bleeding edge


Of course, Pynchon is famous for his complexity. V., The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), and Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) virtually set the template for the paranoid style in American fiction, and for what’s semi-synonymously called the systems novel—vast interrogations in which character and plot get subsumed in grander architectures built to explain or exhaust various systems of control (political, technological, financial, chemical, etc.). Other high priests of this tendency include the stylistically diverse William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, and David Foster Wallace; The Corrections has one foot in this tradition, as do many of William Gibson’s novels. If you double the list of key figures, most will still be dudes. At times, the systems novel can seem like the ultimate in what we now call “mansplaining.” In Bleeding Edge, Pynchon is keenly conscious of this gender divide, and even seems to address it. “Generally, all-male narratives, unless it’s the NBA, challenge Maxine’s patience,” he writes. “Now and then [her sons] will hustle her into watching an action movie, but if there aren’t that many women in the opening credits, she’ll tend to drift away.”

more from Ed Park at Bookforum here.