The Washington Post
“Brilliantly written… a joy to read… Bleeding Edge is totally gonzo, totally wonderful. It really is good to have Thomas Pynchon around, doing what he does best.” (Michael Dirda)
It is 2001 in New York City, in the lull between the collapse of the dot-com boom and the terrible events of September 11th. Silicon Alley is a ghost town, Web 1.0 is having adolescent angst, Google has yet to IPO, Microsoft is still considered the Evil Empire. There may not be quite as much money around as there was at the height of the tech bubble, but there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left.
Maxine Tarnow is running a nice little fraud investigation business on the Upper West Side, chasing down different kinds of small-scale con artists. She used to be legally certified but her license got pulled a while back, which has actually turned out to be a blessing because now she can follow her own code of ethics—carry a Beretta, do business with sleazebags, hack into people’s bank accounts—without having too much guilt about any of it. Otherwise, just your average working mom—two boys in elementary school, an off-and-on situation with her sort of semi-ex-husband Horst, life as normal as it ever gets in the neighborhood—till Maxine starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO, whereupon things begin rapidly to jam onto the subway and head downtown. She soon finds herself mixed up with a drug runner in an art deco motorboat, a professional nose obsessed with Hitler’s aftershave, a neoliberal enforcer with footwear issues, plus elements of the Russian mob and various bloggers, hackers, code monkeys, and entrepreneurs, some of whom begin to show up mysteriously dead. Foul play, of course.
With occasional excursions into the DeepWeb and out to Long Island, Thomas Pynchon, channeling his inner Jewish mother, brings us a historical romance of New York in the early days of the internet, not that distant in calendar time but galactically remote from where we’ve journeyed to since.
Will perpetrators be revealed, forget about brought to justice? Will Maxine have to take the handgun out of her purse? Will she and Horst get back together? Will Jerry Seinfeld make an unscheduled guest appearance? Will accounts secular and karmic be brought into balance?
Hey. Who wants to know?
"If not here at the end of history, when? If not Pynchon, who? Reading Bleeding Edge, tearing up at the beauty of its sadness or the punches of its hilarity, you may realize it as the 9/11 novel you never knew you needed… a necessary novel and one that literary history has been waiting for."
The New York Times Book Review
Exemplary… dazzling and ludicrous... Our reward for surrendering expectations that a novel should gather in clarity, rather than disperse into molecules, isn’t anomie but delight.” (Jonathan Lethem)
“The book’s real accomplishment is to claim the last decade as Pynchon territory, a continuation of the same tensions — between freedom and captivity, momentum and entropy, meaning and chaos — through which he has framed the last half-century."
***A New York Times Notable Book of 2013***
Worst performance among my 300+ audiobooks
Unbelievably poor narration. And by ‘unbelievably,’ I mean I can’t believe this isn’t some sort of $23.95 joke! I’ve listened to at least 300 audiobooks on my iPhone. I’ve heard some great narrators and some poor ones (especially on older, minor works) but I’ve never heard anyone as poorly suited to the task — and for a new Thomas Pynchon book? Astounding. Ron McClarty did a fabulous job with _Inherent Vice_ — I just got through listening to it for the 15 or so'th time and it’s as good as this one is bad. Jeannie Berlin may turn out to be great as Aunt Reet in the upcoming film adaption of _Inherent Vice_. I trust Director PT Anderson. But, then, I trusted Penguin, too. And this audiobook is a mess.
some books should be read
I made the mistake of ordering the audiobook in anticipation of a bus trip, and didn't preview it first. Perhaps, indeed, Berlin's horrific narration is Pynchon's way of reminding us that some books should be read, not listened to. But Penguin, why agree to such a gag? Whatever the case, I consent that I've lost $24 on this mistake, and will download the book when I have a chance. (Alas, my chances of finding a paper copy are quite slim in this corner of the world.)
I want my money back
Big Pynchon fan. And a big consumer of audio books. But the narration here is so bad, so very bad, that it has to be a gag -- his way of letting us know that his books are intended to be read and not heard. Straining to follow the narrative through the fog of the stale, amateurish, weirdly-inflected narration, I can tell this is classic Pynchon: dead clever and joyfully funny. But I can't tell this first hand, like a reader might, but only in some out-of-body mode that strips away any sense of enjoyment. Did he randomly pick a narrator from a Brooklyn super market queue? Did he employ his cousin's wife as a favor to keep a late-night promise he made in a whim while drunk and would later regret? For god's sake Mr. Pynchon! What were you thinking!? ... Read the book instead.