Thursday, March 5, 2015

A look back At Bleeding Edge

As stated earlier, as in last post which was over a month ago, I don't want the books I read to pass without comment.  I love reading.  More than that I love writing about what I read.  It is fun.  Last book I read was On Basklisk Station and other than the fascinatingly progressive gender dynamics there isn't a whole hell of a lot to say about that book.

Bleeding Edge suffers from the opposite problem, from the time period, to the setting, to the characters, to its peculiar narrative arc, or its unique structure Bleeding Edge is a buffet of topics for discussion, thoughts to think, and threads left dangling.  In a lot of ways it reads like a season of the X-Files.  The main character keeps poking around the edges of some vast unknowable conspiracy and she keeps uncovering, or being presented with dangling clues that she is either unwilling or unable to follow through with.  There are a lot of unanswered questions by the end of the book.  In fact when the book ended my responce was, "huh guess that's that then."  Which I think is one of the main criticisms I'd level at it.

It took me a long time to get through the book.  There were a lot of reasons for this.  One is the books peculiar structure which I will get to in a minute but the other is the looming presence of 9/11.  The book starts some time before 9/11 but I could tell that the books events and 9/11 were going to coincide and I was dreading it.  I hate to say it but I am 9/11ed out.  Sure I love Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and the first two seasons of Rescue Me but 9/11 is such a cheap narrative turning point that in this case the prospect of it just irritated me.  Fortunately once the dust had settled the book had some rather salient points to make about the whole event.  Many of which still hold true to today.  My favorite is about how we've become trapped in reality.  Everything had to be real and it all had to be now.  Man what a perfect way to sum up a generation.  Hell just looking around youtube you see people playing detective calling everything fake.  Now that's not bad.  That's a time honored tradition going back to Barnum.  What is bad is that these people are furious all the time.

The other reason that it took me so long to get through the book is that it would do this thing.  Maxine would be sitting there in a scene listening to someone talk or something like that then all the sudden there would be a tangent.  Sometimes these tangents would go on for 10-15 pages.  At first it drove me nuts.  I couldn't keep track of the narrative.  Things would be fine then all the sudden we'd be ten years ago and Maxine is thinking about something random, then 15 pages later we are back in the present with the conversation continuing right where it left off.  So I started putting off reading the book, waiting until I was super alert so that I could instantly catch when the book was going to veer off and do something random for a bit.  It was miserable trying to keep up with it.

Then I started to suspect that this might be the point.  That there might be some sort of purpose to the book's meandering style and if I were to let go and just let the prose take me I'd always end up back where I needed to be.  A little while later Maxine had her first encounter with Deep Archer, a computer program that mimics the style of the book and I just felt like the smartest person in the world.  I figured out the fancy fucking book before the author broke down and explained it.  Once I let go and just accepted being "purposefully lost" as the book put it I started to enjoy it immensely.  Bleeding Edge isn't a book about a sequential series of events culminating in some sort of lesson or character growth but rather an extended journey and strange journey.

One of the things I really like about it is the discussions of the internet.  Okay the distinction between the "deep internet" and the surface internet annoyed me because it felt like Pynchon just Googled deep internet, read a wiki article and ran with it.  I would of preferred he called it something else.  Nerd nagging aside the discussion of the deep internet, particularly Deep Archer, and its subsequent invasion as a result of 9/11 reminded me of the gradual commercialization of the internet along with the gradual grounding of our internet identities.  It is kind of a complex issue for me, and one that is fairly personal.  Not in a tragic way but more of a, "you kinda had to be there" kind of way.  But watching the fall of Deep Archer was a bit like watching the internet go from this very specialized community of hobbiests into something everyone uses.  During that transition it became something so much more, and so much less at the same time.  The internet still has its dark corners far away from Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Youtube, and constant unending horrible ads.  However, without all of us there would be no Amazon, kickstarter, and Wikileaks.  I am not saying it is better or worse.  It is just different.  The dotcom bubble was the American Dream writ large and its collapse is the American reality that you get when you wake up.  Only a very few escape with anything.

It is a big mysterious book that I'd very much like to revisit down the road.  I'd be curious what I'd think about it 5 years from now with 9/11 20 years gone and the internet being very different that what it is today.

This book deserves to have more written about it.  It deserves to be talked about more.  But I have a new book to read and I'm excited.  So I'm going to end it here.

1 comment:

thedavemyster said...

"...and the internet being very different that what it is today."

For sure it will be.

Happy Birthday, O Mike!

I hope all is well with you.

take care,