Thomas Pynchon’s Got a New Book

by Jake McPherson

A well-worn book

A well-worn book

Bleeding Edge will be available in just two days, and I can’t wait. It’s Thomas Pynchon’s newest book, and the reviews promise more of what I love about his work: conspiracies, paranoia, funny names, and a critical eye on modernism. The setting is New York City in 2001. Pynchon writes about history and how events shape people. His plots always threaten to drown the characters in impossibly complex underworlds. His books stop me and force me to think about my little place in the world.

I read his most famous work, Gravity’s Rainbow, when I was a university student, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since. That was back in the early 80s before the Internet. It was back before personal computers and the World Wide Web were ubiquitous. Books were made of paper.

I spent last evening delving into the dark underbelly of Amazon’s Kindle books downloading all the free ones I could find. I got some great stuff. I found well over a hundred, which are now stored safely on my computer and even more loosely in The Cloud.

I have not downloaded any of Pynchon’s books onto my Kindle. Bleeding Edge will be the first.

Back when I read all books on paper, I kept a little one of quotes I found particularly poignant. I have wide ranging entries from many different sources. Gravity’s Rainbow moved me to include a few as well.

Yet the continuity, flesh to kindred metals, home to hedgeless sea, has persisted. It is not death that separates the incarnations, but paper: paper specialties, paper routines.

These sentences come early in the book before the conspiracies are too thick. The idea that there is a connection between the animate and inanimate is praised. Human bureaucracy and man made definitions push things apart.

Pynchon values love and all its entanglements. Roger Mexico writes movingly about Jessica:

You go from dream to dream inside me. You have passage to my last shabby corner, and there, among the debris, you’ve found life. I’m no longer sure which of all the words, images, dreams or ghosts are “yours” and which are “mine.” It’s past sorting out. We’re both being someone new now, someone incredible….

Here is not only love but touching the deepest core. Here is where real human interaction shows us importance.

And then there are the missiles. Roger and Jessica shelter in each other’s arms while bombs fall on London. On the other side of the war, Franz Pokler works designing them to go aloft. He experiences the change in the environment where the scientists labor.

No one was specializing yet. That came later, when the bureaus and paranoias moved in, and the organization charts became plan-views of prison cells.

The team succumbed to the bureaus. Men define and separate instead of build up and celebrate.

Is redemption possible in the post-modern world? Is there no more connection? Will even the rainbow surrender?

…plastic saxophone reed sounds of unnatural timbre, shampoo bottle ego-image, Cracker Jack prize one-shot amusement, home appliance casing fairing for winds of cognition, baby bottles tranquilization, meat packages disguise of slaughter, dry-cleaning bags infant strangulation, garden hoses feeding endlessly the desert

In the end, Tyrone Slothrop, the Rocketman, fades somewhere we seemingly cannot follow, and we wonder. We hope. We pray:

But an Aether sea to bear us world-to-world might bring us back a continuity, show us a kinder universe, more easy-going….

Should we look to the heavenly spheres that assuaged us before Copernicus obliterated them? Where do we fit into Galileo’s assertion “It moves”? Are humans evolution’s pinnacle or just a chance occurrence? Is continuity after Hiroshima and Nagasaki merely a dream? Can we love any more?

I hope Bleeding Edge enlightens some of the dark corners of our questions.