Yesterday Kayleen observed that I seemed a bit "elsewhere" through most of yesterday. I blamed it on the book. Even when I wasn't busy reading this novel, the eighth in Pynchon's 50-plus-year career, I was reliving it, or reverberations of it, like a waking dream, the way the subconscious mind scrambles and reassembles inputs that the conscious mind cannot immediately interpret.
Since I'm only about 80% through the book, this is not a review. I'm not even going to summarize the plot or dissect any of the characters; you can get the summaries and dissections elsewhere. You can also get analysis of obscure references here. But I do want to convey some impressions from what I have read so far.
- In many ways, Bleeding Edge is Pynchon's open-eyed love letter to New York City, and to Manhattan in particular. This is an aspect of the book that I have yet to see noted in any of the reviews I have read on Goodreads or elsewhere. TP loves NYC despite its many flaws. Great cities, like great people, often have greater flaws; NYC's greatest flaw is that the biggest parts of the engine of worldwide capitalism live there.
- For a story that takes place in New York, the cast of characters is rather heavily white. The main character's receptionist is a notable exception, and there are plenty of Jewish and Italian-American characters, but this may as well be an incredibly twisted episode of Friends overlapping an equally twisted episode of Seinfeld.
- One big knock against it is that protagonist Maxine Tarnow deals with far too many more-or-less interchangeable white male characters, who enter the story at one point, are referred to at random intervals, and reappear about 100 pages later, leading me to wonder, "Who was this guy again?" At least all the Russians keep things interesting.
- The book is friggin' hilarious, but it is a 477-page inside joke. Readers without an intricate knowledge of New York's history and geography, of pop culture (including Pokémon), and of information technology may not get as many LOLs from it as I have. It makes me wonder what laughs I may have missed.
- Most remarkably, the hilarity continues even after 11 September happens, about two-thirds of the way in. Pynchon gives us only a brief period of not-so-funny as the characters try to sort out the events and their causes. In real life, people in NYC and around the world may have paused the laugh-track, M*A*S*H-style, and dealt appropriately with the tragedy, but the world as a whole did not get less funny or absurd.
- The puns. OMG, the puns.
- So far, I haven't come across Pig Bodine or any analog thereof. This omission has led me to suspect that Pynchon did not actually write the book, but instead farmed it out to a professional Pynchon impersonator. But then, as the wiki notes, there was no Bodine to be found in The Crying of Lot 49, Vineland, or Inherent Vice.
- At least I have found a passage about an improbable pizza parlor, another Pynchonian trope. There's even a pizza scene in Mason & Dixon. A book about New York that didn't involve pizza would be so wrong.