FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Into Your Life It Will Creep

The year was 2001. George W. Bush was president. The party for the rich that was the 1990s was nearing its end but nobody wanted to acknowledge it. War was on the horizon and all hell was about to break loose. The Twin Towers fell in September of that year and we were told that our world was forever changed. Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel is called Bleeding Edge and it’s about the internet, black ops, and the last (dare we hope the final) stage of capitalism. The city is a part of the story, but the real tale has no particular location. Similarly, the events of September 11 are part of the story but do not define it.

This novel is classic Pynchon. There is an undefinable and ever-present paranoia. That paranoia is manifested and maintained by an unnamable and omniscient entity that doesn’t only want access to all extant knowledge, but also the power to use it in pursuit of its own omnipotence. The persons being manipulated operate as if they are agents of their own desires and wills, when the facts prove otherwise. Occasionally, a certain clarity pushes through the shadows, but is overtaken by events with shade of their own.9780224099028

Like many New York novels that aren’t about the poor, Bleeding Edge presents a world of private schools, Upper West Side abodes, and New Yorkers who rarely take the subway. Since it’s also about capitalism, there’s an excess of greed and callousness too. The narrative centers on a decertified fraud investigator whose decertification has led her to an arena that exists in capital’s shadows. The fraud she investigates runs from petty credit card skimming to stock manipulations on the scale of the Lehmann Brothers. The story describes a place populated by Russian gangsters and low rent hoods; venture capitalists and the Bernie Madoffs of the market. In Bleeding Edge, the world it situates itself in is also populated by dotcom whiz kids waging internal debates between their desire to keep source code free and their desire to make a bunch of money.

Everywhere one looks is a vulture ready to feast on whatever carcass turns up.

Circumscribing this neoliberal city of the dead is the national security apparatus. As always, its presence is nebulous but palpable, just as it is in real life. In Bleeding Edge it is personified by a fellow named Windust, a walking American neoliberal sleeper cell who has killed dozens, helped take down regimes, fomented counterrevolutions and made a fortune. It’s not that he wanted to make a fortune; the ideological satisfaction was enough. However, his bosses give him a cut as a form of blackmail.

Bleeding Edge is about the nexus where neoliberal capitalism, the internet, gangsters and the national security apparatus intersect. It’s a shadowy place that Pynchon peppers with his unique brand of humor and song lyrics. There are no winners and nor is there hope, just an ongoing dystopic drama that floats in the edges of out reality. This is why it disturbs us so; because we know it might be real. Indeed, we know it is real even though we can’t prove it. This is not one of the Pynchon novels that span time and geography like the masterworks Against the Day and Gravity’s Rainbow. Instead it is an examination of a particular moment, like Vineland’s look at pot growers in 1980s Humboldt County, California. This doesn’t make Pynchon’s vision easier to accept, however. In fact, his locating the tale in a single time period actually makes it more real and possibly harder to dismiss than the fantastic worlds of those two novels.

It was almost a century ago that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a book about capitalism, greed, gangsters and the American Dream. That book was called The Great Gatsby and described a dream destroyed. That “green light at the end of Daisy’s dock” that Fitzgerald’s Nick reflects on in that moment never even makes an appearance in Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge. Instead, there is only an American dead end that neither Gatsby nor Nick could even begin to consider.

Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
Elliot Sperber
Aunt Anna’s Antenna
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail