'Bleeding Edge' By Thomas Pynchon: The Book We're Talking About

09/16/2013 02:47 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2013
Penguin Press

"Bleeding Edge" by Thomas Pynchon
Penguin, $28.95
Publishes on September 17, 2013

What is it about?
As its funny, obscure trailer implies, Pynchon's latest centers around protagonist Maxine Tarnow, a mother of two who runs her own fraud investigation business. She runs into trouble, and a slew of Pynchonian characters, when investigating the billionaire CEO of a computer security firm. It's the dawn of the Internet era in New York City, and the terrible events of September 11th loom near.

Why are we talking about it?
We'd talk about any book Pynchon wrote, but this one is of particular interest to us. Pynchon typically tackles the historical, and this book is no exception, but he addresses a past so near the present that it'd be difficult not to be personally affected by the themes addresses.

Who wrote it?
Thomas Pynchon has written six novels prior to "Bleeding Edge," including "Gravity's Rainbow," which won the National Book Award in 1974. He has also received a MacArthur fellowship. He hails from Long Island, but is notoriously private about his current whereabouts. He studied engineering physics at Cornell for two years before leaving to join the Navy, and returned to study English.

Who will read it?
Fans of postmodern literature, and, perhaps, fans of Raymond Chandler, whose influence is evident.

What do the reviewers say?

The New York Times: "Pynchon may be pursuing a small clarification in his historical pageant of conspiracy. “Bleeding Edge” unnervingly plays footsie with 9/11 trutherism, but I think the discomfort this arouses is intentional. Like DeLillo in “Libra,” Pynchon is interested in the mystery of wide and abiding complicity, not some abruptly punctured innocence..."

Publisher's Weekly: "The plot's dizzying profusion of murder suspects plays like something out of early Raymond Chandler, under whose bright star Bleeding Edge unmistakably unreels. Shoals of red herrings keep swimming by, many of them never seen again. Still, reading Pynchon for plot is like reading Austen for sex. Each page has a little more of it than the one before, but you never quite get to the clincher."

The Boston Globe: "In 'Bleeding Edge,' however, the novel spends its entire arc bumping up against and through this barrier. and the effect of being served truth in such intense measures is not like a taste-numbing blast of garlic but instead cause to laugh."

Opening lines:
"It's the first day of spring 2001, and Maxine Tarnow, though some still have her in their system as Loeffler, is walking her boys to school. Yes maybe they're past the age where they need an escort, maybe Maxine doesn't want to let go just yet, it's only a couple blocks, it's on her way to work, she enjoys it, so?

Notable passage:
"It was years into the marriage before Horst admitted to not being a domestic person - by then, to nobody's big surprise. 'My ideal living space is a not too ratty hotel room in the Midwest, somewhere up in the badlands, about the time of the first snows.' Horst's head in fact is a single nationwide snowdrift of motel rooms in far windswept spaces that Maxine will never know how to find her way to, let alone inhabit. Each crystalline episode fallen into his night, once, unrepeatable. The aggregate a wintry blankness she can't read."

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