There was some doubt in class on Thursday, when we discussed the very lengthy question that begins at the very bottom of pg. 311 of Bleeding Edge with “Faces already…” and finishes out that paragraph with “…no instructions on how to look for it?”, as to whether or not it was a complete thought. Reading it again, the interrogative pronoun and subject of the question appears to be the “which” that appears about two-thirds of the way into the sentence just after an em-dash. Thus, reducing the sentence to its most essential parts and removing all the dependent language yields this: “Which of them can see ahead to the shape of the day imminent?”
So, not only does this prevent us from dismissing the passage as a paranoid Pynchonian tirade, it also makes its purpose clear. It seems to say that refusing to acknowledge either our history or the consequences of our actions, as Gabriel Ice and his associates do, leads not just to tragedy, but also to a stunted ability to anticipate, process, or respond to tragedy.
Still, one might criticize the sentence (and Pynchon’s style in general) for deliberately obfuscating its message. But that’s exactly right; this sentence is nothing if not deliberate. By draping the most basic essence of his question with countless tangents and asides, he embodies the lack of cogency and forethought that the dot-commers of the novel have. Plus, it takes what could be a potentially on-the-nose treatment of 9/11 as an image (not the day imminent, but the shape of the day immanent) and binds it up in all the problematic social elements (i.e. “legendary streets” referring to the ‘untouchability’ of New York, or “the unreal string of zeros” referring to a troubling faith in the immaterial) that produce it.