I'm reading Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon, and his use of it strikes me each time as needless. Sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Its general use seems to me almost comic, perhaps like in a script where the writer has a poor young woman character speaking with well educated gentry types and says, “Charmed, I'm sure” in a clunky antiquated way that shows she is treading water at best.
Except Pynchon isn't bestowing it on his characters, he's using it in his own narrative. Here are three examples from the beginning of the book:
“Tracking from one group of attendees to another, locating presently a normal-enough-looking citizen with an interest in migratory-bird hunting and conservation stamps, known to collectors as duck stamps, and his perhaps-less-involved wife, Gladys....”
“He and Maxine join a small group who have begun drinking the stuff and passing jars around, presently finding themselves a few miles out of town at El Sueño Tropical, a half-built and for the moment abandoned luxury hotel, screaming through the corridors, swinging across the courtyard on jungle vines, which have found a purchase overhead, chasing lizards and flamingos not to mention one another, and misbehaving on the moldering king-size beds.”
“On that caper it was the Practical Elf who acted as agent and presently bagperson, holding up the Strubels for a sum nicely in excess of what they had initially offered to buy Heidi, the little Polish snip, off.”
The first example seems needless.
The second example works best, but we already knew they were out on the island before this sentence, so it comes off (to me) again as needless fluff usage.
The third example just seems ridiculous. The “caper” was in the past, as was being the bagperson, which has nothing at all to do with the present tense of the novel.
I mean.., this is Thomas Pynchon, and clearly I'm not. I suspect I may be missing something (...treading water at best.)
Maybe it's a purposeful technique to try and take a kind of momentary “snapshot”? Like in a movie with the use of a momentary freeze-frame – some kind of contrast - an intentional artistic decision? Or in music, a stop-time moment?
Or is it simply idiomatic writing that cannot, and need not, be “explained”.
Any light shed on this would be appreciated.