I think we can all agree that what the world needs is more book reviews of famous novelists by theoretical physicists. The clamor has been, admittedly, somewhat muted, but I can see through the coy silence. (Can one see through silence? A famous novelist would never write like that.)
So I was very pleased when Nature, that well-known literary publication, asked me to review Thomas Pynchon’s new book, Bleeding Edge. Longtime readers of me will know that I’ve been fascinated by Pynchon’s work for a long time now; longtime readers of Pynchon will know that it’s not always easy going (even when it’s consistently rewarding). Fortunately, Bleeding Edge was a delightful page-turner, with the usual colorful characters and many laughs along the way. It’s a detective story set in Manhattan, 2001, as things were falling down: the tech bubble, not to mention the World Trade Center. Because Pynchon seems to enjoy confounding expectations, this is a book with a single definite point-of-view character, as well as an identifiable plot. Because he is nevertheless still Thomas Pynchon, there are multiple strands of interlocking schemes and conspiracies, most of which don’t really get “resolved” in the conventional sense. But some do! It’s a great book, easily recommended either to the committed Pynchon fan or to their skeptical friend would would appreciate a user-friendly introduction.
Sadly my own wordsmithing wasn’t at its highest peak while writing my review; it’s not easy to squeeze all the basic facts that would actually be useful to the reader into a 1000-word limit while also keeping things amusing and poetical. But it can be done; you might want to check out Jonathan Lethem’s review in the NYT to see how a real writer would have done it.