Probably like plenty of other Pynchonites, I found the ’90s pop-culture bandwidth overload of Bleeding Edge pleasantly jarring. Not that it was really out of character—the books are all loaded with this kind of cultural flotsam and jetsam. It’s just that Pynchon’s usually rebuilding a pop culture expired well before my time. Catching lowbrow references comprehensible without wikipedia was a strange new delight.
Get this, for example, from a Silicon Alley party Maxine attends with Horst (p. 302):
The Soviet-era sound system, looted from a failed arena somewhere in Eastern Europe, is also blasting Blink-182, Echo and the Bunnymen, Barenaked Ladies, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and other sentimental oldies while vintage stock quotations from the boom-years NASDAQ crawl along a ticker display on a frieze running the full perimeter of the ballroom, beneath giant four-by-six-meter LED screens onto which bloom and fade historical highlights like Bill Clinton’s grand-jury testimony, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” the other Bill, Gates, getting a pie in the face in Belgium, the announcement trailer for Halo, clips from the Dilbert animated TV series and the first season of SpongeBob
The list goes on. The nostalgia is both ironic and deeply felt, and hasn’t it just gotten more so (on both counts) since?
Maxine and the other revellers aren’t drunk only on nostalgia–this party is well stocked (p. 303):
The antique bar, elaborately carved in a number of neo-Egyptian motifs, was salvaged by Tworkeffx from the headquarters lodge of a semimystical outfit uptown being converted, like every structure of its scale in NYC, to residential use. If occult mojo still permeates the ancient Caucasian walnut, it is waiting its moment to manifest. What remains tonight is an appeal to fond memories of all the open bars of the nineties, where everybody here can remember drinking for free, night after night, simply by claiming affiliation with the start-up of the moment. The bartenders behind it tonight are mostly out-of-work hackers or street-level drug dealers whose business dried up after April 2000. Those who can’t help making with the free booze advice, for example, turn out to be Razorfish alumni, still the smartest people in the room. There is no bottom-shelf product here, it’s all Tanqueray No. Ten, Patrón Gran Platinum, The Macallan, Elit. Along with PBRs, of course, in a washtub full of crushed ice, for those who cannot easily deal with the prospect of an irony-free evening.
That Patrón Gran Platinum will run you around $450 a bottle. Luckily for me, the other items aren’t quite so astronomically far above the bottom shelf.
I bought this Stolichnaya Elit a while back now, and it’s made cameo appearances in a couple other posts while I was getting around to this one. You can find it mixed deliciously with milk, vegetable soup, and watermelon juice here. Or playing its part in a heavy-duty tequila concoction here. It may also have contributed to a still-upcoming homemade beer post (spoiler alert: I put it in the airlock).
Straight, to a non-vodka drinker, it’s surprisingly tasty sipping. Creamy and sweet, not at all harsh. Stolichnaya calls it “ultra luxury vodka,” so I’m glad it doesn’t taste like paint thinner. Now someone send me a bottle of the Gran Platinum and I’ll compare them for you.