Home > Questions for Discussing These Works > Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge Discussion Questions

Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge Discussion Questions

1. Bleeding Edge is at its core a re-working of a gritty detective novel; a literary genre that has its roots deeply planted in the past. Detective novels work around the idea of “discovered facts” that eventually lead to the climax and ultimate culmination of the “good” detective triumphing over the “bad” culprit. How does Bleeding Edge problematize the genre? And, what questions arise about the verifiability of epistemic knowledge in the age of mass digitalization? 2. Language throughout the novel can be understood in multiple ways, one no more correct than the other. For us, the language used by the characters are outdated and sometimes, seemingly, foreign, while the way Pynchon writes is often cited as labyrinthine. When we think of computer programming, we are quite literally talking about a computer language that is distilled into a system of input and output. Can the literal language of the “computer” be reconciled with the human language, filled with all its underlying connotations and implicatures? Is there something lost in translation? If so, what does that mean for a society dominated by technological means? 3. Bleeding edge, as a technological term, refers to a group of technologies that are so new that they are often considered reliable and denounced by many as reliable due to their unforeseeable consequences. It is also a pun. What inferences can we make about the serious gravity of “unforeseeable consequences,” i.e. 9/11 and mass death, with the underlying comic aspects associated with the idea of “bleeding edge?” What role does comicality play against such solemnity, both in the novel and in our understanding and processing of 9/11 as a culture? 4. 9/11 proved to be a spectacular event and a spectacle. By this, I mean that it proved to be phenomenologically ocular occurrence for our nation, as well as for the rest of the world. The vast majority of us could not taste, touch, smell, or hear the event happening, and we had to rely solely on our visual apparatuses to produce an understanding of it. What evolved out of this purely sight-experienced event was not a reasoned recollection, but only a partial sensory one, which had to be “filled” in, since it was “unforeseeable.” It resided in the scotoma of our field of vision, and thus had to be extrapolated by the imaginative process. Is our understanding of 9/11 a speculative reconstruction of the imagination? Can we really have a true grasp on the events that day, or do we envision ourselves as the detective of our own past, searching for clues that cannot be found, and thus we must speculate as to their truth? Form conspiracies?