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Bleeding Edge Reviews

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The New York Times: Reviewing Thomas Pynchon...

Reviews

Please add any relevant reviews as they come in. Blog reviews are fine as long as they're substantial and more than a few paragraphs.

10/09/13 Georgia Straight - Michael Hingston: "To be honest, Bleeding Edge kind of fried my brain. Pynchon’s last novel, 2009’s Inherent Vice, was a similar attempt to inhabit the detective genre in order to detonate it from within, but at least there the overall mood was one of marijuana-induced stupor. Here, however, in the straight-edge world of computer geeks, it feels more like an accidental short circuit. 404 error. Page not found." Entire review »

10/08/13 The Plain Dealer - Jean Dubail: "But what in the end gives "Bleeding Edge" its satisfying depth is the way Pynchon portrays the relationships between Maxine and Horst, and between each of them and their sons. These are people whose feelings are managed, people who know, as Maxine says of her city-raised boys, how to "keep a perimeter" in emotionally fraught situations. In the wake of 9/11, however, they need each other, and Pynchon is at his subtle best in showing how the family slowly comes back together. His readers can see, even when his characters cannot, that they -- we? -- are ultimately bound together by love." Entire review »

10/06/13 Al Jazeera America - Christopher Byrd: "Thomas Pynchon's eighth novel, "Bleeding Edge," was released on the same day as the newest entry in Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto series. That the most secretive literary genius of our time and the most guarded video-game developer in the world should issue new works on the same day is either a confluence of mystical energy or — on the secular side of the coin — the most startling coincidence of cultural significance since the passing of the European filmmakers Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni on July 7, 2007." Entire review »

10/04/13 The Montreal Gazette - Joel Yanofsky: "That said, the last decade or so has been a good one for making Pynchon look like a prophet again. It would be hard to find — or, for that matter, invent — a novelist better suited to investigating the connections, imagined and real, between the fall of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the rise, since then, of ubiquitous institutions like Google and Facebook. Bleeding Edge also foreshadows recent revelations about the way government agencies have been spying on, well, all of us." Entire review »

10/03/13 The Awl - Brian O'Neill: "There are dozens of other characters and fascinating relationships, more and more. That’s kind of the point. Pull at any thread and 50 others come loose, till you’re stuck tangled in knots you never saw being tied. Pynchon is a master of creating a world that you never can truly see, beyond the dull mirrors of our daily lives. You’re never quite on solid footing, but you know you are searching for something. Things start to clarify, but as they always do with Pynchon, that's when they start to make the least sense. It is our world at an angle, full of basements and secret passageways and snippets of half-remembered songs—dreams?—trying to tell you something vitally important." Entire review »

09/29/13 The Sydney Morning Herald - John Bailey: "Think Prism and WikiLeaks: we now live in the reality Pynchon has long prophesied. He leaves us with hope. Bleeding Edge is as much a story of mothers seeking to understand the world into which their children have been delivered, and of people attempting to carve some space of safety for those around them. It ends with a whispering wistfulness, the sense you might get upon passing a former home that's since been given a monstrous makeover. We lived here once. Didn't we?" Entire review »

09/28/13 The Guardian - Talitha Stevenson: "No doubt a good genre book is worth more than a bad literary one any day, but when a writer with real genius squanders so much of his energy on clowning – and for an audience it's not at all clear he respects – it's worth asking what's going on. The idea that jokes are a defence against intimacy is a cliche – perhaps they can also be a defence against close reading." Entire review »

09/25/13 Newsday - Craig Seligman: "Structure has never been Pynchon's strong point. The all-over-the-placeness didn't matter so much in the gargantuan Gravity's Rainbow (1973) -- at least, not until the last quarter -- because the sentences were so intense, sensually and emotionally, that the acid trip they constituted flattened every other concern. Bleeding Edge is more like the kind of trip in which you keep asking from the backseat, 'When are we going to get there?'" Entire review »

09/25/13 Salon - Justin St. Clair: "But wait — there’s more. Re-presenting his previous work isn’t the only way that Pynchon weaves his web. He also plays the insider game by overloading the text with obscure particulars. There is, in other words, a lot of zooming in and out for what you’d have to call its own sake, a welter of specific — and occasionally unsettling — minutiae. The vertiginous effect that results does not come from a rapid change in perspective, but rather from the banality of the details themselves — plain, ordinary, and inconsequentially real. The most paranoid among us (Andrew Leonard at Salon?) begin to believe that Pynchon must actually be reading us, and, in a way, he is." Entire review »

09/22/13 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Mike Fischer: "Bleeding Edge is stuffed with gorgeous passages that sing their longing for all we’ve lost, in trashing the land and ourselves. But such writing is also a stirring call to arms, making clear that the history we’ll make depends on what and how we remember. As Pynchon has been reminding us for 50 years, there’s always more than one way to tell that story." Entire review »

09/21/13 Irish Independent - Darragh McManus: "I couldn't compare it, though, to something like DeLillo's Underworld, which really did feel like it encircled entireties of time and space: the so-called "American century", distilled. Bleeding Edge is less ambitious, anyway, more quirky and endearingly odd in personality. It won't make any 'greatest novels ever' lists. But it's a hell of a lot of fun to read." Entire review »

09/20/13 San Francisco Chronicle - Steven G. Kellman: "Bleeding Edge is stocked with panicky cartoon figures trying to claw their way through labyrinths. Its primary impulse is not realistic but verbal. Pynchon's true confederates are not Emile Zola and Theodore Dreiser as much as Algernon Charles Swinburne and Ronald Firbank - writers more intent on kneading words than noting the world. Pynchon is like a balloon man in the park who twists inflated plastic into the grotesque shapes of familiar animals. But this dog doesn't bark." Entire review »

09/20/13 The Independent - John Walsh: "There are hints of underground bunkers harbouring child assassins. There’s a satisfyingly nasty villain called Gabriel Ice, head of the tech company. There’s a murder… Then 9/11 erupts and transforms the world and the book. Suddenly the air is full of conspiracy theories. And Maxine – and the reader – is lured into suspicions that the new-fangled internet is affecting the American mind. She has “the bleak feeling, some mornings, that the country itself may not be there any more, but being silently replaced screen by screen with something else.”" Entire review »

09/20/13 New Statesman - Leo Robson: "In the novel’s beautifully settled final moments, Maxine, walking the Upper West Side after an all-nighter, spots a “blear of light” reflected in a top-floor window: yes, it’s probably the sun but it might be “something else”. Then she turns the corner and “leaves the question behind” – as Pynchon seems to be leaving behind his past, brilliant but narrowly extrovert, with its virtually exclusive focus on the world as distinct from the self." Entire review »

09/18/13 Wisconsin Public Radio - Mae Anderson: "In Bleeding Edge, Pynchon draws parallels between a relatively young Internet and a pre-Sept. 11 Manhattan — both ever-evolving landscapes marked by so much change over the past 12 years that the spring of 2001 seems like an ancient era." Entire review »

09/17/13 Barnes & Noble - Liesl Schillinger: "With Bleeding Edge , he shows that he has mastered the move from the shock of the new to the shock of the now, while cushioning the blow. If Maxi, in the post-9/11 world, keeps finding it "harder to tell 'real' NYC from translations" and "keeps getting caught in a vortex taking her farther each time into the virtual world," she is not alone. Pynchon throws her, and us, a rope. Where, we wonder, can it go?" Entire review »

09/17/13 Wisconsin Public Radio - Meg Wolitzer: "The book is alternately shticky and profound. Some of the time I wanted to live in its world, other times I found it unreadable. But much of the time I was satisfied to let the prose build and build around me." Entire review »

09/17/13 CounterPunch - Alan Cabal: "This is unquestionably Pynchon’s most sober novel. Anyone who was in Manhattan at the time will recognize the characters, and the landscape is perfectly drawn. Aside from DeepArcher (which may be haunted) and a truly disturbing subplot referencing Preston Nichols’ outrageous assertions of time travel experiments at the Air Force base in Montauk, Long Island, there is barely a whiff of surrealism here. Pynchon’s depiction of Long Island is appropriately perverse in a David Lynch sort of way, and his easygoing contempt for the Upper East Side (embodied by no less than Bernie Madoff) provides a rare glimpse into the deeper parochialism of the New Yorker mindset. A healthy detestation of the Upper East Side is as much a hallmark of the true New Yorker as hating the Red Sox." Entire review »

09/14/13 Reason - Mike Godwin: "Even more than the accuracy of Pynchon's millennial Manhattan mise-en-scène, the most striking thing about Bleeding Edge is that its theme inverts that of those books on which he first built his reputation. The Pynchon of V., The Crying of Lot 49, and Gravity's Rainbow was certain (or so I thought as an undergraduate) of the destructive power of human delusion, vanity, and aspirations towards transcendence. In Bleeding Edge, by contrast, it is precisely those human failings that have shielded us, for better or for worse, from the harsh realities of historical forces that more or less ignore our vanity and aspirations." Entire review »

Image: Wesley Merritt
09/14/13 The Telegraph - Tim Martin: "Bleeding Edge, Pynchon’s eighth novel, is the best and most surprising thing he’s written since those great books. It dispels any suggestion that, after spawning an entire tradition of comic-digressive and shamelessly intellectual American novels, he had gone peacefully off the boil when he reached his seventies. [...] But now, 50 years after the publication of Pynchon’s debut novel, Bleeding Edge is at a stroke his 9/11 book, his internet book and – even though it’s set in 2001, back when the suggestion that the state was spying 24/7 on its citizens was still tinfoil-hat speculation rather than vivid reality – the first great fictional work of the post-PRISM age." Entire review »

09/14/13 The Boston Globe - John Freeman: "In the pantheon of Pynchon books, which are either skybound – V. Gravity’s Rainbow, Against the Day — or earthly — Vineland, Inherent Vice — this one is decidedly of the latter sort. It’s a book that fights mightily against the landfill by taking all the random pieces of that wastrel-conman era and putting them into a plot that is both ridiculous and far too close to reality to laugh at without a back-draft of dread. " Entire review »

09/14/13 USA Today - Don Oldenburg: "The truth is, Pynchon writes like no one else. He somehow injects love and humanity as the antidote to the dehumanization he fears and obsesses about. He convincingly warp-speeds from one setting and characters to another within the same sentence. Even in his hyper-narrative ways, he remains the master of phrasing — cool, hip, explosive narrative fragments overstuffed with meaning." Entire review »

09/13/13 The Guardian - Theo Tait: "But, in the postmodern way, Bleeding Edge combines apparently unserious, even puerile, means with deadly serious ends. It is nearly 500 densely packed pages long, and carries a clear message about America's current direction: about the "emerging technopolitical order"; about the "hole" that "opened up in American history" after 9/11 and about the "global pyramid racket" of "late capitalism" ... . Inevitably, the outline of a conspiracy looms up – involving a Bond-villainous character named Gabriel Ice, international hawala networks, shell companies in the Middle East, various sinister government agencies and men with Stinger missiles on Manhattan rooftops. Eventually, it spreads its tentacles to 9/11; though, as often in Pynchon, it is left uncertain what is conspiracy and what is paranoia." Entire review »

09/13/13 Valley News - Troy Patterson: "Reading Bleeding Edge , tearing up at the beauty of its sadness or the punches of its hilarity, you may realize it as the 9/11 novel you never knew you needed. Who else but Pynchon can indict the sins of power while giving the sinner noogies of love? Who else could invent, as the name for a Queens strip club, Joie de Beavre? Who you gonna call when a screaming comes across the sky?" Entire review »

09/12/13 The Los Angeles Times - Carolyn Kellogg: "But with Bleeding Edge, Pynchon is drawing new attention to himself. Long a Manhattan resident who, according to the cognoscenti, walked his son to school and otherwise lived a quiet but not hermetic life there, Pynchon has set this novel in his own territory. It is full of lived-in details of pizza parlors and bars and delis and where to get a turkey for Thanksgiving that could serve almost as a road map to the author himself. In this way, the book is an unexpected coming together: He has brought his fictions into the (almost) present day, into what appears to be very close to his own stamping grounds. It's as if with Bleeding Edge Pynchon is ready to acknowledge that he lives in this world with the rest of us." Entire review »

Image by Mario Wagner
09/12/13 The New York Times - Jonathan Lethem: "Despite the lack of personal information supplied about the author, it’s plain, from the sweep and chortle of his sentences, from the irascible outbreaks of horniness, from the pinpoint rage at popular hypocrisy and cant, that young Pynchon is a writer of boundless promise, sure to give us a long shelf of entrancing and charismatic novels. I believe he has a masterpiece or three in him. I look forward to seeing what he’ll do next." Entire review »

09/11/13 The New Republic - Adam Kirsch: "The best thing that can be said about Bleeding Edge is that Pynchon seems to recognize the unseriousness of his own mystery-making, and so doesn't insist on taking the novel's paranoia too seriously. All those comic names, all those puns and references, keep the tone playful and the pace quick. However odd it may seem, this is a September 11 novel that is light reading—a genre parody, genial and rambunctious. Its very portentousness is a kind of game, and so it remains safe, like Maxine Tarnow, even as it wanders down the darkest of alleys." Entire review »

09/11/13 Washington Post - Michael Dirda: "Full of verbal sass and pizzazz, as well as conspiracies within conspiracies, “Bleeding Edge” is totally gonzo, totally wonderful. It really is good to have Thomas Pynchon around, doing what he does best." Entire review »

09/09/13 - New York Times - Michiko Kakutani: "The result, disappointingly, is a scattershot work that is, by turns, entertaining and wearisome, energetic and hokey, delightfully evocative and cheaply sensational; dead-on in its conjuring of zeitgeist-y atmospherics, but often slow-footed and ham-handed in its orchestration of social details." Entire review » — What? You expected praise? HAH!

09/09/12 - Wired - Jason Tanz: "Thomas Pynchon Returns as a Prophet of the Post-Snowden Era". Entire review »

09/08/13 - Phily.com - Andrew Ervin: "Line by line, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, Bleeding Edge reveals the workings of an uncommonly humane thinker and uniquely American voice working at the peak of his talents." Entire review »

09/06/13 - Slate - Troy Patterson: "His view of the tech world is captivating. Though he doesn’t attempt any grand-scale Balzacian social analysis of Silicon Alley, he gives the full Fitzgerald swoon to passages describing the ritual sacrifice of innocence on the altar of IPO ambition..." Entire review »

09/05/13 - The Paris Review - Gary Lippman: "More than any other recurring Pynchonian concept, paranoia receives nuanced treatment in the novelist’s work. A tendency toward the “p” word would seem to color his personal life as well: although he reputedly lives in plain sight on New York’s Upper West Side, he keeps his private life more private than that of any other major American artist. And, after being a stone Pynchonophile for nearly thirty years, I’ve finally started feeling a bit paranoid myself. It’s not the dot-com “hashslingrz,” Pynchon’s latest fictional conspiracy, that’s freaking me out, but the author himself." Entire review »

09/03/13 - Berfrois - Albert Rolls. Originally published in Orbit: Writing Around Pynchon: "The lightness, like that of Pynchon’s other short novels, is deceptive. Bleeding Edge is not simply the tale of Maxine’s investigation but an examination of the cultural direction America is headed in..." Entire review »

08/19/13 - Publishers Weekly - David Kipen: "Published 50 years ago by long-gone J.B. Lippincott & Co., Thomas Pynchon's V. wasn't just the best first novel ever, it was a blueprint for his entire career. Much as that book yoyo-ed between an international femme fatale and a feckless contemporary klutz, the Pynchon shelf has alternated between globe-trotting, century-spanning bricks like Gravity's Rainbow (1973), and impish, only slightly historical, California-set bagatelles like Inherent Vice (2009). Now comes Bleeding Edge, a lovably scruffy comedy of remarriage, half-hidden behind the lopsided Groucho mask of Pynchon's second straight private-eye story. Like Ornette Coleman's riff on The Rite of Spring, it starts out strong, misplaces the melody amid some delightfully surreal noodling, and finally swans away in sweet, lingering diminuendo." Entire review »

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