Some thoughts on Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice”
This is not a book review, don’t get your hopes up. Someone on the Fedi asked if I had any thoughts on the book, and I found it easier to type them here.
Published in 2009, “Inherent Vice” is a strange and exciting in a different way than Pynchon’s earlier works. Gravity’s Rainbow, Vineland, Mason & Dixon, Against the Day - these are Big Books, each creating an entire world for themselves.
Inherent Vice doesn’t do that. Its setting is firmly in late 60s Los Angeles. Where the other books take the reader along for one wild intellectual, phantastical, and usually drug-fuelled ride after another, this one is a relatively straight noir detective novel.
Doc Sportello is a detective with vibes of the Big Lebowski’s Dude about him, as well as a generous helping of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Any supernatural occurences mostly have their roots in last night’s LSD trip. Pynchon references a lot of contemporary popular culture: There are several Spotify playlists with the music mentioned in the book.
It might just be the Pynchon book that is most accessible to casual readers. That’s a good thing! All of the master’s vintage tricks are there: The long plotlines, the character vignettes, the integrated short stories that are basically just build-ups to a larger punchline. Also there is the gnawing discomfort with the direction the US is taking, something that’s at the center of Vineland (published in 1990, but set a few years after Inherent Vice).
The book is a fun read. It didn’t blow my mind in the same way as Gravity’s Rainbow. It didn’t take me on an endless nerdy history trip like Mason & Dixon, and didn’t have me fruitlessly gnawing at Riemannian mathematics like Against the Day.
Instead, it’s something I go back to when I’m in the mood for an entertaining yarn, told by a mischievous hakawati dressed in green and magenta, who may or may not have dropped a couple tabs of acid before coming over.
And that’s great!