multicultural

Two Conversations by Jessica Slote

Two conversations, Friday, Dec. 12, late afternoon, dusk 1. Haitian cab driver, young man, beautiful

How are ya, thanks! This is terrific. Beautiful night…, where you from?

…I have two Haitian girls in my class—deux jeunes filles jolies, intelligentes, and ….how you say? funny!

Marant! Elles sont marant! …Been here since he was thirteen. Did some French school in Haiti. But here in New York he doesn’t speak much French. “I lost my culture.” Going to school again now. What are you studying? Oh he’s not studying in a school, just at the library. He goes there every day. Reads. So what do you study? Wanted to do criminal justice did two years in a school…. But realized there might be any jobs. Not jobs in courts, no jobs in police. Driving a cab now and studying on his own, not sure what, wants to learn something with his hands. He figures there’s always work for people who work with their hands. Tomorrow there’s a big march you know. Be terrible traffic. ? Millions March….. to protest the killing of black men by the cops…. He saw another march the other day, the traffic was stopped up and he got out of his car to see what was going on, he asked some people what was it about He doesn’t talk about that sort of thing with people…. you know I tell him I understand, he’s in the service industry Just yes sir, no sir….. I get it, that’s your business…. you make a living…. … So as we turn down 23rd st. at 8th Avenue he says, I gotta tell you a story. A friend of mine, my best friend, he drives a cab too and he was returning the taxi late one night to the lot in Brooklyn. There are so many taxis and so many cars of people who live there that often you have to park the cab far away, 10-15 blocks away. He parked the car and then he was walking to the lot. Two police cars pulled up one in front one behind they jumped out and one pulled out a gun. My friend he said, whoa like this he puts his hands up and the cops tell him to get up against the car. They ask him where he’s coming from and where he’s going and he says he parked his cab and he’s walking to the lot what is it what did I do? and they tell him that a store was just robbed in the neighborhood, they’re looking for a young black guy your age wearing jeans and dark coat. My friend he says something, whoa no that’s not me or something like that and they…. beat him. They beat him and they arrested him. They said he was resisting arrest. He was in jail for 6 weeks. At Rikers. I went there to visit him. Ohhhhhh that is terrible terrible place…. I was scared. They fined him fifteen hundred dollars. He had to pay. And they tried to take his license away, but the cab company didn’t do it. ….. OMG …. We pull up in front of the London Terrace Gardens. Thank God your friend is okay in the end thank God they didn’t take his license. He thanks me and says it was nice talking to you.

2. In the London Terrace Gardens visiting with Elsie and Teresa. We are drinking whiskey. Teresa tells the story of her son. Teresa: My oldest son he came here at 21 spoke no English nothing but he learn very fast and he study he went right into college today he is doctor, he is 40! But my younger son he was 12 when he came here. He real American guy. He study two years in the university but he didn’t want to do no more, so he decide he want to be a police. He want to help people protect them from bad guys. Now he a police! But Jessie, do you know anyone in police? My son he asked me, Mom I gotta get out of there. He work in housing project in Brooklyn. He only white face in whole place. All people hate him. He say he can see hate in their faces. He say everyone police get transferred out. But you got to know someone. He scared. I scared too. What he gonna do?

Text and photos: Jessica Slote, NYC, Dec. 12. 2014

December 19th- Language Matters at Tribes

Happy Holidays from us and ours to you and yours!

 

One important event this month! Just one! Friday December 19th.

 

"Live From Steve's Couch" at A Gathering at the Tribes.
A Celebration of "LANGUAGE MATTERS with Bob Holman, A Film by David Grubin." This two-hour documentary will premiere on PBS (Channel 13 in New York, Sun., Jan 25 at 12:30 PM). Bob Holman will discuss endangered languages, and poetry in general, from the perspective of the oral tradition. With special guest Alhaji Papa Susso, Gambian griot, epicist/musician/poet, and keeper of the oral tradition in West Africa. Papa's poems appear in Bob's translations in Bob's newest collection, Sing This One Back to Me (Coffee House Press). Professor Steve Cannon will be on hand, to ensure that everything is on the up and up.Want to watch or be involved? you can stream it LIVE here from 6-8PM

Never mind

Never mind    by: Steve Cannon and Phoebe Halkowich You never know what you miss until you miss it.

You’re not that kind of a person and neither am I.

You said when we met that we’ll never leave each other but that turned out to be a lie.

Here I am all alone and I have no idea what to do with myself.

Where was it?

Was it at the airport?

Subway?  Maternity ward?

I can’t remember and you’ve probably forgotten as well.

I do remember us going to see this great movie

and it was dinner afterwards.

Then you looked in my eyes and asked  “your place or mine?”.

And I didn’t know how to answer.

It seems as though our relationship lasted no longer than a minute, a moment, a blink of an eye.

Then you were gone.

Now you're all alone.

Things don’t have to be that way.

It don’t seem natural.

Its not that I wish you were here.

Its more like, I wish I was there.

You would’ve been better off if the two of us had never met

Or maybe it’s the other way around

Who knows?

And as the lawyer said to the judge, or was it the judge who said to the lawyer,

Case closed.

Poems by Erika Simone

Writer/Poet:  Erika Simone

Bloom

Spring has ascended

from its annual resting place

as indicated by

popping bluebonnets

and plants leaning

into sunlight:

east then west

 

and up uP UP;

they close at nightfall,

roots expanding below

ground to soak up

sporadic showers

and the nitrogen

they call upon

for their own survival;

awaken at dawn, beside

sprouting hints of

verdant buds of

what-have-you.

 

The tackling of unwanted growth,

the labor, the struggle, gratifying:

 

snip prune groom bloom;

 

you lay down rocks for landscaping limits,

watching the movement of

orange-breasted robins laying eggs

high in the hovering pine tree

who fly down, then up, to feed.

 

bushy-tailed rodents gather to consume what

other birds’ feeding has dispersed

on the ground below the hanging feeder,

and run away, bellies satisfied;

 

one tries (unsuccessfully)

to defeat the garden barrier

to consume vines of

squash and melon,

and, foiled, jumps

kamikaze

from the top of the fence

to the next yard’s tree.

 

. . .

 

Three doors down,

sun is rising:

fresh adolescent hearts

break

to the sounds of

digital alarm clock beeps.

 

Sun sets,

and they

joke around like

ruffians from 1979,

fall off skateboards

at high speeds,

laugh off their injuries;

do it again the next day:

 

ride, fall,

break, laugh.

 

. . .

 

Next door, contractors work

into the evening

cleaning pool filters

and preparing decks for sun;

the sound of hammers

to nails

to wood

echoes down the block:

one, two, three,

twenty,

two hundred:

 

("Father, why 

have you 

forsaken 

me?”)

 

But oh,

"Daddy, 

daddy,

you 

bastard, 

I'm through.” 1

 

Removed, you listen,

conflicted by your

hammer’s

own song:

 

one, two, three,

thirty-three,

two hundred.

 

sun becomes hostile, browns

exposed skin and leaftips.

makeshift overhead sunshades

are put in place,

no wind to

fell their fragile frames.

late 90s Billboard hits

blast through cheap speakers,

and through fence;

 

you think,

“unfortunate taste.”

you think,

“why did they complain

about previous neighbors?”

and you think,

“well, tit for tat."

 

. . .

 

Still,

best neighborhood

as far as

neighborhoods go

and it’s yours,

your place in the sun;

your roots,

temporarily pinched,

now grasp through

layers of loam

for down-deep things

 

that will nourish in you

a blooming peace of mind:

 

reaching

east

                              then

 

west,

 

amidst this

popping,

growing,

consuming,

breaking,

laughing,

cleaning,

building,

browning,

blasting,

 

all of which

close up by nightfall and

awaken again

at dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1) Plath, Sylvia. "Daddy." The Collected Poems. New York: Harper & Row, 1981. N. pag. Print.

 

 

© erika simone 2014

Response to senior's murder recalls infamous case

Response to senior’s murder recalls infamous case

The Villager

BY GERARD FLYNN |   Although it has been 50 years since Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death near her Kew Gardens apartment, her brutal murder was evoked Monday evening at a vigil in the East Village, where another senseless act of violence recently took place.

Similar to the circumstances of Genovese’s death, Wen Hui Ruan — a retired garment factory worker, originally from China — was returning home alone at night Fri., May 9, when he was attacked on E. Sixth St. near Avenue D, just a block from his apartment.

A surveillance video shows his assailant approaching him from behind, then, in an extremely brutal attack, throwing the 68-year-old against a concrete wall, before viciously punching him once and stomping him three times on his head.

Ruan died the next day. Four days after the assault, on a tip, police arrested a local man, Jamie Pugh, 20, for the murder.

Provoking outrage among some in the community, however, the footage also shows passersby either witnessing the attack or its aftermath, but without offering assistance, as Ruan lies mortally injured.

Family members comforted Wen Hui Ran’s sobbing widow at the memorial. Photo by Gerard Flynn

Family members comforted Wen Hui Ran’s sobbing widow at the memorial. Photo by Gerard Flynn

Steve Cannon, the blind poet and longtime operator of A Gathering of the Tribes Gallery, was returning from dinner with friends and missed the attack by two minutes. He said he was appalled by what happened in the six minutes before police arrived.

After finally vacating his home / gallery in the former E. Third St. Tribes space due to an agreement with the landlord, Cannon recently moved to E. Sixth St. — right next to the spot of the murder. He sat at the vigil with Ruan’s family members, who sobbed uncontrollably, as well-wishers placed flowers before a makeshift shrine at the scene of the attack.

“By the time we got to the ramp he was coughing up blood,” Cannon recalled. He could barely contain his outrage as he recounted how a local woman, child in tow, screamed for assistance outside Cannon’s building, frantically ringing door bells, in vain. No one in his building came to her aid, or helped detectives in their follow-up investigation the next day.

“These mother f——- are so crazy they don’t know that s— can happen to them, too,” Cannon said.

Chinatown activist Karlin Chan also shared his indignation.

“This goes back to the Genovese murder,” he said. “This is a classic example. Maybe people didn’t want to get involved or were afraid, but at least you can go down the block and make an anonymous call to 911.”

Mourners were joined by local City Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin and Borough President Gale Brewer.

Community board representatives were also present, as well as staff members for state Senators Daniel Squadron and Brad Hoylman.

Brewer, who lost a family member to violence, said she shared the councilmembers’ outrage over the shockingly violent assault.

Despite Chan’s claims that the attack’s ferocity suggests a racial motive, Mendez said she has no reason to believe that was, in fact, the case. It doesn’t necessarily mean area crime is increasing, either, she added.

“Violence happens and it happens here but it’s not happening on a daily basis,” she said.

Recalling how people saw the beating and walked on, Chin reminded everyone that such an attack “could happen to anyone.”

“Any violence in our community is our problem,” she stressed.

The Friends of Steve Cannon: A Evening of Poetry and Jazz In Celebration of A Gathering of the Tribes & An Incredible Man

The Friends of Steve Cannon: A Evening of Poetry and Jazz In Celebration of A Gathering of the Tribes & An Incredible Man A National Poetry / Jazz Appreciation Month Benefit for A Gathering of the Tribes

Hosted by Mariposa, Frank Perez & Sheila Maldonado

Featuring: Jesus-Papoleto Melendez, Melanie M. Goodreaux-Fielder,Stephanie Agosto, Dusty Rhodes, Ron Kolm, Danny Shot, Tsaurah Litzky, Bonafide Rojas, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Patricia Spears Jones, Paul Beatty, Eve Packer, David Henderson,Bob Holman, Sophie Malleret, Bonny Finberg, Howard Pflanzer, John Farris, Willie Perdomo, Anyssa Kim, Jill Rapaport, Thaddeus Rutkowski and others

Wed, April 23, 2014 @ The Nuyorican Poets Cafe 236 E. 3rd St. (Pedro Pietri Way) Bet Aves. B & C http://www.nuyorican.org/

Doors open 5:30pm Show 6pm - 9pm

ADMISSION: $20 at the door / $15 in Advance Students & Seniors $10

"Come hell or high water, Tribes will exist." - Steve Cannon

For more info: http://www.tribes.org/web/

Montera @ IATI Theater

MONTERA-TAXI

A play that gives a voice to the silenced forever.

Written by Loren Escandon

Directed by Marisol Rozo

Guest Director: Alberto Ferreras

Light Designer: Miguel Valderrama

Dates:

Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 8:00pm Friday, April 4, 2014 at 8:00pm Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 8:00pm Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 3:00pm Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 8:00pm Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 8:00pm Friday, April 11, 2014 at 8:00pm Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 8:00pm Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 3:00pm Language: Spanish with English Supertitles

Location: IATI Theater: 64 East 4th Street, NYC 10003

Website: http://www.iatitheater.org/programs/detail/montera1

Synopsis MONTERA follows the adventures of La Guiri, exhibiting the human side of the most dehumanized profession. With comedy and fearlessness, her story confronts physicality, experiences, beliefs and dreams. How does society view such a person once she has exposed her soul? This piece is a human analysis of the oldest profession throughout history. She, La Guiri, fearlessly carries the audience through stimulating observations. Ultimately, society's duality between the blame and victimization of women is challenged.

Press Contact: Yani Perez | (212) 505-6757 | yani@iatitheater.org

Tickets $25 General $20 Student $20 Senior Citizen

http://www.iatitheater.org/programs/detail/montera

 

MONTERA-HIGHWAY

STEVE CANNON NAMED POET LAUREATE OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE

PLOTLES PR.031014

PRESS  RELEASE

10 March 2014

Beloved Wordsmith and Living Treasure Honored

howl festivalPhoto: "Steve Cannon On The Couch" © 2014 by Eugene Hyon.

STEVE CANNON NAMED POET LAUREATE OF THE  LOWER EAST SIDE HOWL! Arts Inc. is pleased to announce that Steve Cannon—Writer, Poet, Playwright, Teacher, and Sage—has been named 2014’s Poet Laureate of the Lower East Side (PLOTLES). Cannon will be featured at the signature Allen Ginsberg Poetry Reading that opens the HOWL! Festival on Friday, MAY 30.   HOWL! Festival will take place in Tompkins Square Park Fri-Sun, May 30, 31 and June 1, 2014. Visit howlfestival.com. Cannon’s work and life is part and parcel of the neighborhood. Founder of A Gathering of the Tribes, the iconic East Village Gallery and Performance  space, Cannon has been a local legend and East Village treasure for more  than twenty years.  Mentor and magnet to young poets and seasoned. Bards alike, his residence as salon has provided a nurturing forum for art exhibitions, poetry readings, musical events, and other  activities which showcase the East Village’s cultural history, energy, and grit.  For more on Steve’s remarkable life.

“Steve Cannon is the only admittedly blind gallery owner  in New York City, as well as the only Paid Heckler in town,” says Dean of the Scene Bob Holman, founder/proprietor of the Bowery Poetry Club and board member  of HOWL!. “When you walk into his gallery aka his living room, you know this is the secret  portal to the real Art World—as open, creative, wild, and outside the establishment as it's been since the days of the Beat poets and Abstract Expressionist painters.”

But as the neighborhood changes, artists and creative spaces are being displaced by rising rents and gentrification. “This is a call to arms,” says Holman, as Mr. Cannon is being threatened with eviction from his residence  and Tribes as an incubator of visual and performing artists may be shuttered. To help out, contact Tribes Here.

About Tribes

Tribes was conceived as a venue for underexposed artists, as well as a networking center and locus for the development  of new talent. The formation of Tribes was motivated by the thriving artistic community in and around the Lower East Side: poetry  at The Nuyorican Poets Café; performances and plays at the Living Theater; activist art at Bullet Space; as well as hundreds of artists trying to find and develop a voice in their medium and a place in which their work might be appreciated. Housed in a historic federal house built by the founder of The Nation magazine, (Hamilton Fish), Tribes is located on East 3rd Street  between  Avenues C and D.

About HOWL! Festival

Founded “to lionize, preserve,  and advance the art, history, culture, and counterculture unique to the East Village and Lower East Side,” the HOWL! Festival is a call to arms across time and boundaries of culture, taste, and creative expression. Named the Village Voice’s Best Outdoor Festival, HOWL! Festival is the quintessential community event celebrating the history and creativity of the EV/LES. The spirit of Allen Ginsberg comes alive as more  than 350 artists, poets, and performers, including youthful new talent, transform the Park into a participatory artwork  infused with the creative energy, flamboyance, and panache that’s the hallmark of the neighborhood. A three-ring circus of wonderment and amusement, HOWL! Festival is entirely FREE. Signature Events include:

•   The Great  HOWL! OUT LOUD Kids Carnival

•   Art Around the Park and Kids Around the Park

•   The group reading of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl

•   Riki Colon’s Men in Skirts

•   Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell’s Low Life 8

•   Soap Box Poets

•   The Beatification Station featuring dance and theater

•   And continuous performances on the Main and Kids Stages

 

X            X            X            X            X

For further information, high resolution images, interviews contact MartinMPR Susan Martin / 505 685 4664 /  susan@martinmpr.com or Norma  Kelly / 818 395-1342 / norma@martimmpr.com

Carl Watson reviews Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge

Clicking into the abyss

Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge

 

Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel,Bleeding Edge, could be described as a mixture of cyberpunk, yenta detective fiction,New York self-admiration/mockery, and good old Pynchonesque conspiracy/paranoia.Set between the 90s dotcom collapse and the September 11 aftermath, the novel portrays a kind of privileged hyper-connected Upper West Side life; it’s a techno-noir complete with ambiguous bad guys, compromised good guys, numerous facilitators and walk-ons with various agendas and a general air of what the hell is going on and who is in control?The answer to the last question may well be nobody at all. The number of characters is just large enough to make it difficult to keep track of.*  Significant people keep reappearing to re-establish their place in the plot, but due to the story’s length and complexity you often can’t remember what their role originally was. That’s okay though because what’s important may only be this confusion, that and the fact that you, the reader, remain caught up in the flowof ramifying possibilities.Pynchon piles on layers of possible meanings and branching narrative lines as the plot moves forward, promising intrigue, laughs, critical insight, etc., most of which is delivered in abundance.

It might be said that many of the characters confirm a criticism that is often leveled at Pynchon: that his novels are peopled byrather shallow cartoons,twisted stereotypesin extremis.  We might also say his characters are merelyhyper-real, overdone on the surface, even if psychologically underdone.This is not to say that Pynchon’s people don’t have real-life problems, peccadillos, fetishes, etc., but that such indications of depthoften seem to serve only as markers of authenticity in an increasingly inauthentic mediatedmilieu. It’s also true that whether you believe in them or not is probably unimportant. In Pynchon’s universe they are merely signsof the post-modern human condition, where late capitalism’s vaunted “individuals” (read “consumers”) have basically evolved into a form of the very media they have created and within which they thrive. Allthis goes along with the author’s general tendency to privilege surface over depth, i.e., there isn’t anything but surface, and depth is an illusion, a human construction, a matter of computation, either of the computational brain or some other machine, say the machine of the media brain.  All those complexities of character that people value so much inold-time literature are really nothing more than the reactions of biological bags of chemicals reacting to their chemical environment. This may seem a mordantnote, but from this reviewerit’s meant as a compliment.

That said, a partial list of important characters in Bleeding Edge goes like this:

Maxine Tarnoff is a late30ish-40ish something protagonist, living on the Upper West Side where she runs a fraud-hunting agency, called “Tail ‘em and Nail ‘em,” that often has dealings with the various overblown tech companies of the era. Maxinemight be considered a kind of Jewish Marlowe, if Marlowe knoshed at a Broadway Deli and had to escort kids to their liberal private Montessori-like school, Kugelblitz.Yes, Maxine has two sons,with the appropriate hipster names of Ziggy and Otis, and they, like all New York kids from the Upper West Side, are wise beyond their years. She also has an ex-husband Horst Loeffler, who is not exactly out of her life. Horst is a Midwestern transplant, a cliché that is used as relief to show off the cleverness and sophistication of the New Yorkers around him.He moves slower, or at least more deliberately, is less frantic than the others, and apparently likes sports and the outdoors. Described as“A fourth generation product of the US Midwest, emotional as a grain elevator, fatally alluring as a Harley knucklehead, indispensible (God help her) as an authentic Maid-rite when hunger sets in.” That last comment lets you know thatHorst also serves as practical ballast to Maxine’s frenetic life.Maxine’s sister, Brooke, is married to the LikudnikAviDeschler, who if not directly involved in the current plot of the novel may well be involved in some other bit of international intrigue.

March Kelleher, Maxine’s friend, is often an aid in her investigations, but also seems to be caught up in clichéd 20th century forms of conspiracy theory that are inadequate to her era, mostly because they depend on agents who actually have agency, and many people in this book seem to be more like puppets to a technological or capitalist mind that operates far beyond their ability to understand it. March’s daughter Tallis, happens to be in a southbound marriage to one Gabriel Ice, a Bond-like villain/mogul and the brains behind hashslingerz, a super-powerful and somewhat secretive internet company. Hashslingerz’s actual activities are foggy at best, but there is no doubt that through his corporate vehicle Ice is making a bid for internet and telecommunications dominance, both via plain thuggery and by buying up all the bandwidth and infrastructure that he can get, as hereadies his profit margins for the coming techno surge of humanity. Gabriel Ice may be apossible government fixer, but he is also an untouchable Oz, as we know about him only by rumor and hearsay. When he does show up in person, he’s kind of an arrogant dork.

There are other entertaining characters such as Igor, Misha and Grisha, a triumvirate of Russian gangsters who seem to be unallied in terms of the various competing powers. They can be dangerous and bumbling at the same time, and they are both allies and enemies of Maxine; she’s never sure which, and she may even be working for them. There is the foot fetishist, Eric Jeffrey Outfield, a super computer nerd,who Maxine masturbates with her feet after picking him up in a Queens strip bar, where she has posed as a dancer specifically to find him. Eric will be first to take her into the Deep Web. There is Conkling Speedwell, a professional nose who has built an olfactory smell detector of some small importance. Justin and Lucas are California techno-geeks who have invented the webspace called DeepArcher which lives in the Deep Web, and which plays a significant role that will be discussed later in the review. These are just some of the players in this rolling serious farcical who-dun-what.

Given the cast and temperament of the characters, there is much to suggest conspiracy, in the best Pynchon fashion. Things grow increasingly sinister as the threads seem to tighten around an actual plot or revelation. This plot, or rather Maxine’s part in it, begins with the discovery that someone has been syphoning a lot of money out of the hashslingerz revenue stream and Mr. Ice does not take kindly to such actions. A certain Lester Traipse ends up dead gazing up from beneath the pool floor of The Deseret, a ritzy, if sinister,west-side apartment building where Maxine and others take recreational swims. Maxine is sort of hired, or not, to unravel all this.Ice of course is a suspect, but he would never pull a trigger himself and one possible finger-man is Nicholas (Dust in the Wind) Windust, agovernment hit man or fixer who remains rather mysterious throughout, in fact mysterious enough to arouse Maxine’s libido, so that she ends up doing him doggie style in a ratty, west-side safe house, where they conduct a supposedly info-sharing rendezvous.Of course this leads to further intrigues, part of which have to do with a secret DVD video of anonymous individuals manipulating rocket launchers on top of that same building. The DVD is delivered by Marvin, the mystical Rastafarian messenger, who always has very significant deliveries to make to Maxine and which seem to come only from anonymous sources.

 

All this culprit-chasingplays out in the landscape of New York City, and Bleeding Edge is definitely a targeted NYC-centric novel. Everyone goes to therapists. Maxine goes to an emo-therapist named Shawn, who himself goes to a therapist that specializes in therapist therapy. Everyone in the book is also quite quick on the conversational draw,barely waiting for the end of a sentence before they fire back a knowing and pertinent response, often so larded with cultural references that you might miss the wit, were you not as clued in as they are.Indeed we all know people who do speak or attempt to speak in this way, tying themselves into the pop-cultural universe as a means of self-validation. In Bleeding Edge, people toss such references back and forth as if creating a language of exclusion against those not entranced with the product and entertainment world in which they are ensconced. It’s also true that everyone seems to know way too much for their own good, as they say, and whether or not Pynchon means this as irony, comedy, criticism, or sarcasm even,is for the reader to decide.But this again is a typical Pynchonesque surface affectation posing as depth.

I like to think the knowing banter is meant to indicate a hyper-sophistication reminiscent of those wisecracking old George Cukor movies such as The Philadelphia Story orHis Girl Friday. If you took a Cukor script and updated it to include a great deal of techno-speak and contemporary cultural/product references you would be approaching Pynchon’s style here. With lines like “I thought you loved me for my psychosexual profile,” or “Enough dress code violation to get thrown off the L train,” it makes for great reading if not necessarily realistic human portraits.It might be said that one problem with this type of dialogue is that everyone sort of sounds the same and because Pynchon often fails to provide speaker attribution in the long pages of dialogue it is easy to get lost and discover you don’t know who is talking to whom. Again, this may well be on purpose. It is worthwhile noting here, that Pynchon sometimes tries to write in dialect, or street, generally to poor effect.

While I have been claiming that New York is in some sense a character in this book (in reality no other place exists, except California—another nod to the NYC mindset), it is also important to reiterate that this is a particular New York, that of the turn of the millennium with its attendant events, includingthe dubious Wall Street machinations, the dotcom bubble and bust and the looming shadow of the yet-to-occur September 11. Silicon Alley has crashed and most of these characters are rooting around in the detritus, remembering the elaborate parties and the various highs of money, drugs and sex. Indeed, the glory days of Silicon Alley before the downfall is one of the running themes throughout the conversations of Maxine’s crowd, who were all caught up in the flow of positive futures and the endless web-based possibilities for making huge quantities of money. Web moguls and telecommunications entrepreneurs like Gabriel Ice are the kingpins of this circle, drinking and coking in the clubs with seemingly few consequences while utterly failing to see the collapse right around the corner.What accompanies this period of decline is a sinister sense of foreboding, of things being out of control. Not that the dotcom bust was engineered by mysterious powers, but that there was never any control to begin with. But there’s more to this air of menace than mere economic chaos or social decadence, and this brings us to the looming event that shadows the entire novel—9/11.

Given the time setting of autumn 2001, the reader has a particular advantage over the characters, anticipating something, which the characters can’t see. Thus so much of the suspicion/conspiracy atmosphere that surrounds the doings of Gabriel Ice, Windust, the Russians, and even to a degree the program Deep Archer plays directly to the reader’s special knowledge. To say this is a book about 9/11 though would be misleading. The actual event is emphasized less than the way it affects everyone’s life. Pynchon captures well the eeriness of the following days and weeks: the seeming distortions of time and other physical laws, along withthe disorientation many of us felt in our normal environments. 9/11 also allows the author to tie the dubious dealings of these numerous characters, the various ideas and paranoid theories into larger geo-political issues. Maxine and her friends immediately assume, of course, that there is more to know about the attack than is being told, as they circle through many of the now common conspiracy theories, all of which are put forward only to fall into a blasé pool of maybe, maybe-not, and maybe-it-doesn’t-matter.  Remember the rockets launchers on the roof of the safe house?  Is Ari, with his Mossad connections, somehow involved?The information economy is often questioned—is there just too much of it, so that the significance of every message unit is depleted and nothing means anything? Is that how this happened? At one point even 90s-style irony is blamed, Heidi, Maxine’s friend, writes in the Journal of Memespace Cartography, “As if somehow irony, as practiced by a giggling mincing fifth column, actually brought on the events of 11 September, by keeping the country insufficiently serious—weakening its grip upon ‘reality.’”

 

Critics have made note of two important pervasive qualities of Pynchon’s fiction:1) a ludic or humorous undertone that serves as a kind of reflection on, or manifestation of, the great joke of the universe, and 2) the elevation of paranoia to a creative, indeed, almost spiritual state of mind.Both are offered as solutions or perhaps palliatives to the post-modern human condition. Faced with the inscrutable complexity of the world, we humans may have no other alternative but to adopt a vaudevillian comic ethos that grants us parity with the grand laughter;we might as well join the joke, so to speak.Pynchon’s books also revolve around paranoia as a creative force, or as Reg Despard says, “paranoia’s the garlic in life’s kitchen.” It is something capable of both intensely focusing the mind as well as providing the cutting edge by which we might endlessly divide certainty from itself or reality from desire. In that sense paranoia produces ever-increasing fragmented sub-realities thus actually enlarging our world. We can think of it as a psycho-socialprocess of atomization, and that leads us to the book’s title and underlying theme—that of the Bleeding Edge.The phrase “bleeding edge,” according to Lucas, one of the designers of Deep Archer, refers to technology that has, “No proven use, high risk, something only early adoption addicts feel comfortable with.” The bleeding edge may call into question the purpose of human endeavors, a pertinent theme within Pynchon’s oeuvre, but in this book the author is using the term in a much larger metaphysical sense, something like an infection of quotidian life and communication where information can be manipulated to mean anything, which is the same as nothing at all, which may well be liberating in the end. So I will end this review with some of the possible ways we can read the “bleeding edge” of the text.

 

One manifestation of the bleeding edge is that of social uncertainty and moral compromise. Every character of consequence has some ambiguity attached to their actions. If there appears to be a general acceptance that things are not what they seem in the event world, it is also true in the world of personality, as most of the characters are not who they seem. We never really learn who they actually are, perhaps half physical agent and half rumor self-assembled out of gossip and media. Their roles are ultimately difficult to pin down.Who works for whom? What is anyone’s real job? Their marriages are all in some state of dissolving or reforming. Their companies and jobs are all in a state of flux. Take Maxine, for instance, who may or may not still be with her husband; unlike her hard-boiled fictional brethren, who often adhered to individualistic moral codes, she is no such knight.It’s hard to say she’s in the business for money because she never seems to actually receive any. She doesn’t solicit the jobs she gets in the novel, and she is never actually contracted to do them, she just sort of ends up as everybody’s agent of discovery. While middle-class, she is definitely attracted to the bad element, especially sexually, but also intellectually. She doesn’t seem to mind humiliating herself for an alliance. She wields a gun to excellent effect when she needs to, despite seeming to have little experience with it. She knows how to be where she needs to be even though it often seems like an accident that she gets there. Gabriel Ice is another example—an internet mogul who may be working with the government or may be working against it. He is either being investigated or he is running the investigation.

The characters are all in some wayindeterminate because their environment is. Part of this is undoubtedly something to do with obscene wealth and its manipulation of public and private morality. And while money affects business and personal morals it also changes the landscape itself, as March Kelleher says: “Between the scumbag landlords and the scumbag developers, nothing in this city will ever stand at the same address for even five years, name me a building you love, someday soon it will either be a stack of high end chain stores or condos for yups with more money than brains.” Another environmental cause of indeterminacy has to do with the nature of mediated existence as it ruthlessly fragments and reproduces infinitely iterated forms of information.Bleeding Edge may be a detective novel, but for all the leads or evidence that come Maxine’s way, or anybody’s for that matter, it’s impossible to pin anything down. Facts move around like electrons through cyberspace, they can be steered into accounts of the truth or into false scenarios, just as money is steered into various bank accounts.The line between puppetry and agency is increasingly blurred. Eventually most of the characters are contentto just go home, if they can determine where that is. One is reminded of what Jack Ruby said in the aftermath of the Oswald shooting: “The world will never know the true facts of what occurred.”

 

Another of the obvious bleeding edges is the frontierthat lies between physical meatspace life and virtual webspace.Webspace, the new, superior reality, is fluid and hallucinogenic, to a degree that seems somewhat prescientgiven the time setting of 2001.Maxine is introduced at some point to what is called the Deep Web, the web under the surface web that most user/novices know. One might see the Deep Web as a possible stand-in for thesubconscious but it’s not really, although it can be quite dreamlike. Within the Deep Web runs the program or webspace or game known as Deep Archer, which can be accessed by those in the know(or ultimately by hackers). Deep Archer is a mystery wrapped in an enigma: it seems to have no goal or point to it. It’s designers claim it is a sanctuary and possibly a landscape for spiritual quest, but if it is, it is also a space subsumed to late capitalism and its unstoppable insidious crawl. After agonizing over whether to go full-blown capitalist and sell for billions, the creators, Justin and Lucas, take the nobler path of going open source, only to find that Deep Archer, once out of their control, sadly capitalizes itself, becoming a kind of Times Square buried deep in the Deep Web like a virtual Atlantis. Certainly it is the “place” where meatspace bodies become avatars and where they can interrelate in disembodied way. But it is also the location of the final bleeding edge, where even the avatars eventually find themselves standing at the lip of a digital abyss that does not, nor cannot, resolve itself into a meaningful goal, where form gives way to chaos and reality leaks out into endless plurality—either that or nothing.

Maxine goes to the Archer for answers but also for sanctuary.Out there (or rather in there) she converses with an avatar, who claims to be on a mission to the edge of the universe, but who is also pissed off about the commercialization overtaking the space:

All these know-nothings coming in, putting in, it’s as bad as the surface Web. They drive you deeper, into the deep unlighted.  Beyond anyplace they’d be comfortable.  And that’s where the origin is. The way a powerful telescope will bring you further out in physical space, closer to the moment of the big bang, so here, going deeper, you approach the border country, the edge of the un-navigable, the region of no information.

 

What she’s talking about is the fact of being driven out and to the furthest edges of her digital Eden, driven out of her sanctuary by the craven masses and that there may be some positive result to such a flight. The idea, that one can plumb the digital depths, or as one character puts it, “douse the Void,” until you reach the end of information is repeated numerous times in the novel when the subject of Deep Archer comes up. Indeed, the object of the Archer may be precisely to arrive at this ambiguous frontier of space/time. As one avatar puts it: “the edge of the great abyss . . . far from an absence, it is a darkness pulsating with whatever light was before light was invented.”  Maxine, in one of her explorations, finds herself watching, “the unfolding flow of the starscape, Kabalistic vessels smashed at the creation into all these bright drops of light, rushing out from the singular point that gave them birth, known elsewhere as the expanding universe.”It is interesting here how Pynchon has linked light to information and that there is in fact an information horizon that we can (hope to?) reach, be it via outer or inner space, a frontier where we can look over and find peace from all the enmity that definition and categorization brings.  This light could be said to be literally nothing but pure potential, but it is also a place to escape to, which is why so many of the characters seem to find themselves searching for it.  As one avatar asks herself, “how long I can stay just at the edge of the beginning before the Word, see how long I can gaze in till I get vertigo—lovesick, nauseous, whatever—and fall in.”

Pynchon seems to be saying that what awaits us is not necessarily the apocalypse of terrorism, but a kind of existential wasteland of ambiguous meanings, where we will each eventually find ourselves as if we arrived at the furthermost regions of the codeable universe, gazing into a void of reality. This may be a good thing if we arrive there by choice.  Or it may be forced upon us as a form of annihilation, because the wasteland will eventually impose itself on surface reality.  This is probably the most pertinent and possibly frightening message the book has to offer.

 

end

 

* For a guide to the characters see: http://bleedingedge.pynchonwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=H

 

 

 

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