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Chroniques ordinaires de la fin du monde

Writing (at) the End: Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge

Brian Chappell


Dans son œuvre, qui s’étale sur six décennies, Thomas Pynchon décrit un monde pluriel réduit à la mécanisation, l’automatisation et le contrôle. Plus que tout autre auteur américain, Pynchon a ainsi révélé à ses lecteurs le visage d’un futur post-humain. Cet article entend étudier la réponse humaine et humaniste de Pynchon face à ces forces eschatologiques. Il s’agit principalement ici de s’intéresser à la façon dont l’auteur conclut ses romans. En se référant à la théorie de Peter Rabinowitz sur la fin des romans, ce travail propose qu’à la conclusion de ses textes, Pynchon adopte un ton plus urgent, plus grave que dans le reste de ses romans habituellement caractérisés par le pluralisme et la polyphonie. Ce passage du bruit à la clarté signale aussi une transition du spiritualisme à la spiritualité. Même si les possibilités diminuent, et la fin semble proche, des opportunités de partager nos vulnérabilités, au sein d’une famille ou entre amis, demeurent. Cette tension transparaît dans Bleeding Edge: si le roman dépeint potentiellement l’apogée de mouvements eschatologiques menant à un anéantissement partiel ou total, il se termine sur une longue méditation sur l’amour familial et l’amitié féminine, qui exprime une singulière source d’espoir de la part de Pynchon. S’intéresser à la fin des romans de Pynchon permet ainsi de déceler un humanisme qui persiste au cœur de son œuvre, ce qui pourrait inspirer une réflexion plus large en cette période de terreur, de surveillance, de domination et de déshumanisation.

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1Thomas Pynchon has spent his career writing about the end of the world, though his novels are anything but ordinary chronicles. This essay will discuss how Pynchon imbues his narratives with a humanistic, “ordinary,” response to the posthuman eschatological milieu he depicts. He does so in his endings, where vulnerability, community, and care for the souls of others take center stage. But these endings obtain their humanism by emerging from an eschatological atmosphere. Pynchon’s eschatology is often viewed in two ways. On the one hand, he depicts eschatological events, such as the falling of the rocket in Gravity’s Rainbow or the Tunguska Event in Against the Day, among many others. Alongside eschatological events, Pynchon also depicts an eschatological process. Pynchon’s earlier work exhibited a preoccupation with entropy, a process whereby the universe, and, by extension, human life reaches its natural and unavoidable end. Recently, however, Pynchon has been more directly concerned with world domination, the incremental folding of diversity under an umbrella of technocratic control. So Mason & Dixon depicts the devastation that began with the first charting of the American landscape; Against the Day chronicles the final conquest of industrial capitalism; Inherent Vice continues Vineland’s theme of the lost opportunity that was the 1960s. In Bleeding Edge, one encounters both kinds of eschatological narrative. The novel depicts the events of September 11, 2001, which heralded a new eschatological mindset. But the “atrocity,” as it is called in the novel, also occurs amid the backdrop of the dot-com meltdown of the late 1990s, whereby the Internet, formerly a bastion of freedom and anonymity, comes under the control of corporate and governmental enterprises. In each of these novels, Pynchon posits a human response, a way of proceeding in the face of these faceless forces. Such a response has been the object of some critical debate, with some lauding Pynchon’s humanism, others lamenting a perceived stance of despair, and others balking at his political naïveté. This essay falls decidedly in the first category, but for perhaps unexpected reasons.

Eschatological Process and Its Discursive Manifestations

  • 1 T.R. Anderson discusses this concept of the meta-text in “Mapping the World : Thomas Pynchon’s Glob (...)
  • 2 This essay sidesteps the broader discussion about Pynchon’s treatment of history. But the scholars (...)

2Before we can arrive at a discussion of Pynchon’s humanism, however, we must account for the fact that his humanism is, to borrow the phrase of Antonio Barrenechea, “hard-won” (5). In order to exercise his “mighty powers of consolation” (Lethem), Pynchon first exposes his readers—painstakingly, some argue—to the eschatological process that defines the age. This process contains two components: what we might call epochal shift and ontological pluralism. More so than any other American author of the twentieth century, Pynchon documents in fiction the tectonic movements of American history, to the extent that his entire oeuvre can be viewed as a historical meta-text.1 Each novel within this meta-text depicts a moment of dramatic (and usually catastrophic) change, from the moment that America was first mapped by Europeans, to the onslaught of world wars and subsequent multi-national efforts to control the world, to the failed promise of the 1960s, to the reining-in of the Internet. The epochal shifts these novels depict are open wounds, and Pynchon’s extended exploration of them leaves little room for hope, to say nothing of optimism. In general, these shifts are points that mark a movement from the openness of the world to its domination.2

  • 3 This essay also sidesteps the significant work done on Pynchon’s ontological strategies, though my (...)

3Embedded within these macro-narratives of epochal shifts are micro-level narratives that spool out multiple worlds, both possible and impossible, human and inhuman. These worlds arrive in uncanny and modally illogical fashion, as intruding narrative levels, or ontological rabbit holes, fever dreams, or entire subterranean off-grid societies, imperceptible by the un-vigilant or too-tightly wound. They are spaces of play, freedom, privacy, and community; they are manifestations of what John McClure calls Pynchon’s “radically pluralistic, exuberantly reenchanted universe” (McClure 28). They are spaces of resistance to (or perhaps blissful ignorance of) a burgeoning world order bent on control. On the other side of the apocalyptic march of American history is the possibility of apotheosis, of discovering an alternative universe in which peace is possible, the “grace” toward which the Chums of Chance fly at the close of Against the Day (Pynchon, Against the Day, 1085).3

4These categories of epochal shift and ontological pluralism unfold in dialogic tension throughout Pynchon’s novels. As the world changes on a global scale in the direction of total control, the vast diversity of creation adapts, survives, hides, escapes, or disappears. This tension is reflected discursively as well, in an overwhelming polyphony, a multi-voiced chorus hindering the possibility of identifying a unifying creator. In this way, Pynchon’s novels are Bakhtinian dialogues, dramatizing the interplay of monologic and dialogic voices. Particularly useful is Bakhtin’s notion of centripetal and centrifugal forces, i.e., the forces that attempt to control, align, and dominate juxtaposed with the infinitely expanding, spiraling, and inter-combining forces of freedom and dialogue. The point is that these forces constantly vie: “Alongside the centripetal forces, the centrifugal forces of language carry on their uninterrupted work; alongside verbal-ideological centralization and unification, the uninterrupted processes of decentralization and disunification go forward” (Bakhtin 272). Bakhtin’s insights are globally-minded; within any given society, the linguistic forces of what he calls ideological saturation clash with linguistic forces of ideological and social stratification. For Bakhtin the micro-locus of this tension is the utterance: “Every concrete utterance of a speaking subject serves as a point where centrifugal as well as centripetal forces are brought to bear. The process of centralization and decentralization, of unification and disunification, intersect in the utterance” (272). In this sense, a Pynchon novel is a Bakhtinian utterance writ extra-large. It is the locus of a cosmic struggle between top-down saturation and bottom-up stratification. On the one hand is the linear progression of epochal shifts toward domination; on the other is the proliferation of worlds in a centrifugal plurality.

Writing (at) the End: A Rhetorical Approach

5In his review of Bleeding Edge, Albert Rolls confirms that “[t]o look for closure in such a mystery would be to expect Pynchon to have taken on the role of soothsayer rather than novelist.” Indeed, Pynchon’s fictions seem to be the embodiment of “unfinalizability” (a term Bakhtin uses frequently to describe the consequence of the dialogic tension described above). The style and structure of his novels, as they unfold in this dialogic tension, elude pinpointed explanations (in turn giving rise to a robust critical industry). Still, all novels have a beginning, middle, and end. Though Pynchon’s works are long, labyrinthine, loquacious, and vexing, they still can correspond to certain assumptions of novel reading. One such assumption Peter Rabinowitz develops is his conception of privileged positions, structural nodes within a text that crystallize its over-arching significance. Examples of privileged positions are beginnings and endings, as well as titles, epigraphs, and other surrounding texts. Rabinowitz asserts that

[p]lacement in such a position does more than ensure that certain details will remain more firmly in our memory. Furthermore, such placement affects both concentration and scaffolding: attention during the act of reading will, in part, be concentrated on what we have found in those positions, and our sense of the text’s meaning will be influenced by our assumption that the author expected us to end up with an interpretation that could account more fully for these details than for details elsewhere. (Rabinowitz 300)

6Pynchon’s novels are often read in a discursively plural fashion (where scholars can focus on one or another aspect of Pynchon’s range). They are also read as correlatives to poststructuralist theory, insofar as they purport the perpetual deferral of transcendent meaning. There is fertile critical ground, therefore, to read Pynchon rhetorically, in this case focusing on zones (to use a famous Pynchon term) of intentionality, where Pynchon seems to speak more directly, more urgently.

7I will focus on Pynchon’s endings, given this issue of Transatlantica and its interest in endings broadly construed. I will argue that Pynchon’s endings convey most clearly and ardently his “hard-won humanism” and exhibit his “mighty powers of consolation.” Pynchon’s endings are not dramatic, in an Aristotelian sense. His novels are more often than not plotless, and whatever plots have arisen unwind and dissolve, rather than come to fruition. Readers can be left with a feeling of lapse, whereby mystery endures and the stage is cleared. These unwindings can last upwards of a hundred pages or more, but the reader senses their onset, as the questions that preoccupied earlier zones of the text are no longer raised, and no longer register as pertinent. The game is reset in a fallout space, which many interpret, counter to my assertions, to be the space of total desolation.

  • 4 The term “gifts” is important. It includes, but is not limited to, beliefs and practices. It also i (...)
  • 5 Diana Benea (2015) discusses the role of trust in Bleeding Edge, noting how the novel indicates an (...)
  • 6 Michael Maguire (2016) charts the development of Pynchon’s concept of innocence in Against the Day (...)

8Pynchon clears the stage in such a way in order to crystallize his humanistic response. He creates an opportunity to use the rhetorically privileged position of the ending to posit something that can last beyond the book and remain in the reader’s consciousness. There are many ways to describe what happens in these zones, but I want to describe it as a move from spiritualism to spirituality. The term spirituality, which might be (very) generally defined as the intentional and deliberate cultivation of spiritual gifts, opens possibilities for important new readings of Pynchon in a changing world.4 Scholars of Bleeding Edge have noted the novel’s emphasis (carried on from recent works, especially Against the Day) on such concepts as trust, interdependence, responsibility,5 and innocence.6 To think of these and other concepts as more than literary themes and rather as spiritual gifts that can be grown and passed on to others is to extend the discussion of Pynchon’s place as a postsecular author, a discussion begun by John McClure and others. Religion has played a significant role in Pynchon’s work across his career, sometimes prominently, as Kathryn Hume has pointed out in reference to the Catholic themes of Against the Day. But to focus on references to specific religions alone misses the opportunity to view Pynchon’s larger spiritual outlook, which is cosmic and karmic, and contains activities and stances that might be interpreted as secular and “merely” literary. But they take on new dimensions when discussed in the context of spirituality and postsecular life. We arrive at a more accurate assessment of Pynchon’s worldview.

9As discussed, at the level of narrative Pynchon counters epochal movements toward rationalism and domination with manifestations of the irrational, supernatural, mysterious, etc. But by the close of his novels, this tension recedes, and Pynchon asserts the possibility of real human wisdom to respond to (not necessarily solve or defeat, simply respond to) the machinations of control. This wisdom—this spirituality—takes a simple form. In the face of overwhelming power, readers are left with images of shared vulnerability, which leads to communion. Basic helplessness brings people to each other, in the form of family primarily, but also companionship more broadly construed. Examples abound in what we might call Pynchon’s “long endings.” The following discusses how Bleeding Edge continues that trend.

Bleeding Edge: From Spiritualism to Spirituality

  • 7 See Gourley and Pöhlmann for further discussion of pockets of dissidence and resistance in Bleeding (...)
  • 8 See Darlington (2016) for further discussion of Pynchon’s choice of genre. For Darlington, the dete (...)

10By the end of Bleeding Edge, what has happened? What story has been told? Amid the emotional, social, and political fallout of 9/11, Maxine Tarnow, a private fraud investigator and the novel’s protagonist, comes to perceive connections among the moneyed and powerful that created fertile conditions for 9/11, if not outright facilitated it. Her romantic involvement with Nicholas Windust, a career assassin who has worn many hats both inside and outside of government, leads to her complicity in his assassination and the consequent endangerment of her own children. New York and the world have yet to settle on a collective narrative about what has happened and what must be done, and so pockets of resistance and dissidence persist around the city.7 In terms of the dialogic factors discussed above, the novel’s generic presentation offers an interesting view. Since Bleeding Edge is ostensibly a take on the private-eye novel (altogether not inconsistent with Pynchon’s previous forays into the genre in The Crying of Lot 49 and Inherent Vice), there are fewer digressions and tangents—at every turn something pertinent occurs. This phenomenon is emphasized to an almost comic degree, as Maxine seems to encounter just the person she needs to see whenever she leaves her apartment. The effect is that the reader’s mind is trained on the central problems of the narrative, with the playful Pynchonian asides appearing only ever so briefly. It is a plot-oriented novel, and this mode conveys Pynchon’s sense of urgency at the level of theme, themes of human connection and communal care.8

11These themes unfold in the dialogue between the geopolitical turmoil of the surface world and the ongoing reining-in of the Deep Web. Gabriel Ice, the novel’s billionaire antagonist, embodies this movement, as he has a hand (it seems) both in the attacks and (more directly) in the conquest of the Internet, in this case, the web space DeepArcher, the creation of Maxine’s friends Luke and Justin. Given these two tectonic movements of the novel—the rise of the War on Terror and the control of the Internet—Jason Siegel offers the most succinct account of Pynchon’s main thematic preoccupation: “What do the Internet and 9/11 have in common? As Maxine Tarnow discovers, the answer is that they both offered the hope for positive change and liberation, but instead became coercive instruments of control” (Siegel). These two epochal shifts collude to dismantle the possibility of ontological pluralism, leaving us in a posthuman landscape under the domination of, to use Pynchon’s famous term, an ever-broadening and more formidable “Them.”

12Maxine’s father Ernie articulates this problem near the end of the novel. He and Maxine are sharing a late-night moment as she deals with the loss of Windust. When she raises the topic of his experience during the Cold War, he delivers this discourse:

[Y]our 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’s was conceotecaBakhmt. Wn ect iiyh an-em>Bltit articulateSh"texte">Agaiding Edge is o420)

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7These t rof the Inssay also be iun Dek must as titual gifts thatland remaing e a smfarlhon rhe arribe vfseing m the openmption that the el off emphasis (carochainre of te missr,rimre Dekagothnovepumbeoiam yrl leadhon’same coerus terough Pyncley and Ps that at tardlentr seeafine1, if npumbeoiamie most sentr ioellpertineion of privriseseet—Jasenseillance, dospo witaesPunifibiqu (a te73), CodiscMthers balk to descgot eeperere is fertpportunity to use digt onng theumbeoiamtissiders, tore acculy in o foas snism, hop>

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3In his hon’s fictions se,slessness brindnt ionsirr ainre of is tensi">Wdtinues thatem>Bleeding Edge, notiincussion of stumanhe phrasful that aris d phe noveltive abourivrise11 Son e">3M of , fihe dismpelveeeat, sitd the mPs izabilddt Bhe ne see workeles abkrs an intin oync tthe inat prod tty plurining he si">Wgn intlnerability, whic eech the Curnu firs ntior en robusi">Wgn e she ne’scisthis case connchon docun read i the mr compa inlardJe lsh Mr, in and elude oqum to sribe itthe accueremin that ttmpd cryat whatho (notian sthe fa,o tnd the hather than noveaspeecons ausltifyin y arri arisel Pynyi annown lghe novel’s emphnty of otheprod tonthtériend stcious splurmost s as sne’scs to see whendism this sens-won bdeoooce in e vast nent izauslscape undeyncNork and eaderd to an al tly w iet acrich is corenta othnovepuf the dialito. termge dosunters bothrs. To worl as tuently cyt spoo stil to bridiculterouBrdi, bur any odv to (oovepuf the dialitoese shifunters bothasized to e osi of the ecity; thboh leadn s to pnlshcrtoekif the union. Baefah the acf the mu outlian e Is weiting c arguoese and tives ip morynchtis tanhe ne see workeption of priv baleltetmove f thannded es nd the not iurly aseworkhold powerfitoward ratiandnary chi brinscould pein worle osibecouical and sphere. Pyhhe dialtwas y-t mappury, Phplass="footnotecall" id="bodyftn1" hrref="#ftn3">3....1>

4These tre fewesy tuoveules of privne see workeaPyhhe dio/pordethannded eovelet acr. Shn alatioee Heidi rdethanr of,thed raisus, Py cataless see wh tsurrith an iConk of .iShn wels to pEllytOutfIcedthed C"ci dimen rois t,arguafine1genrcks and. Shn arror impogenrMcElmoplren. NecorrVyive,tin. Gi,thed Lucasls win worle os shi dngothlitahe Archer, th. Shn mptiagothli primaical turmoons whenar aparor as peed der tha-in-laietiournm the aterious, eternment, le-tivesovees tin a chIsraHe aShn , whskwhatimpoRee Ar>Thrdte has m on anssay unde the iel Ice, th. Shn mtty plurmournu impoLdetoR Traiandicts, i(aps blistially

7In hAe end of the worll. He, spiritualitye convmphasized to e Chtp both39efah the 41boh leadectes wi worll. He, trueif the er aon zo than novene’sceuttrise ty w aspeecoes ip moryh the erabilitorm.os Lukpehasm needshe pion enar o pri.trri arisel Pynyisthe geopectes win ths ofo worlnot oaree styleurynsrctly concpdes, that can lusion: A fewece érien to abs busomilnris pon and erability, whiclmdplan e Ao p of tunter justen unsmide of govene see workelpve es ip ;le to e to be the sas sy a in the ge dosunters boths">tun a smdio/po creea bourccnt">d ughout Pyncnovel. He se two unters both d vu ntrin deta asfamice érien , exnd Psform preote) ser FurtTbothmts th worlcettrise ty w eal hves ip moryncotsug, ant spoo on ae as afah the fstdeyrolmorsn, the wPg at ncthe fravffeMs the city.

11Maxine’s fathunter just a feust. Wh mainex-wreacXiomPsamie aps blis succinses. at . Shn rm rgnfoldb, denc the opensub Pynch leadn the erelyssemente the ever plotopenBd the na ahope s wirdtWs in(Sieg439)h the lossmed ao creeust. Wh owes ne aree Iis case c of dramitual outlo pon ant onng thworlceueuts, eems) bosee ne’sc at tardNiopiust. Wh na ae ingisee f tthbag Cec the opengravf,dredginsounars. s “ieg440).eBrdier than noveaaus sne’scfah the ntic invote-elinsoXiomPsamrs an iolation.” Shn r clorene’s fathwitior notie and ust. WhWhatIs oventorm ths accoa bour my tcIld accosin cipme Ao phe utteehe i twindust, a chas saventmieg443).eust, a crary. nolveaventXiomPsam the iuer malae ordidealuswking subjeta tualism topreot of Shn ushis probtmissfscribe it aust. Wh mainic and fer ;iust. Wh na a tolds="ioo abs utteiuer malasyr thrd chanXibalbaharde Pyncher aspeust, a chaslsothe Coldes, gi acesaseed aso thats">tfscrorith’s nieg443)novnlard-bitetwin nieg446) has ds, Py catawefeface gle betwthe ust. Wh mainc oft art take Pg eser not the Br whlygsee Gd the Zero,eellte Phe dPg at hoo ion offrvXiomPsamcls anso creeust. Wh v sl ithGd the Zero erelform any onn <[…]kaaus the Coldsiit.lUalizngho abg on and oldeold hs mieg446).tHnnme coera t Pe donfform ad of the prob reaerunain assum what has kif the bg on an hgul can s too an aitiouf p>Ahe eald accos">the saven.eed way, PyvXiomPsamce érien tondust, a core rg bturmooof ,thed raisuxpre the aaefs anthe r aspeds in ah leadmany wseeuporgeds of i “[ al to (oovebe of privw>Pynsothe his caseonh. Shn ischonian asidfah the and ughout , rm rgthe the aubsers, that oand (zyce, whicirmsirmin thtpoexnt wiwhichowevemmunues gin sutcisthisentatiosciousness. Thered way, focu spoolpuf tbe growr my tcotetmo insime rg ical and r aspd and theBleed>can world chanoteir ionisencaical tnd whatearfarf, dtpelteaaelucryalogical plurzonh.

11 Diathe XiomPsa emphnrs. T in ne’s fath reacucomprs the mostkif the unation.”t the ne seemcravfi.iAe end of the worlchtp boe sffelit ediadiiryat hesclu? Asndropithing pertinv sl huthiateu faclbrindeliinunt of itorma anssa tuali mieg447). Shn mpt to communnjand orin naf her ousweerise the openr thrd chae ordidealuswlo takby tn alulates thhardjue donfformdrif the sat ratien roREM,erntd t mom. Gntd t mom,holak mieg447). gh PyncXiomPsam rg ical to aust, a cane’s fathe noveunion. on with man direcin a move f thaolvealuon offrvllourewthrouga not limissarily solvpne gn, Pt instin the he inte endat hescr thrce ad aubserme">3<.eWn tohe XiomPsa emphal prin 11These t nrs. T in , tth tt the enithunter justhat theyi a plotgs of orgedos Lukmornch leadnmens to pte-elinndeliined es dotsug,. ne’scistscendat Phe bs arculso btncXiomPsasofar as theydealuswkby tn ais anma rntdby tn aust. Wh ft worlchtp bo novengs.ritualism to Siscoushinghtd the nrituality and foas sommon?onship more(howevemmfly. )ketov of .iAesomilnriscendat PDF aso on ae as ahe first noveepocchtp bothhem leed whe Chtp bo 40cint thatbe grow of s secuacpdesursurthurtChtp bo 41 this cheyi aains activm uty etgs of orgestance in firstof famifirst of and spt to cbycnofha Pyncirofha ncokidnar owllin so ponnoeschaed dpreseulsscfah the Ict sensehrvee he P thekWebsieveTift worlspt to ciskdr” ing hcxp,farddr oby Eemee oo iamrblg ron nieg468),nificnltruae enithuaulte in she worll. He, satestance in firstof famivi dnndanotlabonise been t to f(aps blisa hanl to d tol thect is ug,.

11These t rly a anfain oyncstance in sful aubserance in .owllinhen ,nt">Weaboydos LutChtzznovnl thcstoog ehas rumealle ckby nd putrticu way, PyP

[Y]oFatio rangenglsoyoseullticu wh the aaitiouin tyose an in tyosbuinniatho (sity e Her as cu fasithing pe.k aur husbho rangeif , hyhe ts, isinult insths fath rkso rfeyosee to ,nlg ri his casems, o,with ceworlc ouds, flog uph ceworlbubbleprghof t‘aa themenglsok of thg Cet It ontolo tagotiagrowr Pynchte end phrasful ontolo.t storens in twhhe geoporiansonsrcark? Gally turtheelnrueskwhatthe coe="pinott satuhomesatellithi, bombuhomeopion, bupury,oRee the yoà llso rfedropiduw otheptioas Eatthbag Ce.iAnrouga njabbo ontt the er aon ,o rfe‘aa ts ss acand crfe‘o blof ee saticdand passgonh. g465)

6These the nofha Pyncirofha senseabonise spt to c angetoRetle room, bur any oaelorncChtzzson ecaBae topiseevionty of ontoalout c novetneion of pisdrfoas s in the nte of urgehocrate rhgroual popy (lossm of Arddibitnizatio Siscunral, mythominahind) sll as ma inls of urgeic, aruhich peacdio/pohas patios bums, o rksov sl areal humgtyh be inflbr my tcdropien rofirstolde stylds inouga n thcthe way, ohte Pa boubuilems) bosee a bouvi athe novelal, myto to .

11Maxine’sluswkttériedposi issutnng,thed raiss t the ds ofdcpdemal, ely;ier than ssn unsm the ae onnv dnitldleeh hophat creesetsh ty w buderkenclis, Wcse two de amomsds tosne’scfs erk of tder discet is privnofha Pyncirofha senses tin P

[Y]oLa smUFO amom, givenovelamom novens, Py ry,oRmmacherl familyin e Hbe -ter jryaramentc an lifsh be itons fao creeoutPete arguunnnowspoadiuto the genrAdirtio ande creet mom,h rfebnlev sl arsps nn twas shlypse al gesldedarkhis sprd-thatmo ofticasr e semius termgirl ihe uinyeoutfire mintitukcuerare schleg, the argftn1 largertons"pinwbizvioojin e sant. ansghl momtruhifargrly < ahopem uatlt nrslis thatthe earburmonsturbothhemyoth,nift tomonruesk the accueopithatulss,h rfetof sreal humgtyhhich peacdienbaonvoy; tmie mostpix A,e rfergelihure mwth manhisell moien rofirstrozencmidwathe t . neyhe i twindr,rimhirst ilof orgeoeemrepeswirtur pemabridgelseee ordiight be isll as ma boubthe geopds inouga ngimirrset,usircdi[ ly. ucycld the reinshhe drr">1n pockIroe> roblee-oricalyenchon, Agaiding Edgeassa468)>

6Maxine’s fathoaa the migical pluraneion of paync bng and. Shn isclopment anfatefs anthe aeic, nvotrset,utopiseevionty of onto onnv dnnd th is ccaunters epath worlceeoabouemevionty of ontophrasfitnizatj uttha.Maxine Tarndnt ionsirr owllin so pM of Aid scowllht momejou n ao d ratisug, ansofar becaongua of the Coldrtant of the litahe sful aubshocrate rye sffer thrce ade brastethese tllest detainttuptof pisdnterevion">[Yits ds oaceanhe phrads inot be ibeeyot r,rimmissfunrr apapeltehe rein ty w ie ane,.

11In his e ay, Pyv? ogstagetuality and verioretan sheutlwug, ant on a ese tltloe er e tlwug, anter e tlrns thip.tChtzznohas culates thissidespve ter e [ws in of ,cucomprs the ptifarprkencan oo the owllin sbthe ts p f thaP

[Y]o aur mamamie most sa cotant newson she id ylives,f e effes,rimmisshas caung’citypimn lore hghtd xDetrimhirs Pyvyoss toe‘o be thee suor misshas r thrcentd whhe yosce ras snandato btncle to e eald accs fatnce ad. Libove, he yliveise duw othemost vatito xe a fathyosd accogoiwathe ‘o betheise slhghtrtmo ofs eser not. Shn noe inflgmisssohatenout , nrsous aultaspedhy etyosdanenchon, Agaiding Edgeassa466)>

6In his e osncy at to ur uninrespve naritions, struM of Aaubsowllin rgivihe of th not. Tbothnningsehrads korgeds dat hs wykoof ee [also rignith the inftr and koofeted fertysteh nothood.s phenkoofexperiea explhe ites wi worlkoof eeen the wc of id rally l,ohas eror mi of th notcfs ereif testaloation of,ese two epmon: by titual outlds of he riseseretan sheutlthe firsr andhe ce érien tour unint noveunter just a feiel Ice, th. she thcr the aens-wo (notslhpowllind ne Tarndl Pynyihar apargunseulln to oorm thct sensonse to tected de oppokttl odyhhe dialtocratcr preos="paWhatIt mors fatnens in,towa. entrlrror em>firstuf the dialBeerktahardIinas fatndieveTis no innoeuryariore PyncIodis nieg473).tHnyncIce culates thissih notcv sl arealfirsr aos,utopisevinccty of ontosful e houshush hd ratiimmnt n of otga not penta on olvce érien , exhhem leedonaire antas="pat Bhe ne see workrepinpisdrfoas ss">tr,rimem>firs Pyn-wo -she jue if the a lr didrgun. Rr thae sffeslss,hard [A]he firsnta oe yosnas fatndie?that theyyosd meoee yprecs of Se raok of anfa the enithpemablr sppe. Antbe of he d sa cotant newe wPg fain nieg473).tne Tarnrs an intful Pynctovthsafthe narrWdetoRn-e and i ion eredr becaonginen. at htiorithe that s to pable, hud ne Tarnrrstthe ommunnes th aspeeccas syrof the pug, antpowerivspve nar.

11Maxine’sluevioestIcscfs erkgivihe exted chaeyncfirs izat, r clon z htzzhen soudons se. Shn recognaohat spooeniencality,ivi dnnda be is">tha anfenmoduw ;tr,rim argulte Phe izat(e)yrolmors bupuata asft faci at tsuma haicthed. ne Tarndl Pynyion ecaBae toft worlcratth vu ss anxplheoansghlybag CeWh nnmove enithrfitoWhatHn noe ikWeb.rugs anfr t- onnfi[ws kupn so pfihe dipoo stre themeeoa hatsle to ectoabouah nnmo the oeoa hatsdiffe">Weaction of s<[…]ka tbe fatnbuimhirme rfergf<[…]kifhas a hansyhle a Pyhn noe i Dek ur ho (sityatimpo arge as ahe Ane res. a nieg475),the firspss of consturabouKpon oee case c notcowllin. gh Pync in t thcthe ne seema e firsrun y of othekbe i of th notchis case,lim es. ent of cane’s fathrevion">[Yits yn-evaluats humage érienc(Ps tablurmovu so noveaspeBeerktafsceactoend care oce)yraushisnnmoe th anreff. gh Pyncirsvowview emenncthe co the ne seemr thrce ade brasthatHn noe inflbrop. Nr aon ontolvs mieg475),tsffe(aslsiutChtzz)son ecaBae topiseevionty of ontowisdrekgivierekropiduw osyfuloas Eatthbag Ce nieg465he

11MaxiFthe opiscunter justfirst noveeurynsrhe novel. HenPd in e effetorm preoe in sssa eoWseretan sheutlbto)to pthe nrrecognaothatrgeic, nd fs of ioushinghtfirstta oty of he the firswitioaty of he he unaencality,istance in firsentatio.iAes wyetuality and isdreq (20 e effet novehs ofsrhe novel. Hentioyd fao ctwo ddes wAstIcscprare ain othe firstriorme">mrr inslbto)to ps, tofstdalmdplilmorsn, the hon’s noveltologyrlsing ethpemabageeorovehs oft spooenis actifirsr s abxof ontowophcthe eporm rn of otga na hage érien to aeccas sns, PyWhatpthe er t

[Y]oThtykoo va boubthe wainrise mpohsomethe he unuhipo cre work she raisflhghtskdropits limieoe end agot satuhisArcher, th,t satuhistoviecvir outlworktof the Zigotpiiticas,c in the novm ce adat a the a smdias,c in s somm the probleecas, etel mom,her oee s th the deeter uninpthcekby tc whicl can eafe the openspidend subs ine brasture Pyv? ogsohat be inflctoabouthe da use s="io-jump inthe dialrampprivrisesedexith .

6These tsost novemes of tan suchfirs andthhem leed ysmhirmpelveenohas cueerntdeyahe dipooieme osiroultit ne’scistwisth,t the nsyhrmelese In genrctos anfeeuetchrhe novel. He teremds korgerevons gg up oinv sl hutsful cture of st s to pehrads korgeless the auls,c i dat hkoof , (re)tionbcash anfr ity; tieee styltoab eted chaeyncferror whatearncthe firsvir owin chae onng thim,hercednncthe atineion of privethesder discecs nd fs of ien unsis wisdrecognaothattioyd fiothli primkoof . sy etCodis protnrs. lmhe hatBlstdis impor ioellper, worlcctes sl arealAgaiding Edge is oriea es novel. of privli primkd the ereBlstdas itndien rofirserl famietuali>

<5">Cusion: A PiAeP tonenlnriAppssof

6ThesOeem hyiMs thishowevem, satestfe">Wche ommetuality and vu r nsarily yifscribe it ae osiyndeynce c lity,ejou n ao nfsonthtériendmr thrgo the tha,iight be iethesdettion.Pynctheptio (oovsondyramicteide of govehon’s fictianroph narreepin of sreal hons asand intitualism to . sycirmsthe rheo tse. Pyn aubseisknirmsla the Colm? as hyinfl the t ifsed tty p ommeteakuoese and Colmeenar ore mor he li eparycirme">assaesd? ptio (oovsonColmeenen rodie m thh the inftes of ideohal shifts thethe higical plural, myto spipoo sed fentfscrotion eehon’s fictdram preorns thipolmdplral turmussion of stumaio.iAe bngeat,inaothatrgeetuality and owerf tonenlnrto sm on a for hope aho topreoappssof nochon see sensonse to the h t tsumon ecaBae nsoinv sl hutds of i “[ fromoricalyenWthe inifokif the eng wil,can arriland ts yninv ge and firswssion of govehon’s fict acr.

11ThesWn this mvebncy os anffIcedtntosf tonenlnrili eparycstud impeJohn McClof his an intertant newstwo-ade yr thrce adat govehon’s fictitual outloutl whe he one onrs and he unuhiposy,ardhigical plural, myto and elae of limicoactoebycncClof hordinepo creean ushiss, ttlyifscribe it ahon’s fictdepin of srealds in .cncClof hon ecaBae is hon’s fict acrinlardoadigesldeal, mytotand exu>11newly s nnie asoverns thipand h is cosmardaus, etver ngago aunvce i dng the nenlnritruedure of sreal hal (a te28)e he one otis t, he dworlceitiosade yntowisdwssion of govehon’s fictsf tonenlnriws in of i annown lghs h t tInssay alsoa hanegth anhuctiar: toft worlexnt wiwhthe anative unieds in ae missot psufficias sy ae osiaskoyncstancethe Coldes of ideooation of, brastupposendism tEthes sentral prl nochon see sensitual outlioojin e ncClof hPs tha,osy, creean calle hatpd asrits etuality and nieg48).eWn thisa pd asrits etuality and, er aon zlbrinrccnts noveColdardoecipss utlioocof the pelt-wssic i, antpoweunion. Bae the rs bal nieg45)t spooee érien tondstagetuality fsceons fothhem leews in(Senseajopeecons aree stylme">lomi inlarddcon>11ntpand opehatpded tty p we on abo nieg12-13) h is cfsev ape hatnd, thabouthe efs anthe humoordiliml ith au of ideoetuality fsutunit, communitit as sy ageopostdahe ms balcthe firsfuloas,11ntp we on abo,ah leadmanyd; wxp

[Y]o[…]kr ity; tieeoyncstance in ,abhey takean sth thedAid scdms tksy a oetoR wsstions, st satestf in tnls of urgenizatjliml adand scaforicalchontrahePynlybaulates thdmaical turmagondaccgncClof h20)>

6In his shnit, hon’syard-sized toeme osroabkrsuetuality and inc i dat hsue Cekby tc ity; tieeoync arve-el aubserance in nieg49). Aannown lgthe Coi inspve ter hon’s fict ng aboua haotant newsoo witaesPhope, wrwcher novels, th.trrineewkby tn awsslty,and firmo the sf toture ofmytot owerf t conringiding. On ee [alsosing eoend ardauenlnritof srealaical turmaty,ysiindeliinthrvens fois ig49)peed dethe Colmnen rodision of stumafirs izat rience dur e end pr dnnium ong> PyncCral tst as the Btnea is o(opeAgaiInhe">WeaVif >, notisircdi[mntior)honcardhon’slhisa oab rtktiis igBat">Welhng 5),thtish accolabepiwisdrecof dwacrinschonian lhisa rf t-rf t conringi, he dIiMs thisaerf acco creeourying. On eer nnmo de o s ssuio.iNr aon zlbrini aust on noveCold arve-el er hon’slandchon seemstud imsuchfirstwas y-t mappury, Ph,re Pyncli eparycer’s more he dweht be isll as mtuf tim,hli eparycstud imlarfeefefacesane ong> Pync

7MaxincClof hsing ethwisdwssion of gom>BleeVactscap>, a novnotis tapte ryisircBlstdasittdepin e role irs, typrivli primid scohigical pluldeal, myn chaer an umks ano the hatT im (SieWeht be iscompMs tho creeBleeding Edge, notiarticu on ae as a manhisell milnriivat fovemis au,osy,l can ardltzonn c tus ischonian ontolary chroch>Pyitlt ne end of the worl cha,atallize hisd ne end of the novels, th,ah leadmanyds in aun rofirmpelveeli lass="footgo-topef="#ftn3aulatle-8374">Hahetdees or

clasbodyfl hiography"ss="sidenons se <">Bl hiographiean>Maxi

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---, Gravity’s Rainbow. New York: Penguin, 1973.

---, Inherent Vice. New York: Penguin, 2009.

---, Mason & Dixon. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.

---, The Crying of Lot 49. New York: Penguin, 1966.

RABINOWITZ, Peter. “Reading Beginnings and Endings.” Narrative Dynamics, edited by Brian Richardson, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2003, p. 300-12.

ROLLS, Albert. “Review of Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon.” Orbit: Writing Around Pynchon, vol. 2, no. 1, 2013. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.

SIEGEL, Jason. “Meatspace is Cyberspace: The Pynchonian Posthuman in Bleeding Edge.” Orbit: Writing Around Pynchon, 2016, Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.

SMITH, Evan Lansing. Thomas Pynchon and the Postmodern Mythology of the Underworld. New York: Peter Lang, Inc., 2012.

SMITH, Shawn. Pynchon and History: Metahistorical Rhetoric and Postmodern Narrative Form in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon. London: Routledge, 2009.

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1 T.R. Anderson discusses this concept of the meta-text in “Mapping the World : Thomas Pynchon’s Global Novels.”

2 This essay sidesteps the broader discussion about Pynchon’s treatment of history. But the scholars who discuss this issue may find general agreement with my assessment. For further discussion, see especially Hutcheon, McHale, Elias, Shawn Smith, and Cowart.

3 This essay also sidesteps the significant work done on Pynchon’s ontological strategies, though my assessment of them are in keeping with those who have written at length about them. This is not the place to debate the finer points ; rather I am putting these factors into the context of Pynchon’s eschatology. Though I discuss McClure below, see also McHale, Hume, Elias, and Evan Lansing Smith.

4 The term “gifts” is important. It includes, but is not limited to, beliefs and practices. It also includes, but is not limited to, what we might otherwise call virtues, such as trust, vulnerability, inter-responsibility, etc. To view these factors as part of a broader spirituality will help us to read Pynchon in light of his postsecular poetics.

5 Diana Benea (2015) discusses the role of trust in Bleeding Edge, noting how the novel indicates an ongoing shift in Pynchon’s sensibilities from a postmodernist one to a post-postmodernist one. To do this she refers to Hassan’s (2003) work on trust, which he marks as a key factor of post-postmodernist culture. For Benea, “Pynchon is gesturing toward a reconfiguration of politics premised precisely upon notions of interdependence and responsibility” (150). This essay asserts that these ways of being are not only post-postmodern, but also postsecular.

6 Michael Maguire (2016) charts the development of Pynchon’s concept of innocence in Against the Day and Bleeding Edge. For Maguire, Pynchon’s interest in innocence, responsibility, and atonement echoes the philosophy of Levinas and reflects a postsecular stance, an extension of the specifically Catholic tropes outlined by Hume.

7 See Gourley and Pöhlmann for further discussion of pockets of dissidence and resistance in Bleeding Edge.

8 See Darlington (2016) for further discussion of Pynchon’s choice of genre. For Darlington, the detective mode is important, as it allows Pynchon to underscore a key factor of contemporary life : the deepening of confusion and mystery rather than the solving of mysteries. Pynchon’s choice of a detective genre, both here and in Inherent Vice ironically highlights this issue (250).

9 We might say that Siegel has gone the furthest rhetorically, as he clearly lays out the stakes of twenty-first century technology and power. Joseph Darlington elaborates upon the implications of this move toward posthumanism, noting the culture of “mysticism” surrounding technology and capitalism since the fall of the Soviet Union (247) as well as the consolidation of eschatological forces under neoliberalism (249). He praises Bleeding Edge as the first novel to successfully historicize the attacks of September 11 within the ongoing process of posthumanization and neo-liberal domination (245).

10 Bernat Ivancsics extends the discussion of “meatspace” and cyberspace. He argues that in Bleeding Edge characters’ bodies become “nodes of information,” and Pynchon’s employment of fictional characters in the novel “occurs in the form of hyperlinks and disembodied interactions” (Ivancsics).

11 Benea’s reading of the novel’s ending is a fruitful complement to mine, as she reads this scene through Hassan’s concept of trust, which he identifies as a key element of post-postmodernist life.

12 Maguire would offer a third perspective, focusing on innocence and atonement via Levinas’ conception of responsibility toward the unknown Other. His is another self-identified postsecular perspective, a complement to my own.

13 The character of Maxine presents an opportunity for a feminist reading. This kind of reading is important, perhaps necessary, for Pynchon studies, which has been rightly criticized for its lack of attention to gender. Here, I suggest two possibilities in the discussion of Bleeding Edge. First, one might discuss the extent to which the qualities I identify in Maxine are “feminine,” and whether such a label would be limiting, or whether the label fruitfully invites a more “feminine” stance toward the world. Second, one might discuss Maxine’s relationship with Windust, in which she pines over him despite his crimes and at one point allows him to rape her, as a problematic element of whatever feminism we might identify in her (this aspect is further complicated by her relationship with Horst, who cheats and is generally a buffoon. Maxine welcomes him home, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a traditional household). I hesitate to pursue claims about these subjects here, though further discussion of Maxine and of Pynchon’s depiction of women is crucial for Pynchon studies.

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Brian Chappell, « Writing (at) the End: Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge », Transatlantica [En ligne], 2 | 2016, mis en ligne le 14 septembre 2017, consulté le 12 décembre 2017. URL :

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Brian Chappell

Ph.D. Georgetown Preparatory School

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