Like Alejandro and Sequoia, I’m interested in coolhunting and pattern recognition as they relate to our discussions of Pynchon. Oedipa Maas looks for patterns that may or may not be there; Cayce, it would seem, finds them, or at least is able to predict them. Oedipa’s paranoia may not be justified; Cayce’s definitely is. The existence of shadowy organizations and buried codes in Pattern Recognition is not in doubt, and is probably all the creepier for it’s matter-of-factness, and the cheerfulness of its perpetrators.
I was troubled by the neat ending as well, until I thought more about the corporate “spiders” and their politeness, and how ultimately and enduringly sinister it is. They and their agents apologize, not for the hugely invasive and psychologically traumatic methods they use, but for the fact that Cayce was not really the threat they thought she was. Bigend fires Boone, not for his invasion of Cayce’s privacy, but for his perceived incompetence. The facts of surveillance are taken for granted, and we’re meant, at least at first, to be reassured by the apparent benignity of those responsible for it. The prison Cayce finds herself in is a nice prison, and socially progressive, too—but isn’t it still a prison? Does a designer briefcase full of hundreds really compensate for trauma, psychological torture, and kidnapping, or has suffering, too, been commoditized? Post-9/11 affect, indeed.
Another aspect of this novel that resonates with me is the way it looks at the relationships between paranoia, fandom, and pilgrimage. The “purity” of the Footage represents a kind of sacred, authentic experience; virgin territory (incorporating all the resonances of that term, colonial and otherwise), something that, for its devotees, is to be both sought and protected, or, on Bigend’s end, appropriated and monetized. The community it engenders has a distinctly religious flavor, with its own internal sects and dogmas, canon, and means of interpretation. It’s not unlike the academy in that way, or a particularly thriving fan-fic site. The same thing the internet does for the marketability of mechanical calculators, it does for community-building; the specificity of consumer culture extends to even the most obscure basis of interaction. Are we supposed to see this as a positive thing (vis-a-vis the success of online forums in finding a boyfriend) or a negative one (opening avenues for the invasion/dissolution of privacy)? Is “cool” a commercial reinterpretation of the religious drive, or a viable replacement thereof?
Also, can we talk about The Dig?