The Surrealism of September 11, 2001

Bleeding Edge is Thomas Pynchon’s most recent novel published in 2013 but written in the 2001 time period.  Right before 2001 began the dot com crash took place and the aftermath was carried over into 2001 and the novel is set in New York City in the spring of 2001, automatically drawing your attention to this being about the terrorist attacks on September 11.  Pynchon’s prose is seen throughout this novel by his use depth and knowledge of the time period, which allows him to give the reader the sensation of being in 2001 while reading.  I see this clearly in a particular paragraph in chapter 9 on page 94 a little after we find out Horst comes back to the city.

“…turns out this trip Horst plans on staying in New York a while.  ‘I took a sublet on some office space down at the World Trade Center.  Or should I say up, it’s the hundred-and-something for.’ ”

Right then and there I knew this was going to be about the attacks on 9/11 if the opening page of the novel didn’t state that it was set in the spring of 2001 because that gave it away too.  But this particular passage just makes it even more so personal for the protagonist, Maxine, and for us as the reader.  It made the attacks on the World Trade Center seem much more real because we know that Horst may be, but most likely is going to be, affected by the attacks and for me, this got me thinking of all the bad things that were going to happen on that dreadful day and that it was going to be huge part of this novel in the coming chapters. Continuing reading on page 94 and onto page 95 concluding the chapter, Maxine’s boys were going to lunch with Horst at the World Trade Center and that got me thinking even more about all the possibilities that Pynchon could have written about in regards to Maxine and her family when it comes to be September 11 in the novel.

This brings about Pynchon’s great knowledge of the time period because he had to learn all the devastating things that happened on 9/11 and write about them whether it was a real event that he made come to life in his fictional novel or a new event that he made up for this particular novel or even a close call and none of his characters are injured or killed but definitely affected (I don’t want to give anything away since we don’t know what has happened on 9/11 up to this point in our reading, but I did some research and looked ahead to get an idea where he was going with this, but I don’t know exactly what happens so I’ll leave it at that).  Pynchon knew a great deal about 2001 and it’s events in order to write this novel and include something as surreal as a character working in the World Trade Center, and bringing it to the reader’s attention in  chapter 9 and then not discussing it for awhile to get the reader thinking about where he is going with this character and his work in the building.   I am excited to read further into it and get all the details as to what is going to happen, but personally, I do not think it is going to have a happy ending for the main characters and I, frankly, don’t want to think about it too much because it makes me sad to think of that horrible day and what the terrorists did to us, as a country, on that day.




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3 Responses to The Surrealism of September 11, 2001

  1. specifictortoise says:

    It is no doubt a very interesting and unique concept Pynchon plays with by setting his story up against such a major historical event. What I find so unique about it is that 9/11 isn’t even the focus of the story, at least for as far as I’ve read. It’s so far an entirely separate story about fraud and conspiracy that just happens to take place at this time in history. The reader knows it’s coming, but there’s a mystery as to how it will affect the story and whether there will be a connection to the plot or if it’s just an unpredictable disaster that interrupts the story just like the real event interrupted so many lives.


  2. yuc46 says:

    Pretty nice and interesting response. When I read this book, for the first part of the book, Python did not talk a lot about 9/11. It is like a completely different story. However, I totally agree with the point you made ” Pynchon’s prose is seen throughout this novel by his use depth and knowledge of the time period, which allows him to give the reader the sensation of being in 2001 while reading”. Although I know the book is talking about 9/11, it does not mention any obvious information about it. I know I can feel what the characters feels when I read this book and I can feel 9/11 will come soon.


  3. Mingyue Yan says:

    This is the good novel should do that telling us what is about this book at the beginning. I hate to read some book with vague beginning that cannot interest me. Reading this book reminded me of my 2001.Forty years to now. I was shocked by this number. It is been a long time. I remember I was in primary school at that time, and the news about 9/11 is 7/24. I was too young to realize how horrible it was. The world is not peaceful nowadays. What the SISI did is super cruel. To burn a man, to savage a blindfold man and throw him off, to stone the man if he survived after falling. I wish world peace. No more 9/11.


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