Hawthorn and Child is a fundamentally conventional work of fiction, with arguably the imposed tension between reading it as a novel and reading it a series of short stories the sole adventurous feature.
Ultimately Bleeding Edge is not so much “minor” Pynchon as it is a kind of synthetic replica of a Thomas Pynchon novel, all the more disappointing because it was written by Pynchon himself.
Benediction sets out to do what old-fashioned realism, at its best, took as its central ambition, to portray life as lived, without the kind of artificial distortions that would make it seem either better or worse than the actuality itself allows.
At its best, Everett’s self-reflexive mockery and abrasive humor closely approach the line separating productive ridicule and mere negation, but don’t quite cross it.
Saunders’s fiction leaves the discernible impression its representation of human folly is at least partly meant to suggest we should (and could) stop doing and believing the things that make it possible.
Once it has been established that our assumptions about reading are arbitrary, to keep issuing reminders without demonstrating how literature might be approached differently makes the effort seem like gimmickry.
Why, after almost 100 years, would a novel that so obviously duplicates the most familiar features of the Kafkaesque, that so obviously wants to be Kafkaesque, also still want to be regarded as somehow original and daring?