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False starts and red herrings

Thomas Pynchon’s cult novels are magnificently complex but ultimately empty

By Jennifer Szalai   October 2013

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press, £20)

With Bleeding Edge, Thomas Pynchon stays true to form—which is to say, he stays true to formlessness, stuffing his eighth novel with a madcap jumble of characters and conspiracies. Amid all the calculated disorder, the most discernible plot is this: during the interim between the dotcom bust and 9/11, a Manhattan-based fraud examiner named Maxine Tarnow starts looking into “hashlingrz,” a computer-security company under the control of a mysterious billionaire. Something strange seems to be afoot—money transfers to shell companies, ghostly creatures in…

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