Streetlight People

Reading Thomas Pynchon for the first time I found that there were many writing characteristics that he uses in his works that are very deliberate and contribute to overarching themes or emotions that might not be evident in the first read of a particular passage. In Bleeding Edge Pynchon makes reference to many artifacts in pop culture that seem to be arbitrary but are presented for a specific reason. One area in particular I want to delve deeper into is his use of song and reference to famous musicians. Creating these instances of intertextuality help out tremendously when analyzing the text for deeper meanings but I can also see that for a casual reader who might not be aware of Pynchon’s literary styling that references like these might just add confusion or be overlooked entirely. Lastly, I personally think that dropping song references in text also challenges the reader subconsciously because in the back of your mind you start playing the melody, singers voice, and emotion that you remember from that particular piece. Through this process it can allow you to create some connections with the text on a more personal level.

One of the first song references that stuck in my mind was when Pynchon used “Don’t Stop Believing”, not once, but on two different occasions. “Streetlight People, Don’t Stop Believing, karaoke boilerplate. I should have figured,”(149). When mentioning this song Pynchon specifically makes mention of the lyric “Streetlight people” from that song. What exactly does this mean? “I was digging the idea of how the lights were facing down, so that you couldn’t see anything. All of a sudden I’d see people walking out of the dark, and into the light,” singer and songwriter Steve Perry said on the topic (Channel 957). “The name that keeps popping up in connection with hwgaahwgh is a VC down in SoHo, doing business as Streetlight People. As in ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ Maxine imagines,”(61). Taking this all into consideration my view on this key lyric is meant to describe the way people are interacting in the novel. There are people out there moving in and out of the shadows among others just like them. Taking this imagery and applying it to other elements in the novel like DeepArcher I see where connections can be made and why Pynchon might be using this lyrical reference. When using technology, everything is done behind the veil that is a computer screen. People are able to be as visible as they want to be and also just as elusive.

Another song reference that I recall is near the beginning of the novel. “In the wake of her separation, back in what still isn’t quite The Day, from her husband, Horst Loeffler, after too many hours indoors with the blinds drawn listening on endless repeat of Stevie Nicks singing “Landslide” on a compilation tape she ignored the rest of, drinking horrible Crown Royal Shirley Temples and chasing them with more grenadine directly from the bottle and going through a bushel per day of Kleenex”(12). This song reference doesn’t necessarily contribute connections to other parts in the novel but I wanted to mention it because I think in this instance Thomas Pynchon effectively uses pop culture references to paint a picture and to draw emotion out of the reader. When thinking to an iconic song like “Landslide” it is one that evokes a sad feeling that everything could come crumbling down at any point in time. While you are replaying the tune in your head you are able to more effectively put yourself into the shoes of Maxine and what exactly she was feeling during her separation from her husband.

Throughout Bleeding Edge there are many examples of intertextuality and mentions of song lyrics or musicians in specific. Whether the author is trying to just make a better connection between the reader and the character or is hinting at deeper connections throughout the rest of the text Pynchon places these references specifically and with a purpose.

“What Are “Streetlight People”? Dissecting “Don’t Stop Believing”.” Channel 957. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013. 12, 61, 149. Print.

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3 Responses to Streetlight People

  1. shhairah says:

    I enjoyed what you had to say about the songs, however what I thought was interesting was your comment on having the song play through your mind while you were reading this. I had not thought about this prior to reading your commentary, however I definitely understand what you are saying, because when I read Pynchon’s reference to “Closing Time” by Semisonic I immediately had to go and listen to it and haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. Now that you have brought this to my attention, I can help but think that it is in some way Pynchon trying to relate his readers to the text and bring them back in when they start to drift from the novel as it’s heavy in content. I would argue that the music is the way that Pynchon reels his readers back in when they start to stray.


  2. mightymoss9 says:

    I feel like you definitely made some good points in your arguments, but I feel like you can greatly expand on this, not just with more song references in Bleeding Edge, but also look more deeply in how the song appeared within the novel and the lyrical significance. Even now while writing this I am listening to Landslide and I can see exactly the point you were trying to get at. If you expand this, it might make a good essay topic.


  3. danwillisdan says:

    I’d love to hear you expand more on the image of “Streetlight People”. Perhaps, ignoring Perry’s intention for that lyric, Pynchon used it to suggest that companies like Streetlight People, in enabling Silicon Alley, are by the turn of the millenium a part of the basic infrastructure of the city. Or perhaps that they control what is and is not visible within the city?


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