Novelist Thomas Pynchon does not, as his readers well know, do publicity. But does he need to? When a man has written books like V., The Crying of Lot 49, and Gravity’s Rainbow, doesn’t the appearance of a new one publicize itself, in some sense? Pynchon’s eighth novel Bleeding Edge, a seemingly hard-boiled yet characteristically askew and paranoia-flavored tale of post-tech-bubble but pre-9/11 New York, comes out on September 17th, and a certain class of fan has no doubt spent hours scrutinizing the excerpt its publisher Penguin has already released. A certain other class of fan, the sort who spent long dorm-room hours with the early books but who somehow never summoned the will for the more recent ones, will at least have felt their curiosity piqued. To another class of fan entirely, those who feel like they could get into Pynchon but can’t quite determine why or how, we offer the documentary above, Fosco and Donatello Dubini’s A Journey into the Mind of P.
“I think of Pynchon as a cryptogram,” says one reader interviewed in the film. “We are almost, in a sense, codebreakers. He presents a puzzle that we are trying to crack.” That, as well as anything, sums up my own findings from talking to Pynchon die-hards about their enthusiasm for their author of choice. A Journey into the Mind of P actually examines two minds at once: the mind of Pynchon the writer, and the mind of the Pynchon fan, which seeks not only to grasp the culturally sweeping, information-dense heightened reality of the novels, but also to construct a coherent image of the man who creates that reality. Thus far, these readers have had to draw this image from only the novels themselves (though, in several cases, large and labyrinthine ones), and for the foreseeable future they must continue to do so. At least Bleeding Edge, whatever its reception, will add almost 500 more pages to their body of available evidence. Best of luck, Pynchon exegetes with copies on pre-order. Perhaps the rest of you would rather start with the book trailer just above. A new Pynchon novel may always make a splash, but Penguin’s publicity department isn’t taking any chances.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.