity of possibilities faced with the inevitable process of rationalization, corruption, and control. In Bleeding Edge he offers two such spaces: twenty-first century Manhattan (of all places), where everything unique, quirky, and eccentric is being bludgeoned into conformity by an ideology of real-estate development; and the Deep Web, specifically a Second Life-type platform called DeepArcher, where hackers can escape our commodity-driven culture--for the moment. One wonders if this is Pynchons most pessimistic take on our world, where the last refuges of innocence and possibility are a claustrophobic island and a virtual amusement park. Pynchon fans will find much that's familiar here: accounting detective Maxine Tarnow stumbling into a multi-tendrilled financial conspiracy, the outcome of which may be 9/11; Gabriel Ice, entrepreneurially evil dot-com mogul; Nicholas Windust, globetrotting Reagan administration and IMF thug; an enormous cast of computer geeks, Italian mobsters, rogue Russian secret police, old leftists, Jewish mothers, and others; a host of high-and pop-culture references; hilariously bad jokes the narrative goes many paragraphs out of its way for. Fans might be surprised not to find multiple narrative focalizations, complex leaps backward and forward in time, or excursions to exotic locales. In fact, this may be Pynchons most straightforward novel, the narrative tied to Maxine's consciousness and to a chronological arc with 9/11 its apex, just as the setting is tied to Manhattan. However, straightforward doesn't mean simple. One point of the novel is to complicate the official narrative of 9/11, multiplying motives, participants, outcomes, and especially stories about the event, but unlike other Pynchon novels, this complication doesn't seem subversive or liberatory as much as it seems bitter and sad, a mourning for the loss of innocence. Bleeding Edge is poignant and funny, despairing and hopeful, bearing brilliant witness to the wound of the twenty-first century. [Robert L. McLaughlin]

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Author:McLaughlin, Robert L.
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2013
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