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Sanctuary City: Pynchon’s Subjunctive New York in Bleeding Edge

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This paper considers the subjunctive implications of three relations in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge (2013) structured along the lines of inside/outside, real/virtual and now/then. Critics have applied the idea of the subjunctive and questions of Pynchon’s experiments with time and space relations in earlier works to investigate ambiguity or multiple realities in his fiction. This analysis of his latest novel focuses on how Other figurations of New York commute between hopeful, subjunctive and pessimistic, indicative readings. The first of three relations identifies the way in which urban planning has been a locus for discussions of dispossession and colonization in Pynchon’s work. In this text exemplified by the loss of diversity effected by Rudy Giuliani’s sanitizing of Time’s Square in the 1980s and the different outcomes projected for the bird sanctuary, Isle of Meadows, and for the landfill site containing it, Fresh Kills, before and after 9/11 in 2001. The second relation focuses on how different character remember the architectural past of New York city or rebuild it in a virtual and virtuous alternative form, though the Internet is a highly contested space in Bleeding Edge. The final relation overlays the two first spatial and virtual relations with the complicated temporal and modal relationship between the 2001 setting of the 2013 text and the present-day reader. Pynchon has often worked with the historically inevitable, deterministic closing down of subjunctive possibilities by the forward march of indicative, possessive, indexed world. Some elements of this this text, and not least the position of the reader in the flow of time between the historical facts presented in the text and the as-of-yet unknown outcomes of these in present-day real life, keeps some ambiguity about projected (negative) outcomes alive.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOtherness: Essays and Studies
Pages (from-to)25-43
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Special issue "Otherness and the Urban", Otherness: Essays and Studies 7.1. edited by Maria Beville

    Research areas

  • Thomas Pynchon, urbanisation, Bleeding Edge

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