Marvin the Kozmonaut: The Uncanny History

“”Strange, I’m not expecting anything, you must have me mixed up with some other lowlife again.” Except Marvin has an uncanny history of always showing up with items Maxine knows she didn’t order but which prove each time to be exactly what she needs” (Pynchon, Bleeding Edge p. 107).

Near the end of chapter 10 of Thomas Pynchin’s novel Bleeding Edge, the reader is introduced to a character called “Marvin the kozmonaut,” a bike-riding deliveryman for kozmo.com, another now-defunct website. He arrives at Maxine’s door and delivers a flash drive, which ends up containing information on Nicholas Windust, a character who had only just been introduced earlier in the chapter. This seems to be the first time Maxine has seen Marvin in the weeks since the website’s failure, as she questions him on why he is still wearing his company outfit.

Maxine insists that Marvin is mistaken in delivering a package to her. Her dialogue seems at least partially derogatory, as she uses the word “lowlife” to describe Marvin’s customers. Her words, however, are most likely made in jest, as she herself is included in this category. She suggests that she’s been “mixed up with some other lowlife;” note the use of the word “other.” Much of Maxine’s dialogue is sarcastic and snarky, and her quote here is no exception to this attitude. In reality, Maxine has a friendly relationship with Marvin and later admits that she’s missed him.

Even as Maxine denies Marvin’s delivery, the narration steps in to tell a different story: that Marvin has a track record of always somehow having what Maxine needs. Here it’s a flash drive containing important data on a suspicious character, and later on Marvin delivers a tape that gives Maxine a new lead and even an out-of-production ice cream flavor that Horst happens to be craving at the time. There is a reason Pynchon describes Marvin’s history as “uncanny.” In fact, in a novel grounded in realism, global politics, and technology, Marvin seems out of place, almost supernatural. He has an easy-going attitude and only pops in exactly when he’s needed, serving solely as a deus ex machina character. Otherwise, he isn’t even mentioned and seems not even to exist. Although Maxine speculates on where the flash drive came from, Marvin’s methods remain a mystery. He doesn’t appear to have any employers, now that Kozmo.com has folded, but continues to operate, delivering items and even refusing Maxine’s payment. He refers to himself as “the Flyin Dutchmahn” in reference to the legendary ghost ship and insists that he “can ride forever.” Even the name of his former website of work, Kozmo.com, of which he still bears the logo, can be considered (as Maxine points out) a short form and stylization of the word “cosmonaut.” Thus, Marvin is associated with outer space as well as supernatural entities. Whether his name is a reference to the Looney Tunes character Marvin the Martian is not addressed in the novel, but it would not be surprising if it were so.

What is on the surface a case of “I didn’t order this” in fact serves to establish the history of a character in Maxine’s life that may be Pynchon’s equivalent of a supernatural element. Marvin is not explicitly an alien or a ghost, but he is no doubt “uncanny.”

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5 Responses to Marvin the Kozmonaut: The Uncanny History

  1. KAK249 says:

    I actually chose the same scene as you to discuss. (Check it out) I really enjoyed your interpretation of Marvin. Although, we have some conflicting ideas, I do agree that Marvin’s character is memorable. It is quite interesting you compare Marvin to a supernatural entity. I thought his character paralleled with the idea of DeepArcher itself. I went as far to say that he can be compared to an avatar of DeepArcher because he cannot be traced. However, we both agree that his presence in the novel is “uncanny” and that Pynchon placed him in the novel to serve some purpose the audience is not aware of quite yet. Do you think Marvin is just another character Pynchon decided to use as a “middle man” or do you think he will serve a larger purpose later in the novel?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. yuc46 says:

    interesting and nice response. I think you choose the exact same sentences with another guy. the both of your responses leave a great impression on me. Before i read your response, to be honest, I do not pay a lot attention to “Marvin the Kozmonaut”, I think this might just be a useless character in the book. After I read your response, I agree he is a “uncanny” character and the novel may mention him again in the later part of novel, probably in a totally different way.

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  3. shhairah says:

    What you have to say about Marvin is quite interesting. I really enjoyed him as a character, because while he seemed to be slightly out of nowhere, he seemed to almost be this guiding light. However, it had not crossed my mind to call him a supernatural being. While I completely agree that he seems almost fairytale like, I feel as if he is a part of the group that is watching Maxine. From what we have read and learned about Pynchon so far I think it would be too out of character for Marvin to be seen as supernatural. However, I don’t think it would be too far to say that he is a part of the people, or group, that is watching Maxine. I do enjoy your deep reading on Marvin and seeing him as this unique character, especially your incorporation of kozmo.com and “cosmonaut.”

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  4. useltime says:

    I think the attention you bring to Marvin is both very important as well as enlightening in regards to your thoughts on his essence of the supernatural and his significance to Maxine. When I was reading your post I couldn’t help but think of Marvin as Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings as he is famously quoted to say: “A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to” where Gandalf arrives in a way that is uncannily “magical” or as you say “supernatural. In these movies when the main characters are in trouble, stuck, etc. Gandalf always appears at the precise moment he needs to in order to save the others just as Marvin does with Maxine in aid to her pursuit of fraud investigation. I also like how you touch upon Maxine’s relationship with Marvin where you say that she actually missed him; I want to add that as I read that I felt as though Maxine shows an exceptional level of comfort with Marvin. In a metaphorical way, Marvin almost acts as comic relief from her stressful situation. As a reader I felt that most every interaction that Maxine held or dealt was rather heavy and felt as though Marvin’s presence was the “opening of a window that let in a cool fresh breeze in a stuffy, smoky, overly warm room.”

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  5. This is a very perceptive reading, but I cannot yet tell what you are arguing. In other words, why is it important that you’ve noticed what you have about Marvin? I think there’s a lot of different directions you could have further explored this.

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