Tag Archives: Contemporary Writers

Party Like it’s 1999 with Thomas Pynchon’s “Bleeding Edge”

With the first Thomas Pynchon novel I’ve read (“The calling of lot 49”) I discovered a new dimension of literature. Language, characters, atmosphere – the main parts of each novel – have been developed by Pynchon to the extent that you can read the book once for the sake of language, then for the sake of the characters and finally for the sake of the atmosphere. I felt so impressed that when I was talking about this book, I had to mention each of these parts individually so I could express clear my thoughts. Some academic people call it postmodernism or post-post-modernism. For me it was a new way to read a novel.

However, what I’d like to talk about now is “Bleeding Edge” – the latest novel Pynchon wrote and the second books from him that I read. I must admit that it is quite strange to read a historical novel for a period that happened 16 years ago – when I was 10 years old.

The historical period that “The Bleeding Edge” is set in is an era that is filled with events that I still have vivid memories of. One of them is 9/11. Just like American remembered what he had done on the day that Kennedy was assassinated, so today every man on the planet remembers the day he saw the video on the television with the twin towers collapsing. However, “The Bleeding Edge” depicts even bigger picture than the one I remember on the news of this terrible moment.

The novel begins on a spring day in New York in 2001 and first introduces the reader to the reality of the “bursting of the dot-com balloon.”

Times of great idealism carry equal chances for greater corruptibility.

The economic shock is conveyed through the personal stories of the characters. As a reader who loves to learn new details about our modern history, this novel quickly grabbed my attention. Thomas Pynchon describes the reality before the Bursting and after. This masterful separation between these two eras in history is supported with the skillful use of words and phrases within one sentence, that are conveying the point of view of the characters and the narrator.

I must admit that at first the narrative felt annoying, since I am definitely a reader who has experience mostly with traditional novels and not so much with modern experiments. But after dozens of pages the narrative started to help me understand better what is going on. I started feeling like some kind of a finder, who searches and investigates the events that happen in the historical time period of the novel.

The main character of “The Bleeding Edge,” Maxine, is the next best aspect of the novel. Extremely charming, smart, fun, badass, femme fatal, paranoid, intuitive. A dozen of other weird and likeable characters gravitate around her. All of the characters are described with a very detail oriented style. Probably this kind of writing style helps the reader feel more like a direct observer of the events unfolding in the novel. I believe so, because the story is filled with weird moments when something completely unexpected happens and I started doubting the rationality of what I read.

Time travel, as it turns out, is not for civilian tourists, you don’t just climb into a machine, you have to do it from the inside out, with your mind and body, and navigating Time is an unforgiving discipline. It requires years of pain, hard labor, and loss, and there is no redemption–of, or from, anything

In these moments I felt like I had to choose whether to trust the author and swallow my doubts or to drop the book. A book that convinces you to turn down your own beliefs and take the extremely weird and unusual as a version of reality is the one you expect to justify your trust in the next moment. And this one did it for me – each chapter gave me more than the previous one and moved me forward.

The past, hey no shit, it’s an open invitation to wine abuse.

Paul Auster’s “4321” made me think about the meaning of the word “masterpiece”

Once in an interview with Paul Auster I’ve read that thrpoughout his entire life everything has led him to the creation of the novel “4 3 2 1” – his magnum opus. After finishing reading the last page of the novel, I would say the same thing about myself – that everything I’ve read, watched, has done throughout my life has led me closer to the total immersion in “4 3 2 1”

The big event that rips through the heart of things and changes life for everyone, the unforgettable moment when something ends and something else begins. Was that what this was, he asked himself, a moment similar to the outbreak of war? No, not quite. War announces the beginning of a new reality, but nothing had begun today, a reality had ended, that was all, something had been subtracted from the world, and now there was a hole, a nothing where there had once been a something, as if every tree in the world had vanished, as if the very concept of tree or mountain had been erased from the human mind

The narrative follows couple of storylines and at the same time I would not say there was an unnecessary word in it. With every word the novel is getting bigger and bigger, the characters are growing on you and they are no longer just a product of your imagination, but it feels like they come to life in front of your eyes. This kind of books I always say are “exceptional”.

His mother’s name was Rose, and when he was big enough to tie his shoes and stop wetting the bed, he was going to marry her.

4321 by Paul Auster

World War II, Korean War, Kennedy’s presidency, Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson, the Vietnam War, the Summer of Love, Charles Manson’s cult, Sharon Tate’s death, the student protests at Columbia University, the ethics in journalism, the lightening of the Pentagon secret papers that have accused the US government of lying about the Vietnam War since the 1950s, the redemption of the New York Times, the radicalism, the Black panthers, feminism, racism, terrorism, the shooting of Andy Warhol, Richard Nixon, the creativity at times when the world is burning.

If all of these listed events speak to the potential reader, I would bet he would be interested in immersing himself in the reality that created them, deconstructing it and probably experiencing the feelings that made me think about the meaning of the word masterpiece:

masterpiece /ˈmɑːstəpiːs/ noun
a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.

This is one my favorite contemporary novels.

the world as it was could never be more than a fraction of the world, for the real also consisted of what could have happened but didn’t, that one road was no better or worse than any other road, but the torment of being alive in a single body was that at any given moment you had to be on one road only, even though you could have been on another, traveling toward an altogether different place.