Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge
Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr.
"Thomas Pynchon is an enigma shrouded in a mystery veiled in anonymity. ... He so shuns publicity that he doesn't allow his likeness to be used on book jackets. All known photographs of the man date to the early 1950s. ... Some of his fans wonder if he really exists or might really be several people writing under a pseudonym. ... He has proven himself willing to step out of the shadows from time to time — but on his own terms" (Charles Feldman, CNN, 5 June 1997).
"He is almost a mathematician of prose, who calculates the least and the greatest stress each word and line, each pun and ambiguity, can bear, and applies his knowledge accordingly and virtually without lapses, though he takes many scary, bracing linguistic risks. Thus his remarkably supple diction can first treat of a painful and delicate love scene and then roar, without pause, into the sounds and echoes of a drugged and drunken orgy" (Sissman 1973).
Bleeding edge technology is a category of technologies incorporating those so new that they could have a high risk of being unreliable and lead adopters to incur greater expense in order to make use of them. The term bleeding edge was formed as an allusion to the similar terms "leading edge" and "cutting edge". It tends to imply even greater advancement, albeit at an increased risk of "metaphorically cutting until bleeding" because of the unreliability of the software or other technology (wiki).
(Photo on right is a speculative rendering of what Pynchon might look like today.)
— Born May 8th, 1937 in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York. One of three children.
— Attended Oyster Bay High School in Oyster Bay where he won "student of the year" for pieces of short fiction submitted and published in the school newspaper. Much of the same subject matter from those pieces are reiterated in his later work as an author.
— Graduated high school in 1953, at the age of 16, and went on to study engineering physics at Cornell University. He left at the end of his second year to serve in the US Navy.
— After returning, he finished his degree in English.
— Worked as a technical writer at Boeing in Seattle and began his first novel V. from Feb. 1960 to Sept. 1962. V. is published in 1963.
— Left Boeing and moved to New York City and Mexico before settling in California for most of the 60's and early 70's where he partook in the hippie and beat counterculture of the time.
— In 1964, his application to the University of California Berkley's mathematics graduate department was rejected.
— Later that year, in a letter to his agent, he expresses that he is working on four novels at the same time. It is speculated that The Crying of Lot 49 was the first of the four (published 1966).
—1965, he turns down an invitation to teach literature at Bennington College in Vermont to continue his literary aspirations.
— Publishes Gravity's Rainbow in 1973.
— Publishes a collection of short stories titled Slow Learner in 1984, as well as a few articles and book reviews. One specifically, was a lengthy, yet positive, review of Gabriel Garcia Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera.
Beginning in the 1970's and 80's, Pynchon became increasingly wary and reticent to provide commentary on his work. The publication of Gravity's Rainbow led to a massive boost in his popularity and a greater interest in seeking out the identity of the writer. Speculation about his who he was and where he might be living became an obsession for many media outlets. In an article from the Soho Weekly News guessed that Pynchon was actually J.D. Salinger (Batchelor 1976). Pynchon wrote back a simple response: "Not bad. Keep trying."
The first substantial depiction of Pynchon came from a former Cornell University friend, Jules Siegel, which was published in Playboy magazine. Among other things, it was revealed that while at college Pynchon had a "complex about his teeth and underwent extensive and painful reconstructive surgery." He also was the best man at Siegel's wedding, later having an affair with Siegel's wife. He is also quoted by Siegel as having said that "[e]very weirdo is on my wavelength." This quote can be seen as permeating belief formed out of his "crankiness and zealotry that has attached itself to his name and work."
His reclusivity has been likened to that of J.D. Salinger, Emily Dickenson, and Patrick White. Like any reclusive celebrity, there have been a large number of publications dedicated to unveiling his identity over the years, but, even today, all have come to little more than speculation.
Bibliography (to 1984 and Bleeding Edge)
(1966) The Crying of Lot 49
(1973) Rainbow's Gravity
(2013) Bleeding Edge
(1959) "The Small Rain" Cornell Writer 6, March 1959
(1959) "Mortality and Mercy in Vienna" Epoch 9, Spring 1959
(1960) "Low-lands" New World Writing 16
(1960) "Entropy" Kenyon Review 2 Spring 1960
(1961) "Under the Rose" Noble Savage 3
(1964) "The Secret Integration" Saturday Evening Post 19–26 December 1964
(1965) "The World (This One), the Flesh (Mrs. Oedipa Maas), and the Testament of Pierce Inverarity" Esquire 64 December 1965)
(1966) "The Shrink Flips" Cavalier 16 March 1966
Short Story Collections
(1984) Slow Learner
He also published a number of non-fiction works, including technical articles, essays, letters, and reviews intermittently throughout his career.
A fun and insightful guide on how to read Thomas Pynchon's novels
There have been quite a few books published in academia that are specifically focused on Pynchon's work. Most of these books are now out of print, however, and predominantly deal with his earlier novels. These are a few of the more interesting:
The Grim Phoenix: Reconstructing Thomas Pynchon by William M. Plater (1978)
Thomas Pynchon's Art of Illusion by David Cowart (1980)
Ideas of Order in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon by Mollie Hite (1983)
Christian Allusions in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon by Victoria H. Price (1989)
Thomas Pynchon: Allusive Parables of Power by John Dugdale (1990)
Thomas Pynchon's Narratives: Subjectivity and Problems of Knowing by Alan W. Brownlie (2000)
Criticism of Pynchon's novels vary from a wide range of theoretical concepts, including ethics, power theory, subjectivity, epistemology, logical computationalism, politics, affectivism, social constructivism, philosophy, linguistics, technology, and many others.
V. won the William Faulkner Foundation Award for best first novel of the year and was also a finalist for the Nation Book Prize.
The Crying of Lot 49 won the Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Foundation Award.
Rainbow's Gravity was described as "literally an anthology of postmodern themes and devices" by Brian McHale, and has been likened to James Joyce's Ulysses.
Since Bleeding Edge is such a new book, there is little to no academic criticism pertaining to it.
Other Reception of Bleeding Edge
The Slate Book Review "A Search Result With No Instructions on How To Look for It" by Troy Patterson (Sept. 6th 2013)
"—a genre-drunk, ganja-fried study of place and paranoid mood, with a certain ceiling on its explorations of character, a lovely unconcern for those snoots who find its meta-pop sensibilities lacking, and down the home stretch a laggardly quality as the narrative threads of its shaggy-dog subplots get matted. But it strikes me as a necessary novel and one that literary history has been waiting for..."
The New York Times "Psychonopolis" by Jonathan Lethem (Sept. 12th 2013)
"On the one hand, his poetry of paranoia and his grasp of history’s surrealist passages make a perfect fit. Yet his slippery insouciance, his relentless japery, risk being tonally at odds with the subject."
"Pynchon depicts the world as he sees it, riddled by the depredations of greed, conspiracy and intolerance, of entropies both human-engineered and cosmically imposed. But his novels take the form of the world as he wishes it, hence their mighty powers of consolation. The freedoms and duties Pynchon assigns himself are those he desires on our behalf — lasciviousness, punning inanity, attention to the routinely sublime but also to the inevitability of suffering, love for the underdog and a home in our hearts for the dead."
The Guardian “Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon—Review” by Talitha Stevenson (September 28th 2013)
“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.”
Goodreads Average Review-3 out of 5 stars
Chaitra—Goodreads review (October 30th 2013) Two stars out of five
“There's also the annoying fact that once I read Pynchon-speak, I go around for days talking like this? Which isn't much of a stretch from how I normally speak, but it's annoying nonetheless. Eh, I'm kvetching. I should just re-read the thing and come to a conclusion, but I'm not that keen. 2 stars, maybe not Pynchon's fault.”
Amazon Average Review-3 ½ out of 5 stars
Herb—Amazon review 1 out of 5 stars
“I am convinced this jerk masturbates while looking into a mirror.
I will admit he turns a nice metaphor.....but he can not tell a story.
I found him very hard to read....does not follow any story that I could ascertain in the first 100 pages. Too cute, flippant and arrogant.
I got your Kaska-esh phrases....dangling.
Back to writer school...learn to write a story before you start your crazy rock and roll prose. does anyone proof read books anymore....full of typos.”
Gerald L. Hull—Amazon review 5 out 5 stars
“Passage through the novel is a kaleidoscopic journey through a blooming, buzzing profusion of mysteries, allusions, obscure references, magical realism, paranoid obsessions, Dickensian monikers, and comic/erotic alarums and diversions. The same, of course, can be said of pretty much any Pynchon novel. In Bleeding Edge more particularly, as someone with a history in software design & development, I am 'mazed by Pynchon's manifest mastery of that realm. Welcome to the Deep Web! Some readers may find this kind of acrobatic polymathy off-putting. Indeed his style can be a hard row to hoe ... but it's also a hoot! My advice is to concentrate on the sentences and let the story fend for itself. A focus on uncovering What It Really Means may leave you overlooking all the fun. Enjoy instead each passage as it rolls by. The prose bursts like pop rocks, and plot for Pynchon is mostly MacGuffin anyway.”