Oscar Wilde said it: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” For Thomas Pynchon, it’s not only the true mystery, but the whole enchilada.
There is no introspection or doubt in his novels: Things happen according to a kind of internally generated gonzo energy. In the case of Bleeding Edge, that energy involves—most especially—the Internet, September 11, hidden server farms, insane conspiracies, Russian gangsters, bent right-wing government men, Satanic CEOs, and a sinister firm called hashslingerz.com that could be either pro or anti government.
What is nowhere are any steps one millimeter closer to finding the meaning of life. That gonzo energy is life itself. Why be paralyzed by doubts, when those omnipresent marionette strings are urging you on to the next adventure?
Okay, no, scratch introspection. What there is, is the energy—and great gobs of interesting trivia and wit. Whenever heroine Maxine Tarnow jumps into action, I want to know what will happen in all these terribly involved situations that would have me, were I in her shoes, edging out the door, down the street, across the country—hell, halfway to Argentina.
Maybe I’m just a big coward. But at least I know what I like, and I do like Thomas Pynchon with his paraphernalia. Maybe Horace Engdahl of the Nobel Prize for Literature selection committee was right about American literature:
“There is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the centre of the literary world … not the United States,” he told the Associated Press. “The US is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature…. That ignorance is restraining.”
But it sure is fun.