As someone who considers himself fairly well-read, I am simultaneously embarrassed and proud of myself – embarrassed that I had never read anything by Thomas Pynchon and proud that I have now made my way through his most recent novel. I’m also simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted. Tackling “Bleeding Edge” required enormous energy. I look forward to reading more of his work, but not for a while. I need time to recuperate.
For years, I’ve seen Pynchon’s name referenced as one of the writers most admired by other writers along with such titans as Alice Munro, George Saunders, David Mitchell, and Marilynne Robinson. How could I consider myself semi-literate if I hadn’t ever read him? So I plunged into his 2013 novel “Bleeding Edge.”
What a ride.
Within the first half-dozen pages, my jaw was dropping at the velocity of the robust narration and I was guffawing at the hilarious images, tweeting out gems of lines such as “Dizzy’s learning curve is permanently flat-lined.” And so many countless more along the way: “I have always depended on the kindness of stranglers” and “Maxine could conduct workshops in Conquering Eyeroll” and “‘I’m an adulteress!’ Vyrva wails quietly. ‘Ah, come on. Adolescentress, maybe’” and on and on and on.
But being delighted by the scrumptiousness of such snippets is like licking the peaks of whipped frosting not recognizing that they are perched on an enormous confectionary creation that defies thorough digestion by us ordinary mortals and whose recipe includes far more arsenic than sugar. Which is not to say that “Bleeding Edge” is indigestible but rather that you need to observe mother’s ordinance to chew each mouthful twenty times before attempting to swallow and that you should relinquish any hope of being able to fully clean your plate in one lifespan.
What is it about “Bleeding Edge” that makes reading it such a satisfying and draining endeavour? The vibrant characters whose innermost workings of brain, heart, and libido we think we grasp only to have them yanked out of our hands; the complex plot that reads like an amalgam of front page news, secretive espionage files, nineteenth century murder mysteries, and nearly impenetrable science fiction; the illusions running from quantum physics to pop culture icons; the ceaseless gyrations from identifiable New York City streetscapes to imaginative worlds of deep treacherous cyberspace.
I will read more Thomas Pynchon, once I catch my breath.
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For information on my most recent books, the memoir “August Farewell” and the novel “Searching for Gilead,” see my website at http://DavidGHallman.com