Late Pynchon

I finished Bleeding Edge last week. It was...good.

Thomas Pynchon is a certified genius and a literary giant. Some of his earlier books, V, The Crying of Lot 49, and Gravity's Rainbow are amazing perfect masterpieces that will twist up your brain for years. This is the problem. He was too good.

It seems like he's in cruise control now. Where his earlier books were capital-L Literature, his newer work is just fiction. Vineland, Inherent Vice, and Bleeding Edge are probably his 3 weakest books. But they're good books! Just not Peak Pynchon-level good. His early work is so dang good that his later stuff just seems like filler.

Frustratingly, he's shown sings of old self in his new work. Lots of people liked Mason & Dixon. (I didn't care for it, but still..) Against the Day was really great too.

I hope that he knows. I hope he's just easing into retirement. Tossing out pretty decent books with little effort. Making bucks.

Kurt Vonnegut (so good!) famously gave all his books grades, A-F, like a report card. And he knew which ones were good and which ones weren't. I hope Pynchon is similarly self-aware.

This is blasphemy, but here's how I would grade him:

V. (B+)
The Crying of Lot 49  (A)
Gravity's Rainbow  (A+)
Vineland  (C)
Mason & Dixon  (B-)
Against the Day  (A)
Inherent Vice  (C)
Bleeding Edge  (B-)


Bleeding Edge Cover Analysis

The cover art for Bleeding Edge is typically, Pynchon-esquelly, complicated. The thing has about 10 layers of symbolism, referencing skyscrapers, city streets, data centers, older Pynchon novels, and more. There is even a visual trick built into the printing process -- the cover appears black and white but shimmers into color when you look at it from another angle (couldn't possibly be anymore Pynchon-y.)

Here's a good breakdown of the cover: