This reporter has always had a kind of love/hate relationship with pseudo-reclusive modern author, Thomas Pynchon, whose latest, Bleeding Edge, is available right now online and at your fave local bookseller. The general experience in this reporter’s case is that he would begin reading the Pynchon book with enjoyment then become diverted by one of the trademark Pynchon subplots, sometimes in another era or wildly different locale, which would spoil his initial enjoyment and end up severely flawing the experience, if not ruining it completely. To be fair, my experience is somewhat limited, but that happened with V, Gravity’s Rainbow and a book called Vineland. I don’t think I’ve ever read Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, and this reporter is currently in possession of his Mason & Dixon, which he hasn’t started yet.
Bleeding Edge is an impressive departure from any standard Pynchon form to which I may have kidded myself I’d grown accustomed. The book is remarkable in its successful depiction of stasis in the life of fraud investigator Maxine Loeffler before her attention is galvanized, along with the readers’, as was everyone’s in one way or another, by the Twin Towers falling on 9/11/2001. Maxine is a fraud investigator by trade, concerned especially with the happenings on DeepArcher, a kind of underground worldwide web controlled by malignant entities who wish to remain anonymous except to each other. Maxine’s life-style is funded by her investigations into shady operations, most of them with connections to DeepArcher, and her quasi-illegal clients. Her inner Jewish mother brings itself to bear on most of these relations in the form of a consistent internal monologue usually restrained but eager for its every opportunity of emergence, much like the pair of eager loaded pistols in her handbag. She’s a woman in New York City pre 9/11, fueled by inside deals with fraudsters and the defrauded. Not much to relate to here for this reporter, who has long since lost faith in the apparent world of greed and politics. At first I was literally stunned at this book’s apparent total lack of the whimisical meta-comic force of the other books by this author I’d read.
I had determined to just keep on reading—I didn’t relate to the character, wasn’t really engaged by the events of the story. My attention kept drifting away, sometimes he would surprise me with new character names, a sort of off-handed aesthetic effect he was attaining, I thought, but I considered I just may not have been paying attention closely enough. It didn’t seem to matter.but it was Pynchon, I wanted to give him a fair shake—and I’m glad I did. I kept on reading and for a short time, from about the late middle all the way to the end of this book, I was very engaged. In closing, while I felt I had diagnosed the exact manner in which Pynchon the writer and Zack the reader mixed or didn’t mix: namely that I would initially enjoy reading the book then inevitably lose interest with the addition of subplots one or two, my experience with his latest, Bleeding Edge, was almost precisely the inverse. What’s that, a left handed complimented? Well, four armed is four warmed, as they say.