A Pop Guide to Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon's latest novel, Bleeding Edge, takes place in the summer of 2001, letting him play, for the first time, with contemporary pop culture.

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Thomas Pynchon has always been fluent with pop-culture, in past novels, that might have involved references to Roky Erickson, Weimar cabaret or the arcana of early Hollywood. Not so with Bleeding Edge, which is set in the summer of 2001. Here, Pynchon can't help but dive into our cultural muck.

He does so with glee — and with mixed results. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Carolyn Kellogg says that "Pynchon seems like a kid playing in a ball pit, having an awful lot of fun tossing around whatever is brightly colored and within reach." Meanwhile, in The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani complained that the book is "a total mishmash."

Well, maybe it is (in a guest review for The Daily Beast, I found the book to be less a mishmash than a mash-up of two different novels). Below, we present some of our favorite pop-culture references from Bleeding Edge, entirely free of context.

"Oops, I did it again, as Britney always sez."
        "Wasn't it at that clambake at the San Remo for Eliot Spitzer?"

"Rachel Weisz wasn't bad though."
"Shawn has in fact never been closer to Tibet than television broadcasts of                                              Martin Scorsese's Kundun (1997)."

                                  "...headed for yet another Beanie Baby transaction."

                  "Driscoll switches to Zimartinis, which are basically Zima and vodka."

"She can't help but noticing the crowds of Jennifer Aniston more-or-less lookalikes."

        "A loutish youth, unshaven, in cargo shorts and a stained More Cowbell T-shirt."

"Otis, Ziggy, and Fiona settle in in front of Homer Simpson, playing an                                                     accountant of all things, in a film noir...
 "With SPREWELL 8 on the back."

"old Baywatch episodes"

And Jamiroquai. Yes, folks, Thomas Pynchon references this individual in his latest novel:

Photos: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson; AP Photo/Evan Agostini; AP Photo/Peter Barreras; NBC; Fox; AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

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