Monday, 10 August 2009

Book Choice #18:

Thomas Pynchon: Inherent Vice

I've spent the last few days with a permanent - Pynchon would say 'stoners' - grin on my face. A new Pynchon novel is - for me - the literary event of this, or any other year and once again - as with 'Mason & Dixon' and 'Against The Day', this lives up to the billing. 'Inherent Vice' is hilarious. It's Columbo-meets-The Big Lebowski-meets Film Noir-meets-The Simpsons at the tale end of 1969 - post-Manson murders, exactly forty years ago in fact.

The plot is intriguing and navigable - by Pynchon's standards anyway. Drug references galore, a proto-Internet, Nixon-era - Manson fueled paranoia, surf, sex, L.A., L.V., plenty of stoner short-term memory lapses (which is catching as the reader is often victim of the classic Pynchon character overload... 'who? what? where? oh, now I remember...'), flashbacks, zombie surfer-bands, the ancient lost land of Lemuria, etc, etc. All packed into less than 400 pages - which for Pynchon is a novella.

It's Pynchon's most accessible book by far - there are even rumours of film industry interest. It forms a loose trilogy of the California novels with 'The Crying Of Lot 49' and 'Vineland', but there is none of the dark, deeply unsettling undercurrent present in those earlier works. It's full of classic 'stoner' humour with proper laugh-out-loud scenes - often involving Denis (pronounced to rhyme with 'penis' of course). It hints at the future of a paranoid surveillance society - linked to the ARPAnet, an early version of the Internet but really that's as close to a 'bummer' as it gets.


rob said...

Got it the day it came out and pretty much couldn't put it down. Didn't blow me away like Gravity's Rainbow, but I loved reading it! Did you see the YouTube video with Pynchon (allegedly) reading a passage?


No - will go and seek it out.. thx for the heads up. I've not seen The Simpsons episode with his cameo either. I've never been able to complete Gravity's Rainbow - it just disintegrates and becomes so dark and depressing! My fave is 'Against The Day'.