Walker Percy and Thomas Pynchon in 1966

A lazy glance at the available Walker Percy criticism finds him often linked with other Southern writers, and most often hitched with Flannery O’Connor. That union doesn’t hold for me; while both write the wicked and wry, O’Connor strikes me as more garish and lurid–in good ways–while Percy’s humor tends to the deadpan side of the dial; plus, he will slow to build a scene, whereas O’Connor seems to get right to it.

If I were to write big on Percy’s The Last Gentleman I’d juxtapose it with Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. Both were released in 1966, both were second novels, both feature extended road journeys, and both, today, seem honest records of life and lifestyles of respective coasts. 
Oedipa’s trip, down-up-and down again California, and Barrett’s lollygagging around the coast from New York City to Georgia in a trailer truck, both seem to me searching tales of what fickle people call personal growth and experience. Oedipa is the sharper more confident of the two, while Barrett’s sexual shyness doesn’t preclude him from honest assessments of encounters.
I know Lot 49 better than Gentleman, but I’m certain a good work could be done on both–just in time for their respective 50th anniversaries.

Inherent Vice movie/novel

Rereading Inherent Vice after seeing the movie and think both are hoots. Jade is the best character in the movie, Doc is the near constant center of the novel. Bigfoot is more sympathetic in the book–the movie dials up his nastiness. The Hope-Coy relationship is truest to both movie and novel. Do wish the movie had the scene where Doc’s parents fall by for a visit–maybe it will be on the DVD.

Bleeding Edge

Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge is a wild messy book, a riot of puns and silly-sinister event and place names and odd and odderball people up to half or no good, all bunched together on the island of Manhattan, whose most active, vibrant, inquisitive, and gutsy citizen is one Maxine Tarnow, fraud investigator, a single-ish mother of two and an NYC native, a pioneer woman of the 1990s, wise and alert and armed (when she remembers) with a Beretta.

Bleeding Edge starts in spring 2001–we all know what’s coming in late summer–and Maxine finds herself up to her eyebrows in just about every bit of shenanigans New York can throw her way. Like a pair of her Pynchon-predecessors–Oedipa Maas and Frenesi Gates–Maxine is smart and resourceful and caught up in events she can’t walk away from, curious to a fault, wary but never afraid of the dark ends of an unknown passage, alert to the mental fortitude of whomever she is chatting up for information or propulsion to the next level of her excellent adventure.

So what is Bleeding Edge all about? Trails, conspiracies, connections–lots of connections, all leading up to the fateful day. But it’s mostly about Maxine, her fortitude, her empathy and desires, her flighty friendships and strange attractions. And Bleeding Edge is about Pynchon and his brand of relentless fun, which makes a reader guffaw and grin, as the turning and twisting of the plot and prose never stops, never hesitates, never lets up.

Pynchon’s a genius, smart and wicked funny, probably the best at the ‘writes novels for a living’ racket. Bleeding Edge came out in 2013, fifty years after V., his debut, and if this is how he ends his run, well done.