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August 2013

There are Twenty Million Stories in the Naked City; This is One of Them

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“New York as a character in a mystery would not be the detective, would not be the murderer. It would be the enigmatic suspect who knows the real story but isn’t going to tell it.” 

Bleeding Edge refers to an incorporation of technologies that are so innovative that they have a high risk of being unreliable and early adopters may incur great expense in order to make use of them. Introduction of this advanced technology to the user community is also risky because they may not be prepared for it or even want it. In some ways you could refer to Thomas Pynchon’s collection of novels as bleeding edge to me personally, being the ignorant, infantile user that I am. The all encompassing risk is my unprepared nature to what he has to offer, or worse, wasted time due to my incomprehension of his literary intricacies. Like my Mother always told me; ‘son you were born ready’, insert Bleeding Edge by Mr.Pynchon.

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“It seemed to him [Otto Kugelblitz] obvious that the human life span runs through the varieties of mental disorder as understood in his day—the solipsism of infancy, the sexual hysterias of adolescence and entry-level adulthood, the paranoia of middle age, the dementia of late life … all working up to death, which at last turns out to be ‘sanity.’ ”

Maxine Tarnow is not your average New York city suburban soccer mom. Rather than being a homemaker she is an ex-fraud examiner who now runs her own fraud detective agency appropriately coined Tail ‘Em and Nail ‘Em. Her children don’t play the field, circle the bases or run up and down the pitch. Instead they study the widely-integrated self-defense system of Krav Maga. Recently separated from her husband Horst Loeffler, Maxine is trying to balance home life, professional life, and personal life. Maxine doesn’t deal well with the rules and regulations that used to be a fixture of her job as a legally certified fraud specialist, but running her own firm gives her some leeway to the appropriated code of ethics that her field demands. At this point she is content working small time rackets, but ultimately she is not satisfied with less than ideal job prospects. The thrill is gone as my man B.B. King would harmonize. After stumbling upon some sensitive financial information Maxine concludes that the numbers don’t add up and she is desperate to find the person responsible for making them dance. What she ends up finding is that this is bigger than some fudged numbers on a firm’s ledger; Maxine will eventually come face-to-face with hackers, drug runners, rogue government officials, Russian mobsters and other peculiar characters, and in the end Maxine wouldn’t want it any other way. However; in the city that never sleeps, rest assured that there are always people watching.

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“Street cred. Anybody who got in before ’97 is considered OK – from ’97 to 2000 it can go either way, maybe they’re not not always cool, but usually they’re not quite the kind of full-service dickhead you’re seeing in the now.” “He’s considered cool?” “No, he’s a dickhead, but one of the early ones. A pioneer dickhead.”

While perusing various book worshiping websites for recommendations in the deconstruction and construction of my extensive to-buy list I have come across the name of Thomas Pynchon on many different occasions. These suggestions have led me to the feeling that although I may find his prose enjoyable and entertaining, it would end better serve me to dip my toe in the water before diving right into the pool. After further contemplation my belief was that I was not quite ready to tackle the celebrated non-linear Pynchon; that was until his new novel was made available to me in the form of an Advanced Reader’s Copy. So I hopped on the opportunity, and now the “fun” has just begun. Yeah sure, a free book for me from one of America’s greatest 20th century authors, now go read it, digest it, and review it pronto. Being a Pynchonian noobie I decided to let go of any preconceived ideas and just dive into the book headfirst with no calculations of the depths in front of me. Well, after a third of the book finished I had many impressions and fears for the comprehension of the remaining pages. At first breath; I was somewhat lost with the plethora of characters and their independent dynamics, I also needed thorough books of reference (the concise editions wouldn’t suffice), I didn’t quite understand what I just read, but I couldn’t help but look forward to when I can get back to the story and read what happens next. I was shocked that I could enjoy a book that confounded me so much and still maintain a high-level of motivation to finish.

” ‘Is it just this miserable fucking city, too many faces, making us crazy? Are we seeing some wholesale return of the dead?’ ‘You’d prefer retail?’ “

The humor involved in Maxine’s dealings with other characters (please forgive me I can’t remember their names, (it’s predominantly a blur to me now) and Mr. Pynchon’s grasp of the present disposition of the underground is amazing to me giving his current age as well as his well-documented living arrangements. At times I feel that the seventy-six-year old Pynchon is cooler than me, mind you I think I am pretty cool(I have a Chihuahua, a neck beard and wear sweater vests) but this guy rubs my face in it. The whole Hip Hop innuendo combined with the references to early 20th century “chick flicks”, the delving into Jewish “stereotypes” and other cultural dynamics (think tongue polonaise), the sexual permissiveness of a twenty-something year old ubergeek foot fetishist named Eric, conversations with Igor and the two Russian students Misha and Grisha to talk about some of my favourite moments. All of these situational dynamics had me laughing and waiting for more, and I am only mentioning what I can remember.

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“I haven’t sold my soul yet—well, maybe a couple bars of rhythm and blues here and there,”

Overall, even if I thought the whole novel was not as accessible as other books in this respective genre, it left me with the overwhelming feeling that it was entertaining and a joy to read. On the other hand it also left me feeling somewhat saddened at the shortsighted and stubborn state of post 9/11 America with the wasted opportunity for progression and the impatient acceptance for short-term economic sustainability. Bleeding Edge is also a type of novel that you could reread instantaneously upon completion and find something new, that is if you’re into that sort of thing. It would also allow you the ability to put more of the pieces to the puzzle together given your understanding after your first slow jaunt through this story. The non-linear elements,the plot-within-a-plot-within-a-plot endless wormhole that was this book will not dissuade me from reading more from Thomas Pynchon. However; I will ensure to make my next selection with thoughtful consideration. I recommend this novel to anyone that is looking for a wild ride through the turbulent streets of New York.

“Our product is still totally DeepArcher?” “Which is…” “Like ‘departure’, only you pronounce it DeepArcher?” “Zen thing”Maxine guesses. “Weed thing.”

 

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