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Inherent Vice [Hardcover]

Thomas Pynchon
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 4, 2009
Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon— private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog

It's been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It's the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that "love" is another of those words going around at the moment, like "trip" or "groovy," except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.

In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there . . . or . . . if you were there, then you . . . or, wait, is it . . .

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Editorial Reviews Review

"Pynchon flashes the Sixties rock references faster than a Ten Years After guitar solo: His characters walk around wearing T-shirts from Pearls Before Swine, name-drop the Electric Prunes, turn up the Stones' 'Something Happened to Me Yesterday' on the radio. (I had never heard of Bonzo Dog Band's "Bang Bang" before, but it's on my iPod now.) The rock & roll fanboy love on every page is a feast for Pynchon obsessives, since we've always wondered what the man listens to….The songs are fragments in the elegiac tapestry for the Sixties, an era full of hippie slobs who just wanted to be left alone and so accidentally backed into heroic flights of revolutionary imagination. Can you dig it?" --Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone

Amazon Exclusive: Thomas Pynchon's Soundtrack to Inherent Vice

Larry "Doc" Sportello is a private eye who sees the world through a sticky dope haze, animated by the music of an era whose hallmarks were peace, love, and revolution. As Doc's strange case grows stranger, his 60s soundtrack--ranging from surf pop and psychedelic rock to eerie instrumentals--picks up pace. Have a listen to some of the songs you'll hear in Inherent Vice—the playlist that follows is designed exclusively for, courtesy of Thomas Pynchon. (Links will take you to individual MP3 downloads, full albums, or artist pages.)

  • "Bamboo" by Johnny and the Hurricanes
  • "Bang Bang" by The Bonzo Dog Band
  • Bootleg Tape by Elephant's Memory
  • "Can't Buy Me Love" by The Beatles
  • "Desafinado" by Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto, with Charlie Byrd
  • Elusive Butterfly by Bob Lind
  • "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra
  • "Full Moon in Pisces" performed by Lark
  • "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys
  • The Greatest Hits of Tommy James and The Shondells
  • "Happy Trails to You" by Roy Rogers
  • "Help Me, Rhonda" by The Beach Boys
  • "Here Come the Hodads" by The Marketts
  • "The Ice Caps" by Tiny Tim
  • "Interstellar Overdrive" by Pink Floyd
  • "It Never Entered My Mind" by Andrea Marcovicci
  • "Just the Lasagna (Semi-Bossa Nova)" by Carmine & the Cal-Zones
  • "Long Trip Out" by Spotted Dick
  • "Motion by the Ocean" by The Boards
  • "People Are Strange (When You're a Stranger)" by The Doors
  • "Pipeline" by The Chantays
  • "Quentin's Theme" (Theme Song from "Dark Shadows") performed by Charles Randolph Grean Sounde
  • Rembetissa by Roza Eskenazi
  • "Repossess Man" by Droolin’ Floyd Womack
  • "Skyful of Hearts" performed by Larry "Doc" Sportello
  • "Something Happened to Me Yesterday" by The Rolling Stones
  • "Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman
  • "Soul Gidget" by Meatball Flag
  • "Stranger in Love" performed by The Spaniels
  • "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies
  • "Super Market" by Fapardokly
  • "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen
  • "Telstar" by The Tornados
  • "Tequila" by The Champs
  • Theme Song from "The Big Valley" performed by Beer
  • "There's No Business Like Show Business" by Ethel Merman
  • Vincebus Eruptum by Blue Cheer
  • "Volare" by Domenico Modugno
  • "Wabash Cannonball" by Roy Acuff & His Crazy Tennesseans
  • "Wipeout" by The Surfaris
  • "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys
  • "Yummy Yummy Yummy" performed by Ohio Express

  • From Publishers Weekly

    Starred Review. Pynchon sets his new novel in and around Gordita Beach, a mythical surfside paradise named for all the things his PI hero, Larry Doc Sportello, loves best: nonnutritious foods, healthy babies, curvaceous femme fatales. We're in early-'70s Southern California, so Gordita Beach inevitably suggests a kind of Fat City, too, ripe for the plundering of rapacious real estate combines and ideal for Pynchon's recurring tragicomedy of America as the perfect wave that got away. It all starts with Pynchon's least conspicuous intro ever: She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to—she being Doc's old flame Shasta, fearful for her lately conscience-afflicted tycoon boyfriend, Mickey. There follow plots, subplots and counterplots till you could plotz. Behind each damsel cowers another, even more distressed. Pulling Mr. Big's strings is always a villain even bigger. More fertile still is Pynchon's unmatched gift for finding new metaphors to embody old obsessions. Get ready for glancing excursions into maritime law, the nascent Internet, obscure surf music and Locard's exchange principle (on loan from criminology), plus a side trip to the lost continent of Lemuria. But there's a blissful, sportive magnanimity, too, a forgiveness vouchsafed to pimps, vets, cops, narcs and even developers that feels new, or newly heartfelt. Blessed with a sympathetic hero, suspenseful momentum and an endlessly suggestive setting, the novel's bones need only a touch of the screenwriter's dark chiropractic arts to render perhaps American literature's most movie-mad genius, of all things, filmable. Inherent Vice deepens Pynchon's developing California cycle, following The Crying of Lot 49 and Vineland with a shaggy-dog epic of Eden mansionized and Mansonized beyond recognition—yet never quite beyond hope. Across five decades now, he's more or less alternated these West Coast chamber pieces with his more formidable symphonies (V; Gravity's Rainbow; Mason & Dixon; Against the Day). Partisans of the latter may find this one a tad slight. Fans of the former will know it for the throwaway masterwork it is: playful as a dolphin, plaintive as whale song, unsoundably profound as the blue Pacific. (Aug.)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Product Details

    • Hardcover: 384 pages
    • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (August 4, 2009)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1594202249
    • ISBN-13: 978-1594202247
    • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
    • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
    • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

    More About the Author

    Thomas Pynchon was born in 1937. His books include The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Vineland, and Mason & Dixon.

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    115 of 125 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars An Exuberant Romp Through the Psychedelic 1960s July 28, 2009
    4.5 out of 5: Cloaked as a detective thriller, Inherent Vice contains the snappy dialog, complicated plot, and criminal underworld types typical of the genre. Don't be fooled by the packaging, though. This novel is pure everything-including-the-kitchen-sink Pynchon with satirical song lyrics, paranoia, drugs, pop culture, lawyers, sex, politics, zombies, more drugs, and a side-trip to Vegas. The neat resolution of a convoluted plot is not really the point. Instead, let go of your need for closure and join Pynchon for a buoyant romp through the psychedelic haze that was L.A. in the late 1960s.

    Doc, an amiable, drug-addled personal investigator, stumbles onto a vicious international crime ring as he works on a case brought to him by his ex-girlfriend. By turns brilliant and bumbling, Doc exudes a kind of humble innocence and is the likeable center of this novel. He's both trustworthy and trustful and never far from questioning his own abilities and actions ("Did I say that outloud?"). In a typical example of the endearing workings of Doc's logic, he tries to deduce the origin of a postcard he receives "from some island he had never heard of out in the Pacific Ocean, with a lot of vowels in its name":

    "The cancellation was in French and initialed by a local postmaster, along with the notation courrier par lance-coco which as close as he could figure from the Petit Larousse must mean some kind of catapult mail delivery involving coconut shells, maybe as a way of dealing with an unapproachable reef."

    In Doc's world, postcards delivered via coconut catapults make perfect sense.

    Clearly, Pynchon is having fun with the detective genre. In one scene, Doc drives to a mansion protected by a moat with a drawbridge.
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    67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
    As many have already written, Thomas Pynchon is an acquired taste, like jazz and silent comedy (two other tastes I have joyfully acquired). I first tasted Pynchon, like most readers my age, in his debut novel, "V." Somewhere between the silliness of the "whole sick crew" and the all-too-seriousness of Stencil's Oedipal search, I realized I was reading someone who was a literary personification of a Jerry Garcia dictum: "It's not enough to be the best at what you do. You have to be the only one to do what you do." I was (am) hooked.

    Not that Pynchon hasn't let me down. I did not like "Against the Day" after page 250 or so (or once we left the Colorado miners behind), and "Vineland," I thought, was a bad joke. "Gravity's Rainbow" is probably still his best, but for warmth and humanity, "Mason & Dixon" tops it. Many reviewers are already referring to his new book, "Inherent Vice," as his warmest, but I still vote for Charles & Jeremiah.

    What "Inherent Vice" is, is a wonderful joyride. It probably doesn't hurt that I was an idealistic hippie in the spring of 1970, somewhat younger than protagonist Doc Sportello, but just as disgusted with what Pynchon calls "flatland." There are the usual Pynchon foibles - too many stupid names, too much loveless sex, too many bad punchlines. But there is something so easy about reading it - and that is certainly unusual for Pynchon. I'm not sure if all readers will have as easy a time as a Pynchon devotee like me, but I don't see how this novel could present any real difficulties. Just remember that plot continuity is not really all that important in any PI novel. Raymond Chandler agrees with me on that last point, and Pynchon is obviously lovingly parodying Chandler and Hammett in "Inherent Vice.
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    75 of 85 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Farewell My Lovely August 4, 2009
    Those that know, know the writing of Thomas Pynchon can be a rough row to hoe--featuring convoluted, paranoid plotting, byzantine sentence structure, alternation of genres and modes of presentation within a single opus--sometimes even a single page--funny names and multi-layered puns, revisionist history and anachronisms galore. And pizza--plenty of pizza. What most folks who've read Pynchon expect is a rough but rewarding time decrypting encoded messages pointing to vast conspiracies both right and left, and being able to pat themselves on the back for being so wickedly erudite as to be able to follow at least some of the multiple, overlapping plotlines found within each of his six novels. Those that don't know Thomas Pynchon usually bail out on page 150 of Gravity's Rainbow.

    But note this down and burn this deep into your collective forebrains--Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon's seventh and funniest novel, is a beach read.

    The grand master of literary obfuscation actually did it this time--either he made a conscious decision to express himself via comparatively stable characters and plotline of a more traditional make & model or he said "screw it--it's time to cash in!" Inherent Vice has sentence structures and vocabulary more akin to Tom Robbins than Henry James, an overall shape more like Christopher Buckley than Henry Adams. You'll knock this one back like chugging down a Corona during a Fresno mid-summer heat-wave. Inherent Vice is cool and refreshing and funnier and easier to comprehend than anything else Pynchon's written so far.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    3.0 out of 5 stars Pynchon punchin pretty
    At least accessible to a point. in and out of his reality at times or at least mine... Good though.
    Published 1 day ago by Ted Nagy
    5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
    Excellent slack beach reader laugher
    Published 4 days ago by Marc Brandl
    5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Effort
    Not for the inattentive reader, Inherent Vice establishes a whole new genre of its own: stoner noir. Read more
    Published 6 days ago by Phil
    5.0 out of 5 stars Pynchon in by far one of my favorite writers.
    The review on the book jacket says it all. Pynchon in by far one of my favorite writers.
    Published 7 days ago by Vincent John Patti
    5.0 out of 5 stars Inherent Vice
    Inherent Vice
    Bob Gelms
    “The sign on his door read LSD Investigations, LSD, as he explained when people asked, which was not often, standing for Location, Surveillance,... Read more
    Published 9 days ago by Robert P Gelms
    4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
    Not as great as some of his earlier work, but very readable and involving.
    Published 10 days ago by i8thisbook
    5.0 out of 5 stars PYNCHON ROCKS
    I'd always wanted to read Pynchon, and was going to tackle V or Gravity's Rainbow, despite always hearing they were difficult reads. But then I heard that P.T. Read more
    Published 20 days ago by L.L. Soares
    4.0 out of 5 stars Read it.
    In light of the movie being released, I just reread this book. I wanted to see how anyone could make a Pynchon book into a movie. I'm so glad I read it again. Read more
    Published 20 days ago by ClioStarr
    2.0 out of 5 stars An acerbic parody or just not that good?
    This isn't the first iteration of the dopey detective, but it might be the most forgettable. From "The Big Lebowski" to "The Long Goodbye," to I'm sure numerous... Read more
    Published 21 days ago by Kurt Russell
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    Super fun read.
    Published 21 days ago by Kevin Keyser
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    Topic From this Discussion
    It sounds like Pynchon decided to rewrite The Big Lebowski?
    It sounds like you decided to read a Rolling Stone article.
    Jul 29, 2009 by Dan |  See all 20 posts
    The Penguin Press notes
    Sorry to hear you say that Daniel--Vineland with a tacked-on noir vibe sounds good to me. I've always loved reading Vineland and believe it to be vastly underrated and would even go so far as to say that for me personally it's right up there with the very best Mister Pynchon has to offer. Re... Read More
    Mar 24, 2009 by Noddy Box |  See all 156 posts
    Fictional evocations of the "counter-cultural" sixties
    JAMES ELLROY - Blood's A Rover is a good fiction book during the counter-cultural sixties.

    Blood's a Rover Themes: MLK, Bobby Kennedy, hippies, Howard Hughes, COINTELPRO, E. Hoover, Sirhan Sirhan, Agent Provocateurs, Black Panthers, Operation MK Ultra, Weather Underground,... Read More
    Sep 29, 2009 by Fetsch |  See all 17 posts
    Early Pynchon Review
    Uptight is not even the half of it Alexander; this is, as you say, the new Pynchon--don't you appreciate the magnitude of that? Pynchon is quite probably one of the greatest writers America has given us. Fetsch here is right on the money, form your own impressions first before being spoonfed by... Read More
    Jul 28, 2009 by Noddy Box |  See all 12 posts
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