Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

Thomas Pynchon’s books lurch closer to the mainstream, I guess because the world lurches closer to being a Thomas Pynchon book. At the risk of oversimplifying, it’s because of 9/11. Those planes crashed and busted open a hornet’s nest full of sinister conspiracy theories, buzzing, flying, and stinging as far as the web could take them. And now finally here’s Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon’s 9/11 book– perhaps, eventually, merely his first 9/11 book– and no surprises, it jitters so hard with 2001-ness that whenever I crack its spine I start humming All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

The book’s depictions of life in post-attack New York feel very true, or maybe this is just how the truth feels 12 years later, albeit in a parallel 2001 where Leonardo DiCaprio starred in The Fatty Arbuckle Story, and Americans refer to “9/11” as “11 September” for some reason.

“Can’t you feel it, how everyone’s regressing? 11 September infantilized this country. It had a chance to grow up, instead it chose to default back to childhood. I’m in the street yesterday, behind me are a couple of high-school girls having one of those teenage conversations, ‘So I was like, “Oh my God?” and he’s like, “I didn’t say I was see-een her?”‘ and when I finally turn to look at them, here are these two women my own age. Older! your age, who should know better, really, Like trapped in a fuckin time warp or something.”

Oddly enough, Maxine’s just had something like it happen around the corner on Amsterdam. Every schoolday morning on the way to Kugelblitz, she’s been noticing the same three kids waiting on the corner for a school bus. Horace Mann or one of them, and maybe the other morning there was some fog, maybe the fog was inside her, some incompletely dissipated dream, but what she saw this time, standing in exactly the same spot, was three middle-aged men, gray-haired, less youthfully turned out, and yet she knew, shivering a little, that these were the same kids, the same faces, only forty, fifty years older. Worse, they were looking at her with a queer knowledgeable intensity, focusing personally on her, sinister in the dimmed morning air. She checked the street. Cars were no more advanced in design, nothing beyond the usual police and military traffic was passing or hovering overhead, the low-rise holdouts hadn’t been replaced with anything taller, so it still had to be “the present,” didn’t it? Something, then, must’ve happened to these kids. But next morning all was back to “normal.” The kids as usual paying no attention to her.

What, then, the fuck, is going on?

Not sure this picture does it justice, but those big silver letters on the book cover are ridiculously shiny. Tilt it in the light just right and you got rainbow lasers gleaming all up in your face.


How’s this for a little conspiracy theory: This cover design is meant to allure and hypnotize older/more mainstream readers, and trick them into thinking Bleeding Edge is the kind of James-Patterson-&-Company crime thriller where the movie version stars Sandra Bullock, not Laura Dern. Which makes sense, because get this: Just like James Patterson, Thomas Pynchon is only co-writing his novels these days, though unlike Patterson, Pynchon’s not sharing any credit. Soon there’ll be a new Pynchon book every nine months, another waggy goose chase through another zeitgeist, not too heavy for a plane or the beach. They’ll keep coming for years, decades even, until bookworms are like, Shouldn’t Thomas Pynchon be dead by now? And when that line of questioning becomes too loud to ignore, it’s revealed that yes, Thomas Pynchon’s been dead for a few years now, he was just curious how long he could fake his life-after-death, sort of like a reverse Andy Kaufman, if Andy Kaufman’s still alive.

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(Part 32 of an ongoing series)


I heard about a lot of bad shit that happened in Kuwait.

Sgt. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg)

Yeah, bad shit happened. I’m not proud of that… Maybe Saddam is very crazy. But then you are crazy for bombing all of Iraq.

Captain Said (Said Taghmaoui)

1999 was loaded with movies both of their time and ahead of their time, but few of those movies embodied the present and future as well as Three Kings. Hollywood-wise, it was a breakthrough for George Clooney and writer/director David O. Russell. Hard as it is to imagine, there was in fact a time when Clooney wasn’t yet the mega-star we knew he’d eventually be. Three Kings didn’t exactly catapult him to the A-List the way Ocean’s Eleven did, but it did definitively prove he could be a cool-yet-authoritative leading man, building on the momentum he gathered in 1998’s Out Of Sight, and clouding the memories of missteps like 1997’s Batman and Robin.

Three Kings was also a milestone for writer/director David O. Russell, who made great films before (Spanking The Monkey, Flirting With Disaster) and since (I Heart Huckabees, The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook), yet nothing quite like this. It can’t be easy to make a thrilling action-adventure heist wrapped around laugh-out-loud war satire; Three Kings not only pulls off that feat, it might be the best action-adventure/war satire ever.

While Three Kings foreshadows the future success of Clooney and Russell, it’s even more prescient as a sociopolitical statement. It may not explicitly predict the post-9/11 world, but the implications are there, simmering in the subtext like a cluster-bomb baking under the desert sun. Even though we knew back then that there were plenty of Middle Easterners who hated America with violent passion, Three Kings puts a human face to that hatred, and reminds us how our government’s greed and apathy could come back to bite us in the ass.

Naturally, Three Kings was utterly ignored by the Academy when it was first released. If it came out today, however, you better believe it would be an Oscar juggernaut come winter.

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(Part 24 Of An Ongoing Series)


While you’re snoozing in your widdle jammies, back in Washington we’re wide awake and worried! Why? Because everyone wants what we have, Hogarth! Everyone! You think this metal man is fun, but who built it? The Russians? The Chinese? Martians? Canadians? I don’t care! All I know is we didn’t build it, and that’s reason enough to assume the worst and blow it to kingdom come!

Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald)

The Iron Giant chews up the scrap metal from a whole heap of 20th Century Americana: Superman, King Kong, E.T., Disney heart, Looney Tunes cheek, Cold War Space Race paranoia. And instead of simply regurgitating or otherwise excreting what it has ingested, The Iron Giant seems to absorb it all on its way to becoming a tender yet unstoppably bitchin’ war machine of a movie.

The movie’s not just 1999 because of how freshly it wraps up the past century in Gold & Silver Age comic book wrapping paper, but also for how it points to the century ahead. Part of it represents the high water-mark of hand-drawn Hollywood features, right before CGI rose to domination. Yet it also integrates CGI, and rather seamlessly. Brad Bird’s pretty-much-flawless direction keeps finding novel ways to get the best of both worlds.

And then there’s the uncanny way it foreshadows the panicky war-hawking that came roaring back with a vengeance after 9/11, and which probably kept things fucked up a little longer than necessary. This is not to equate Al-Qaeda terrorists with the good-hearted, unintentionally dangerous Iron Giant himself; rather, it’s to point out that rash military aggression often makes enemies out of those who might normally be friends.

More on that stuff when we talk about Three Kings. For now I’ll just add that The Iron Giant rules and it annihilates me every time. Souls don’t die… You are who you choose to be: Superman.

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