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.