Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

With this, the second book I’ve read of his, my understanding is that this represents a more concise, less hefty portion of his work. There’s a strain of literary masochism sometimes in reference to his sprawling dense works like Gravity’s Rainbow, in that boasting about having read them is akin to bro boasts about how much you can bench. I get it because a large novel is a consuming, turbulent affair but with Bleeding Edge, there’s so much care taken in the plot and the language, that I enjoyed it for it’s brevity and it’s elegant depths.

Set in 2001, Pynchon touches upon the arcane nature of financial fraud, the New York/America that existed before the World Trade Centre attacks and afterwards. It’s a heady brew which manages to be consistently witty, evocative and humane. So much happens, some of it random but it’s all dressed in beautiful language that slips down the throat like a good wine. There’s a delicious complexity that makes the whole thing move and roil throughout.

It’s strange to see a book set in 2001 as a historical novel, but the psychic aftermath of the War On Terror (about as effective as a war on jealousy) is fertile ground to plough without being overtly histronic. Pynchon’s love and amused disbelief at the turn the country took is considered and effective, it also adds cultural cachet to the thriller in the same way that Inherent Vice did.

At some point, I will tackle the bigger works he’s done, in part because they are spoken of with such reverence that, fuck it, I will see what all the fuss is about. He’s brilliant, and by that, he is brilliant in a tangible, accessible manner rather than mistaking verbosity for an understanding of the beauty of language and adopting a wilfully opaque plot as affectation. Pynchon tells stories about the world as it is, and all the surreal wonder of it. If you’re looking for an in, I would recommend Bleeding Edge and Inherent Vice without reservation.


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