Connect with us


Phuket Books: Against the machine

Legacy Phuket Gazette




PHUKET: For me, Thomas Pynchon and Robert Stone are the two best living American writers. Both have recently come out with new novels. I’ll get around to Robert Stone next time.

Bleeding Edge (The Penguin Press, New York, 2013, 477pp) is Thomas Pynchon’s eighth novel. His first, V., astonished the literary world in 1963. Gravity’s Rainbow and Against the Day were even more epic, leading to calls for Pynchon to be awarded the Nobel Prize.

Bleeding Edge recalls Pynchon’s second novel The Crying of Lot 49, which featured a female protagonist, Oedipa Maas, on the track of a sinister conspiracy: an ancient, private, underground mail delivery organization.

How times have changed. Now, it’s a sinister computer network called hashslingrz and the heroine is Maxine Tarnow – a private fraud investigator and Jewish mother of two young boys who packs a Beretta in her purse.

Her quarry is Gabriel Ice, a techno-nerd who is gathering the reins of power after the dot-com bubble burst, funneling funds to the Arabian peninsula, and leaving clues of a great looming catastrophe.

Six months before September 11, the scene is Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Pynchon’s distinctive narrative voice opens the novel. “It’s the first day of spring 2001, and Maxine Tarnow, though some still have her in their system as Loeffler, is walking her boys to school. Yes, maybe they’re past the age where they need an escort, maybe Maxine doesn’t want to let go just yet, it’s only a couple blocks, it’s on her way to work, she enjoys it, so?”

The plot involves a cast of hundreds with Pynchon’s usual wacky names – Vyrna McElmo, Nicholas Windust, Lester Traipse, Conkling Speedwell and Eric Outfield – involved in various scams of skullduggery. There are a whole shoal of red herrings, trivia references to movies and TV shows, extended song lyrics and outrageous puns, “I have always depended on the kindness of stranglers.” Or a strip club called Joie de Beavre.

But as one critic has observed, one no more reads Thomas Pynchon for plot than he does Jane Austin for sex. The hip narrative voice, the wild humor, the exuberant pace – these sweep the reader along. No one outside of Elmore Leonard writes such brilliant dialogue, no one outside Faulkner such intricate, rolling and intense descriptions.

Take this trip into deep cyberspace, “Presently they’re linked and descending from wee-hours Manhattan into teeming darkness, leaving the surface-Net crawlers busy overhead slithering link to link, leaving behind the banners and pop-ups and user groups and self-replicating chat rooms… down to where they can begin cruising among co-opted blocks of address space with cyber thugs guarding the perimeter, spammer operations centers, video games one way or another deemed too violent or offensive… It surprises Maxine how populated it is down here in sub-spider country. Adventurers, pilgrims, remittance folks, lovers on the run, claim jumpers, skips, fugue cases, and a high number of inquisitive entrepre-nerds…”

Hustlers and investigators circle each other in an elaborate dance, leading to murders, disappearances and a heartbreaking description of New York in the aftermath of September 11. Amid all the hectic japery there’s this serious warning from Maxine’s old leftie father about the terror of Cold Warriors. “Yep, and your internet was their invention, this magical convenience that creeps now like a smell through the smallest details of our lives: the shopping, the housework, the homework, the taxes, absorbing our energy, eating up our precious time. And there’s no innocence. Anywhere, Never was. It was conceived in sin, the worst possible. As it kept growing, it never stopped carrying in its heart a bitter-cold death wish for the planet, and don’t think anything has changed, kid.”

Still, Maxine and her family survive into another year after she has allied herself with Gabriel Ice’s estranged wife Tallis and her old leftie, pot-smoking and blogging activist mother March. Maxine forces Gabriel, at the point of her Beretta, to back down from a sidewalk stand-off. Out all night, she returns to her apartment as her sons are getting ready for school, “Go to your room,” they tell her, “You are, like, so grounded.”

And, another year gone, her sons head off to school by themselves.

— James Eckardt


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forum
🔔 Subscribe to our daily newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Tourism5 mins ago

Germany removes Thailand from its list of high-risk countries

Indonesia23 mins ago

Death toll rises to 14 in volcanic eruption in Indonesia

North East56 mins ago

Police deny detaining or threatening woman who told PM to “retire quickly”

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 hour ago

CCSA meets today to decide on southern border re-opening

World13 hours ago

Foreign Ministers of China and Malaysia agree over South China Sea

Bangkok14 hours ago

Burmese woman rescued by DSI after 13 years of forced labour

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Protests15 hours ago

Burmese soldiers drive car into protesters killing 5, injuring dozens

Chon Buri17 hours ago

4 Bang Saen restaurants busted selling alcohol outside Chon Buri Blue Zone

Politics18 hours ago

Woman who told PM Prayut to “retire quickly” claims police visited her

Transport20 hours ago

Boeing’s Max 737 returns to Chinese skies

Coronavirus (Covid-19)20 hours ago

COVID-19 SUNDAY: 4,704 infections, 27 deaths, provincial totals

Coronavirus (Covid-19)21 hours ago

Omicron variant and surging Covid-19 affect European nations

Coronavirus (Covid-19)22 hours ago

Australia, Asia, and Africa deal with the Covid-19 Omicron variant

Thailand22 hours ago

HM The King returns to Thailand for Father’s Day commemorations

Coronavirus (Covid-19)24 hours ago

Omicron spreads to 38 countries, 10 US states; Remdesivir recalled

Coronavirus World5 days ago

Health officials say Omicron probably in the Netherlands prior to South Africa reports

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 days ago

PM will decide on need for lockdown if and when Omicron found in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 days ago

UPDATE: What we know about “Omicron,” new travel restrictions to Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 days ago

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says PCR tests will remain a requirement for foreign arrivals

Thailand7 days ago

Thailand News Today | Quarantine requirements in Thailand relaxed, Vocal expat deported | Nov 29

Tourism6 days ago

No plans to reverse re-opening, despite Omicron variant – Tourism Ministry

Road deaths7 days ago

Thai man dies by flurry of bullets while going to get 2nd Covid shot

Drugs5 days ago

Men arrested at Bangkok airport for allegedly smuggling drugs valued at 95 million baht

Visa3 days ago

10-year long term visa scheme takes a step forward, measures approved by PM

Thailand5 days ago

Possible lockdown, Crypto in Thailand, Transit system improvements | Good Morning Thailand | Ep.143

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 days ago

Thailand entry restrictions on African countries in response to Omicron

Bangkok6 days ago

Foreigner claims Bangkok taxi pocketed 1,000 baht for ride down Sukhumvit

Tourism5 days ago

Cha-am permitted to sell alcohol in restaurants from December 1

Expats4 days ago

Bangkok is 4th best place to live in Southeast Asia, according to expat survey

Tourism6 days ago

Tourism officials welcome Czech movie filming in Phuket and Krabi

Thailand3 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism9 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism10 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand10 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism10 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand11 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11