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Customer Review

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tom Robbins...with post-modern language, May 8, 2011
This review is from: Inherent Vice: A Novel (Paperback)
'Inherent Vice' is Thomas Pynchon's most recent novel. It's also the shortest and the most straightforward he has ever put out.
The book is a downright enjoyable, comic take on the archetypal big-city private eye tale but it also doubles as Pynchon's personal ode to the '60s and their ultimate demise.
Set in LA circa 1970, the plot stars Larry `Doc' Sportello, a detective who also happens to be a dope head. Speaking of dope, there are loads of it featured throughout the novel, as there are loads of many other things that are synonym with the '60s: surf music, Ford Mustangs, Charles Manson, hippies, etc.

You'll get an endless stream of pop culture name-dropping across the novel but for once Pynchon sticks mostly to the plot, without letting the side episodes overrun the narrative. This, again, makes for a much more straightforward reading experience.

While living in a permanent state of haze, `Doc' somehow manages to get entangled in a conspiracy involving, among other things, the LAPD, a notorious real estate mogul, a gang of nazi bikers, drug dealers, pimps, beach babes, the Feds, musicians of various order and a mysterious organization called `The Golden Fang'.
The silly names, deranged song lyrics and cartoonish, exaggerated set-ups make for a great comic novel, yet there is some depth under the sheer fun of the plotline.

More specifically Pynchon fills some passages with a marked nostalgia for what the '60s where about and what went wrong with them. Speaking of the latter aspect, it's no coincidence the novel is set in 1970, more or less at the same time of the Manson trial, which in pop culture marked the end of an era. `Doc', the main character, is the shiny, happy, if a bit naive, side of the '60s, the author seems to imply. When public opinion rejected the '60s (in the aftermath of the Manson trial), they rejected him too and that's a pity. Hippies were deeply flawed creatures but, this seems to be the idea, they had something good to offer too.

As for the writing style this is 100% Pynchon. The language is just plain beautiful and I'm always amazed by how the author can weave high-brow references and low-brow pop touches together with such ease.

This is basically a book Tom Robbins, another favourite of mine, could have written, if he were more post-modern and, let's face it, more sophisticated.
Ultimately `Inherent Vice' doesn't belong up there with Pynchon's masterworks yet it's the closest he will ever get to writing a popular novel and it might well serve as an entry point for those who are not familiar with this mysterious writer.
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Initial post: Mar 11, 2012 1:49:30 AM PST
Yes, for years I thought it was this crazy idea only I had that Tom Robbins was kind of an everyman's (women's) Pynchon. Or more to the point, that the humor and historical knowledge and sheer brilliance of Pynchon at his best requires a lot of stamina, time and grey matter application; and while I have always found the effort extremely rewarding and immensely satisfying (except for Mason-Dixon), you sometimes need an easy read to relax with. And for me, Robbins has often nicely filled that need, offering much of the fun, plenty of the hedonism (and with a far lighter and friendlier approach to female sexuality) , and a little bit of the history lesson of Pynchon too, without all the reading effort. I can now say, more than two years past my reading of Inherent Vice, that I remember it as the quickest and easiest read of all the Pynchon books. Alas, like a number of funny, entertaining and cheerful, but not terribly nutritious Robbins books, Inherent Vice was also less than truly memorable. In retrospect, I got much more from Pynchon's other "easy" read, Vineland, which was funny, entertaining, and ultimately as dark and frightening and thus as truthful a novel about the fallout from the late 60's early 70's as I have ever read, and thus is far more vividly remembered 20 years after I read it.
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