Thomas Pynchon knows who Prince Vegeta is.
Normally you’d expect the relationship between a cartoon character and a Western Literary Canon novelist to be the other way around. Homer Simpson would recognise the name Shakespeare, you can assume that Daria would be familiar with Kafka, but it’d really blow your mind if they starting talking about characters from nineties animation.
My mind was certainly blown when Pynchon described his protagonist’s children watching Dragon Ball Z, bubbling over with questions like: does he identify with King Kai or he is more of a Doctor Briefs man? Has he managed to wring some Pynchonian insight out of the all that filler? Did he mention Vegeta specifically because he’s clearly the best character in the whole franchise? In 2012 my literary diet was heavily dominated by surprisingly intelligent Dragon Ball fan fiction – did he write one of those stories under a pseudonym?
Bleeding Edge tells the story of a de-certified private detective who finds herself investigating New York’s cyberspace scene in the months before 9/11.
As the invocation of Prince Vegeta shows, Pynchon did a whole lot of research on late nineties/early noughties culture. How well this works for you probably depends on how old you were in 2001 – I was eleven, so this novel was a weird nostalgia piece for me. I’d be very interested in seeing what a tech-head would make of it.
This was probably the most disappointing Pynchon book I’ve read to date. Maybe it was between me being busy and worrying about looking for work, but I had trouble keeping track of the protagonist’s motivations and beliefs. I know that Pynchon’s works are meant to be this wave of semi-coherent prose that you’re meant to let wash over you like some sort of literary ocean, but I felt more confused than engaged.
Still, I want to get my hand on a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow.