An unsurprised nod. “Bust he is, I don’t know, a suspect in something?” Gazing toward a neutral corner, voice softening to edgelessness, The Geek That Couldn’t Sleep. A make-believe horror movie we used to pretend we were in. Gabe was really such a sweet kid, a long time ago (Pynchon 451).
When I initially read this paragraph in the final chapters of the novel, I was confused. What was this reference–The Geek That Couldn’t Sleep? Why did Pynchon use it? Was there really any point to it? We have seen examples in Bleeding Edge that are in some ways obsolete, aside from the goal of maintaining a level of connectivity with the readers (i.e. Beanie Babies and Pokémon).
I began to sift through the Bleeding Edge Wiki page in hopes to shed some light on what this reference was, because when I initially Googled the piece of pop culture, it did not exist, but rather all that appeared were lyrics to an awful, unrelated hip-hop rap song called “Rodney The Geek,” by Richie Rich, needless to say, I do not think that, that was what Pynchon was attempting to get at. Once on the Wiki page, I began to look for some information that would explain what this reference was, and if maybe, it was related to something that was actually a piece of real life pop culture. On the Bleeding Edge Wiki page I found a reference to the what this piece of pop culture related to, which was the 1939 animated short film The Bear That Couldn’t Sleep (bleedingedge.pynchonwiki.com). Luckily, the person who deciphered this pop culture reference shared a link, which lead to a youtube video of the short film, below you can view it:
The short film The Bear That Couldn’t Sleep is about a character named Barney Bear who is preparing for hibernation. Yet, every time he tries to go to sleep, something always manages to get in his way. By the end of the film Barney Bear finally gets some peace and quiet, and manages to go to sleep–but moments after this happens, his alarm clock goes off, and it is springtime.
After I watched the video I began to wonder, what was the point of this film? How does it interact with this scene of the novel?
I tried to imagine if it were a “Geek,” rather than Barney Bear, in a movie about not being able to sleep. Barney Bear faces situations like what dripping in his cave, what challenges would the Geek face? I imaged it along the lines of the stereotypical Geek up all night coding or playing video games, and could not sleep because he is so captivated with what is going on in his digital world. We have all at one point or another been the “Geek” that “couldn’t sleep.” We get engrossed in our digital lives, this world that never ends, for there is always someone else awake on the internet, there is never a shortage conversation if one were to seek it. I feel as though Tallis links Ice to this pop culture reference in order to try and humanize him to Maxine. Tallis is in a way, defending Ice, she wants to show that he is like any other person, but right now he is a “Geek that can’t sleep” he is so caught up in the now, and all of his wrongdoings, and how she is hoping maybe he will “wake up,” and “come out of his cave.” Tallis believes that Ice was a good person, and still has it within him, and she uses this pop culture reference to support that claim.
“Barney Bear – The Bear That Couldn’t Sleep (1939) Remastered.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gkWB5QtPFQ>.
“Chapter 40.” – Thomas Pynchon Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2015. <http://bleedingedge.pynchonwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=Chapter_40>.
Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin Group, 2014. Print.