A couple of months before September 11, 2001, and nine chapters into Bleeding Edge, a novel set in—spliced into—New York City before, during, and after the events of that day, a commodities trader named Horst Loeffler
takes [his young sons] Otis and Ziggy down to his new office at the World Trade Center, and they eat lunch at Windows on the World, which has a dress code, so the boys wear jackets and ties…. There happens to be a more-than-moderate wind blowing that day, making the tower sway back and forth in five-, what feel like ten-foot excursions. On days of storm, according to Horst’s co-tenant Jake Pimento, it’s like being in the crow’s nest of a very tall ship, allowing you to look down at helicopters and private planes and neighboring high-rises. “Seems kind of flimsy up here,” to Ziggy.
“Nah,” sez Jake. “Built like a battleship.”
Apart from a soap-opera sting of Hammond organ audible only to the reader, the chapter ends there. Like many Pynchon characters, Horst is gifted with a form of precognition, which in his case enables him to predict the futures of certain traded commodities but not the Future itself. (Such gifts, chez Pynchon, are always narrowly bestowed.) Only we, irretrievably wised up, understand the hollowness, the irony, of Jake’s reassurance.
Irony, verbal and situational, has been the most often remarked of the tactics deployed by Pynchon in his fifty-year struggle against what fellow Nassau County visionary Jack Kirby called “the Anti-Life Equation”: death understood as the dehumanization imposed by vast and totalizing systems of control. And in spite of the depravities, brutalities, and horrors to be found in the pages of V. (1963), Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), or Against the Day (2006), Pynchon’s struggle has overarchingly been a joyful one, rooted in a profound and abiding goofiness.
His magic bag has proved to be charged as inexhaustibly as Felix the Cat’s with puns, parodies, bits of shtick and slapstick. Unflinching when faced with stench and corruption, confronting massacres and atrocities in pre–World War I German Southwest Africa, in rocket-blitzed London, in goon-haunted Colorado during the Labor Wars, Pynchon has with hope and abandon sounded his mighty kazoo and flown his freak flag high. He has left the labs, bunkers, prisons, and slave factories of Anti-Life littered with banana peels. He has heaped up mounds of ironic incongruities behind him—corny lyrics, drug jokes, sight gags, characters surnamed Porpentine, Squalidozzi, and Vibe—as he worked his way along, undermining the twentieth century like Bugs Bunny tunneling toward Pismo Beach. Pynchon, irony: big deal.
But not so fast. Dramatic irony, Hammond organ and all, is something new, and unexpected, in Pynchon. Until Bleeding Edge his work has not relied for effect on readers’ foreknowledge of the outcome of some significant or well-known event. In Against the Day the 1902 collapse of St. Mark’s campanile in Venice and the so-called Tunguska event of 1908 are wired to the lives and fates of Pynchon’s characters, but these incidents lie along the frontage road of history’s expressway. Like other factual bits of history in the novels—Wernher von Braun’s SS-symbol-shaped rocket works buried under a Harz mountain, an obscure Civil War naval battle off the coast of California between a Confederate warship and an Imperial Russian flotilla—they tend in their extravagance or absurdity to form a seamless part of the Pynchon ambience. The reader is cheerfully encouraged to confound them with the author’s pure inventions, and generally has no idea how things are going to turn out.
The same cannot be said, of course, for the fate of those towers at the foot of West Broadway, fragile as battleships. And it is the histories whose outcome is known to everyone that have generally seemed least to interest Thomas Pynchon. Pearl Harbor, the Hindenburg disaster, the assassination of JFK, any of these celebrated bursts of violence might have moved comfortably into one of Pynchon’s ramshackle grand hotels of paranoia, taking over a whole floor, bags packed to bursting with conspiracy theories. And yet each has gone largely unremarked and unmentioned by any of Pynchon’s narrators or characters over the years.1 Why, after all, should Pynchon bother with them? Each of those events with its secret history—preposterous, intermittently true—has already been charted, if by lesser cartographers, onto the paranoiac’s map of the twentieth century.
And yet here at the epicenter of Bleeding Edge is “11 September” (as Pynchon seems to prefer to style it), long since fitted by a million sub-Pynchons with its own dark halo of portents, rumors, and theories, several of which flit bat-like across the pages of the book. So what gives?
It’s tempting to suppose that Bleeding Edge has been written, in part, as a response to the Pynchonization of consensus reality, a transformation that became irrefutable with the rise of the World Wide Web, with its name like that of a global crime syndicate out of some half-parodic James Coburn spy caper and its infinite interlinks a perfect metaphor for paranoia itself. Having nuzzled up to the subject briefly in Inherent Vice (2009), Pynchon digs deep, here, into the history of the WWW (V. sextupled?), from the DARPAnet Cretaceous of 1969 to the dot-com bust at the turn of the millennium.
Reviewers have tended to see Bleeding Edge, with ruefulness, pity, or a knowing shrug, as Pynchon’s work writing its own epitaph, as a kind of belated, bemused, perhaps even wistful acknowledgment that on September 11 the world at last caught up with the all-encompassing paranoiac vision of history that seemed so kooky, so far-fetched, back in the crewcut-and-skinny-tie days of V. Ruefulness at the realization that lived history, Edward Snowden leaks and all, should have come so nearly to resemble the fevered intricacies of The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) or Gravity’s Rainbow. Pity for an authentic American prophet whose dark and original revelation has been cribbed, parodied, photocopied, the cribs cribbed, the parodies parodied, the copies copied and reduced to the stuff of crackpot blogs or routine cyberthrillers. And a shrug, perhaps, from those who were born to irony like cavefish into darkness, too cool for pity, too young for rue, having always known that the world and books and Thomas Pynchon can never hope to be anything but copies of copies, parodies of parodies of themselves.
By this reading, 9/11—the singularity into which the universe of paranoid theories of history collapsed before expanding endlessly outward again—becomes not just an ideal but a compulsory subject for a late Pynchon novel.
This view sells awfully short the deviser of The Crying of Lot 49’s centuries-spanning Trystero System, and the transdimensional, all-controlling They of Gravity’s Rainbow. To hold Pynchon responsible, somehow, for the meager plate of scrambled Jews ‘n’ Muslims with a side of New World Order served up by contemporary conspiracy theorists is like blaming Dean & DeLuca for three dented cans of beans on the otherwise barren shelves of a looted 7-Eleven. There is a sense of mounting impatience in Bleeding Edge as Pynchon clicks, clicks, and clicks on the hyperlinks coded into the page source of 9/11—advance warnings given to Jewish brokers or Muslim cabbies by Mossad or al-Qaeda, suspicious groups of men seen on rooftops before or after the attack, the purported destruction of TWA Flight 800 in 1996 by a shoulder-mounted Stinger missile, unusual trading in the stock of American and United Airlines in the days leading up to September 11. His scorn for all this weak sauce is most sharply evident when it dribbles from the lips of an otherwise affectionately rendered old-lefty liberal New Yorker who sententiously repeats a baseless canard:
You know where it all comes from, this online paradise of yours? It started back during the Cold War, when the think tanks were full of geniuses plotting nuclear scenarios. Attaché cases and horn-rims, every appearance of scholarly sanity, going in to work every day to imagine all the ways the world was going to end. Your Internet, back then the Defense Department called it DARPAnet, the real original purpose was to assure survival of US command and control after a nuclear exchange with the Soviets.
Conspiracy theories insist that we open our eyes and wise up. The fix is in, resistance is futile, and innocence is a kind of benightedness, a handicap to be overcome. Such theories claim to explain everything and may appear to explain a lot but they fall short—bitterly, uselessly—as any parent can attest, when the time comes to answer a question posed by an actual innocent. A good postmodernist, like a 9/11 truther, can afford the luxury of disdain for innocence; a parent is bound to protect it. Bleeding Edge is best understood not as the account of a master of ironized paranoia coming to grips with the cultural paradigm he helped to define but as something much braver and riskier: an attempt to acknowledge, even at the risk of a melodramatic organ chord, that paradigm’s most painful limitation.
It’s significant that Bleeding Edge’s hero—the term works fine right out of the box, no quotation marks necessary—is a mother of two, Maxine Tarnow.2 A working mother, a successful fraud examiner, for most of the book’s length Maxine doesn’t have time to sit around worrying about how or whether to maintain one’s ironic perimeter once children have breached it. Though she is by no means Pynchon’s first female protagonist, she is the strongest, the funniest, and the busiest. She also doesn’t have time, unlike Oedipa Maas in The Crying of Lot 49, for Tupperware parties and fondue.
Though her clients hire her to look into fishy cash-register reports, suspected inventory dodges, questionable bookkeeping, and other not particularly interesting-sounding types of shady commercial practices, Maxine functions, novelistically, as a standard-issue private eye. She carries a gun, cracks relentlessly wise, courts danger, pokes her nose where it doesn’t belong, refuses to be dissuaded from the pursuit of answers by threats of violence, and has had her license lifted (by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners) for cutting occasional corners and refusing to follow standard procedure. She is also, in the grand tradition (except with regard to her children and possibly her ex-husband, Horst Loeffler), hard-boiled.
Like its underappreciated predecessor, Inherent Vice (2009), an avowed gumshoe mystery of the Los Angeles School, dense with cannibinoid flashbacks to Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and Chinatown, Bleeding Edge, which bears an epigraph from Donald E. Westlake, New York’s Chandler, sticks to the usual plan: a client walks through the sleuth’s door with a problem. At first the problem sounds manageable. The sleuth agrees to look into it, make a call, drop in on someone. In the end, after many neighborhoods and social strata (always coextensive in a private-eye novel) have been traversed and visited, and after a vivid array of toughs, losers, and the occasional innocent has been plotted along intersecting axes of power, money, and lust, the original problem turns out to go much deeper, and much higher, than the sleuth or the reader reckoned. That original problem was only a loose thread, it turns out, and when the sleuth tugs on it the world unravels.
Maxine’s client is an old friend, Reg Despard, a documentary filmmaker whom she met years ago while accidentally attending a shipboard convention of people with borderline personality disorder (clearly a ship of the Pynchon Line). Reg has been hired, for reasons that never quite become clear, to make a film about a network security company, hashslingrz, so successful that it has survived the recent dot-com burnoff. Having been promised full access for himself and his cameras, Reg has caught a whiff of something rotten, and come with his suspicions to Maxine.
Working for free, like Doc Sportello, the Lebowskian sleuth of Inherent Vice, whose plot drew as peculiarly on fine points of marine law and insurance as the plot of Bleeding Edge draws on arcana of commercial accountancy fraud, and armed not only with her Beretta Tomcat but with Pynchony-sounding yet apparently actual fraud investigator tools such as Benford’s Law and “the Altman-Z,” Maxine pursues the truth about hashslingrz and its founder and CEO, Gabriel Ice. As in Inherent Vice—one supposes this is how Thomas Pynchon likes his private-eye stories, or maybe when your detective is a burnout or an accountant things just move kind of slow—it’s an investigation characterized by remarkable leisureliness. This one stretches, when all is said and done, over the course of a year.
And yet in all that time, and through almost five hundred pages, neither Maxine nor the reader quite manages to get all the pieces she comes up with—among them DeepArcher, an immersive, interactive, open-source simulation of reality hidden in the Deep (i.e., unindexed) Web; the Russian and late-stage-Italian-American mafias; various cyberspooks and code-ninjas and the cartels-cum-terrorist-banks-cum- government-agencies they may or may not be (or not know they are) working for; a magical-negro bike messenger; a murder in a possibly haunted Upper West Side apartment building; a puritanical, brutal, cruel, yet strangely feckless secret policeman (like Vineland’s Brock Vond), whom Maxine (like Vineland’s Frenesi Gates) inexplicably and rather unforgivably finds sexually irresistible; the rumored secret time-travel experiments carried out on children, with horrific results, at Montauk Point; and, of course, the destruction of the World Trade Center, which has or has not been engineered by Gabriel Ice, who is or is not an Israeli agent, a tool of Islamist terror groups, or a demented capitalist megalomaniac right out of a James Bond film—to fit together. Everything means something, or nothing means anything, and as in every Pynchon novel what can be found is not solution but the grace of moments spent suspended between those certainties:
Next day, evening rush hour, it’s just starting to rain…sometimes she can’t resist, she needs to be out in the street. What might only be a simple point on the workday cycle, a reconvergence of what the day scattered as Sappho said someplace back in some college course, Maxine forgets, becomes a million pedestrian dramas, each one charged with mystery, more intense than high-barometer daylight can ever allow. Everything changes. There’s that clean, rained-on smell. The traffic noise gets liquefied. Reflections from the street into the windows of city buses fill the bus interiors with unreadable 3-D images, as surface unaccountably transforms to volume. Average pushy Manhattan schmucks crowding the sidewalks also pick up some depth, some purpose—they smile, they slow down, even with a cellular phone stuck in their ear they are more apt to be singing to somebody than yakking. Some are observed taking houseplants for walks in the rain. Even the lightest umbrella-to-umbrella contact can be erotic.
One ought to be accustomed, by now, to Pynchon’s leaving his mysteries unresolved, or at least prepared to give him credit for having done so on purpose. Incompleteness is the inherent vice of paranoid theories of history, the limitation of such theories that Pynchon has always freely acknowledged. Criticism of Pynchon’s “shaggy dog” or sloppy plotting neglects the emphasis that he has always laid on the dual meaning of the word plot. From V. forward, nearly all his novels have been founded on a bedrock of detective fiction and underlayed with science fiction, boy’s adventure, westerns, spy fiction, and other genres that rely, like conspiracy theories, on plotting. His broken plots expose the epistemological brokenness of paranoid systems, which are, after all, nothing but attempts, grander but no less doomed to failure than anyone’s, to make sense of a broken world.
If some of the numerous characters in Bleeding Edge fail to distinguish themselves in the readerly eye (and some do) or to rise above the level of deft caricature, this is a fault of the book itself and not (as those who first go after Pynchon’s plots are often pleased to continue) of his art. Given the use, above, of the word “epistemological” to defend Pynchon’s approach to storytelling, one might well anticipate a claim to be advanced now that Pynchon’s characters are “flat” because consciousness, in “modernity,” is a Gödelian construct, because the Subject has been decentered, etc. In this anticipation one would, however, be mistaken. Pynchon’s best books—the string of masterpieces from Gravity’s Rainbow to Against the Day—abound with characters whose complex consciousnesses are rendered in rich and plausible detail, who have their hearts broken and break the reader’s heart as effectively and affectingly as any in twentieth-century literature. What Pynchon’s characters rarely do, perhaps, is undergo “change” or “epiphany,” uncommon experiences in lived life but encountered nearly as often in post-Chekhov literary fiction as tormented-yet-dashing thoracic surgeons in nurse romances.
One explanation for the relative thinness of Bleeding Edge’s characters might be the direction taken, since Against the Day, by Pynchon’s prose style. In the recent gumshoe stories he has abandoned, for the most part, the long, agile periods that had been a glory of American literature, capable of moving in the space of one sentence from grave to hectic, elegant to coarse, constructed from diverse lexicons (thermodynamics, junkie slang, classical ballistics, calculus), switching with breathtaking ease among multiple points of view and rhetorical stances, from austere to cornball, mock-scholarly to mock-heroic to mock-pulpy, each sentence sinking its hook into the deeps of a character’s consciousness and hauling that elusive sea monster one heavy inch nearer to the surface.
As gumshoe tradition demands, Bleeding Edge, like its predecessor, is written from a single point of view, in a close third-person that attempts to reproduce, with Pynchon’s usual fidelity, the thoughts, perceptions, and internal discourse only of Maxine, a devotee, as a mom and as a fraud investigator, of the no-nonsense school, not given to grave, elegant, breathtaking turns of phrase. This recent style, more clipped, more direct, can feel sawed-off, forceful but less precise and with its range reduced. It seems, like Pynchon’s increasingly mussed, attenuated, naturalistic dialogue, to owe a considerable debt to the late Elmore Leonard, master preceptor of all writers who seek to instruct and sharpen their ear for the way people, Americans in particular, really talk (in his winsome introduction to Slow Learner, Pynchon is candid about his early struggles with a tin ear for dialogue). If Pynchon is indeed channeling Leonard, one can hardly fault the choice of model, but the effect—as if Bob Dylan were to adopt the vocal style of, say, Chet Baker—is jarring in a writer with such a distinguished career behind him and such a distinctive voice of his own.
As Bleeding Edge’s constricted prose style and (hence) point of view diminish the perceived texture and density of the book’s characters, they also work against Pynchon’s game and certainly heartfelt attempt to depict the events and immediate aftermath of “11 September.” The prospect of a mind, an eye, and an ear as singular as Pynchon’s taking hold of that super-represented historical moment and finding a way to make the reader hear, see, and feel it all afresh is thrilling. But on the page we find mostly the details we have already long since been provided, in the language we have come to expect:
Flatbeds carrying hydraulic cranes and track loaders and other heavy equipment go thundering downtown in convoys day and night. Fighter planes roar overhead, helicopters hang battering the air for hours close above the rooftops, sirens are constant 24/7. Every firehouse in the city lost somebody on 11 September, and every day people in the neighborhoods leave flowers and home-cooked meals out in front of each one. Corporate ex-tenants of the Trade Center hold elaborate memorial services for those who didn’t make it out in time, featuring bagpipers and Marine honor guards. Child choirs from churches and schools around town are booked weeks in advance for solemn performances at “Ground Zero,” with “America the Beautiful” and “Amazing Grace” being musical boilerplate at these events. The atrocity site, which one would have expected to become sacred or at least inspire a little respect, swiftly becomes occasion instead for open-ended sagas of wheeling and dealing, bickering and badmouthing over its future as real estate, all dutifully celebrated as “news” in the Newspaper of Record.
Here Pynchon seems to notice, abruptly, the humdrum nature of this passage, and hastily tosses in the more conventionally Pynchonesque observation that “some notice a strange underground rumbling from the direction of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, which is eventually identified as Robert Moses spinning in his grave.”
The curious thing about these passages and, in a way, about the entire enterprise of Bleeding Edge is that, though few seemed to remark it at the time, the events of September 11 have already been given the full Pynchon treatment, in a strange, harrowing set piece, found early in Against the Day, where the horror has been figured as the rampage, across a New York City of a century ago, of a giant, primeval Thing out of Lovecraft:
Fire and blood were about to roll like fate upon the complacent multitudes. Just at the peak of the evening rush-hour, electric power failed everywhere throughout the city, and as the gas mains began to ignite and the thousand local winds, distinct at every street-corner, to confound prediction, cobblestones erupted skyward, to descend blocks away in seldom observed yet beautiful patterns. All attempts to counter-attack or even to avoid the Figure would be defeated. Later, fire alarms would go unanswered and the firemen on the front lines find themselves too soon without reinforcement, or the hope of any. The noise would be horrific and unrelenting, as it grew clear even to the willfully careless that there was no refuge.
Certainly a writer ought to be allowed to revisit an event, in particular one as massive as the fall of the towers, as many times as he or she pleases. But given the limitations of point of view and language that Pynchon intended to impose on himself in Bleeding Edge, the reader is obliged to ask, once again, what gives?
Here we must return to the aforementioned puzzle of dramatic irony, a device that, having made its first bold appearance atop the World Trade Center, recurs throughout the book: in an unplanned Hudson River cruise by Maxine and two friends to a landfill on the Isle of Meadows, where, as the reader doubtless remembers (cue organ), the rubble of the towers will afterward be dumped; in the aforementioned discussion of the fate of TWA Flight 800. With each foreshadowing the dissonant chord swells, the lights flicker, and somewhere far back in a long-vanished zeitgeist, crouched behind a scenery flat, Count Floyd, the low-rent chiller theater host in the old SCTV comedy sketches, throws back his Vitalis-ed head and howls.
Pynchon knows perfectly well, we must assume, that he’s taking a risk at such moments, courting cheesiness with so much deliberation and skill. Why, therefore, has he determined to go ahead and howl, even at the risk of readerly eye-rolling; even at the risk—it will be now seen—of self-betrayal?
Dramatic irony depends for its effect, after all, on our sense of characters’ closing in on a fixed, a predetermined outcome. Yet theories of predetermination, of election and preterition, of fate as the predictable trajectory and impact of a rocket bomb, tend to play the part of black Stetsons in Pynchon novels: they serve to identify their bearers as irredeemable and villainous. They articulate systems of control, allied with dehumanization and death. The verbal and situational irony on which Pynchon established his reputation are disruptive, subversive, irreverent; dramatic irony is deterministic, authoritarian, inescapable. In guiding us to the roof of the terribly flimsy North Tower, therefore, to sway in the winds of fate with Maxine’s sons and their father, Pynchon is flirting dangerously, willingly, with the methods of Anti-Life itself. Hindsight—exemplified often, in Bleeding Edge, through various characters’ retrospective predictions of smart phones, the culture of warrantless wiretaps, etc.—is a totalizing vision. It sees history, that snarl of infinite forking paths, as a highway without exits, a straight line drawn from then not just to explain but to justify our presence at now.
Yet the passage on the roof of the North Tower suggests, and by its conclusion the novel has amply confirmed, that in Bleeding Edge Pynchon is prepared to handle material even chancier than Anti-Life or creature-feature cheese. As the organ reverberates, at the end of chapter nine, after someone in the summer of 2001 tells a nervous little New Yorker whose father works in the building that the WTC is built like a battleship, Pynchon declares his paradoxical readiness—under special, limited circumstances—to abandon irony entirely. At this moment—when innocence, irony’s eternal patsy, needs to be protected—the postmodern deflector shields buckle, then collapse, bathing the USS Bleeding Edge in a burst of parental love and remorse.
When a young child’s fingers brush against a crack in the world, a parent seeking to account for that fragility may lie or tell the truth. Either is permissible, depending on the circumstances. The intention behind the lie will be unimpeachably sincere and benevolent, while the truth will need to be doctored, simplified to the point of deception. At such a moment of parenthood, only irony is forbidden. One can tell a child, “But nothing bad is going to happen to you,” knowing the words to be false, or “I would never let anything bad happen to you,” appending to this partial truth a silent insofar as that is possible. One is not permitted, however, to say, “Dude, you are totally toast.”
Among the rumors passed along in the wake of September 11 was a report—Pynchon faithfully records it—that irony itself had been among the casualties of the attack. This rumor proved to be as false as that of the Dancing Israelis or of the WTC occupant who “surfed” the collapsing rubble to safety on the ground. It reflected, as Pynchon notes, the degree to which “11 September infantilized this country.” Our childish need for reassurance—knowing full well that reassurance in such circumstances must be false or partial at best—made it seem, to some, as though the long, weird era during which American discourse was transformed meta-discourse, the tyranny of scare quotes, had at last come to an end. It was not long, however, before irony reemerged from the media dust cloud, a bit dazed but with its sidelong gaze trained on Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, wearing its trademark smirk, carrying a little banner on which was written the words TOO SOON? But the problem of lying to children in the age of irony—Santa Claus gets a chilling PayPal-meets-NSA makeover in Bleeding Edge—remained.
The greater, national, and world-historical meanings of the fall of the towers are still being discovered, and the full extent of the changes wrought by that fall will not be known for decades. But there can be little doubt that 9/11 marked a turning point in the history of American parenting, and laid bare the bankruptcy of all our comforting lies. It’s in the hope of attempting to convey some of the pain of that exposure that Pynchon takes his radical chances.
At one point late in the novel Maxine’s sons keyboard their way into DeepArcher, the immersive simulated world, and acquire the skill needed to model a virtual corner of it to suit their fancy. When Maxine logs in herself, she chances on their little virtual realm, and is surprised to find that the boys have created not some technocool digitopolis or castellated Faerie but simply New York City, their own neighborhood, drawn in the soft chromo tones of nostalgic postcards, its streets friendly and safe for them to wander. This is a lovely but improbable touch; clearly a parent’s wish-kingdom for her children, not the children’s own. And anyway it seems clear that in compounding a simulation, a wish, and a guarantee of safety one is already well more than halfway to a lie.
The hard truth—the brick and mortar truth—of the fate of innocence, of the natural limits of a parent’s power to preserve that innocence from knowledge of the kind of evil that brought the towers down, comes to Maxine in the novel’s sweet and moving conclusion. The novel opens six months before September 11 with Maxine walking her boys to school; it ends in their Upper West Side apartment, on a day six months after the attacks, with the family and the city still a little shaky but maybe going to be all right. Maxine realizes that she is running late for an appointment, and won’t have time, for the first time ever, to walk to school with Otis and Ziggy. She feels a stab of panic. And now the time has come for her child to reassure her:
“It’s all right, Mom. We’re good.”
“I know you are, Zig….” But she waits in the doorway as they go on down the hall. Neither looks back. She can watch them into the elevator at least.
At least, and at most.
In Inherent Vice, set in 1970 Los Angeles, the Manson murders and trial do no more than lurk at the demented margins. ↩
Parents of young children are a rarity among Pynchon protagonists, but in nearly every instance—Vineland’s Zoyd Wheeler and Frenesi Gates, Gravity Rainbow’s Fritz Pökler and Greta Erdmann—the relationship turns almost entirely around questions of fraud, deception, and concealment. ↩