Talking about Maxine

Takahiro Shimatsu I haven’t finished reading Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, and I will later adorn my Goodreads page with my conclusion. Suffice to say that Thomas Pynchon is, for this reader, one of the four vortices of the magic square, that which is at the heart of my love for contemporary American letters: Pynchon – Stephen King – Neal Stephenson – Bret Easton Ellis. Those guys are, to my mind,  America, through and through.

Re-reading Christian Lorentzen’s review of Bleeding Edge in the 26 September 2013 issue of the LRB, I found myself, a rare event, in some disagreement with the respected editor of the said LRB. Bleeding Edge is not, in my reading, “a period novel” about New-York City’s Silicon Alley, that is merely the backdrop. Bleeding Edge is, literary speaking, about the atrocity, about 9/11, in the same way as Gravity’s Rainbow is about the nazi weapons of reprisal, and their aftermath.

Pynchon’s genius, once again (as, in Gravity’s Rainbow, the surreal connection between Peenemünde and West Africa), is to link the Saudi-perpetrated-and-funded outrage with the preceding, less bloody, but no less potent, disaster: the collapse of the first corporate attempt to subjugate the Internet, known as the “*.com” bubble. The link – shadow of Stephenson’s Snow Crash – is DeepArcher, a “piece of code” that turns out to be a deep metaverse, malevolently seductive to the hero of the tale, Maxine Tarnow, fraud investigator by profession, and to survivors of the outrage. The book mentions a number of fraudulent plots, real or supposed, the main one being the subject of Maxine’s own quest for truth, about Gabriel Ice, corporate predator, pervert, double or triple agent, and purveyor of funds to shadowy Gulf’s paramilitaries.

Thus the novel skirts around the trinity: late capitalism – “War on Terror” and, finally – the Terrorists among us, bankrolled by successive US administrations (the “ben Ladin’s network” and its successors) and the Saudi’s evil empire. In the meantime we get the “period piece” about 2001, which could be described as the last year of innocence of the 21st century. Worse was to come.

Maxine, a hero for our time, is left, bemused, abused – on her own volition – but still kicking, incredibly.

I am taking my time to finish the book, and will write again. Incidentally, my definition of the atrocity, is my own, not Thomas Pynchon’s.

Related articles:

The Crying of September 11

The New American Way of War

#WritersWednesday: Obsession and manipulation in fictional characters

Mirror or mask?In Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama Victor Ward is obsessed, by his look – the better you look the more you see – by his women, or at least some of them, and finally by the solitude he faces once his devilish dad, the ominous senator and presidential candidate Johnson, has manipulated him to exile, near death, and substituted his shadowy alter ego, his doppelgänger, the fake Victor, to himself. The whole story is that of a long destruction through obsessive behaviour and manipulation of a fragile human being by people close to him. ““You want to know how it all ends?” Chloe asked, eyes closed. I nodded. “Buy the rights,” she whispered.” Spare me.

In Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl Amy Elliott Dunne starts her career as the baby obsession of her parents who end up building a fortune writing stories about their daughter. She then becomes – apparently – obsessed by her sexy and devious husband Nick: “I am fat with love! Husky with ardor! Morbidly obese with devotion! A happy, busy bumblebee of marital enthusiasm. I positively hum around him…” When Amy’s true nature is revealed to the reader, some 200 pages into the novel, it becomes clear to us who the manipulator was: she’s no Cool Girl, although she played the part to perfection for the benefit of her parents and husband: “But it’s tempting to be Cool Girl. For someone like me, who likes to win, it’s tempting to want to be the girl every guy wants.” Amy frames Nick who does not stand a chance, now obsessed by guilt about his supposedly dead wife… And when does it go wrong? “Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your spouse, your soul mate, and having him not like you? So that’s how the hating first began…”

In my novel, The Page, Julian at first does not recognise his old flame, Melissa, who, in their youth, was obsessed by him, by his look: he was then the Cool Guy. It is now his turn to wonder, to question, to suspect that the too young woman in front of him may not be what she seems to be. But who is behind the scene? Is she the victim of an abhorrent plot? Or is she a willing actor in manipulating him? I am at the crossroad now, having to decide whether Melissa is on the side of evil, or is still prisoner of her devotion to Julian – or both?

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#FiveSentenceFiction: Desolate

“Victor, I’m twenty six. That’s a hundred and five in model years.” ~ Bret Easton Ellis: Glamorama

Model They’d cut her last shoot down from one hour to forty minutes, an ominous sign.

As she walked into the studio she saw the usual lineup of girls waiting, very young – younger than ever she thought – and half naked, and it hit her like lightning: she was now a has-been.

The photographer was rushing her, no longer the admiring hulk he once was, she felt mortified, his tone of voice hardly hiding his impatience.

She had only one haste now: finish the shoot, get dressed and leave this desolate landscape, leave behind all the falsehood, the pretending, the jealousies…

Then she thought of him, the calm man she had rejected so many times, who had told her to come to him once it was over: would he still want her now, now that her supermodel career was gone?