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Inherent Vice Hardcover – August 4, 2009
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"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 Amazon.com, courtesy of Thomas Pynchon. (Links will take you to individual MP3 downloads, full albums, or artist pages.)
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.
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Pynchon's hero, Doc Sportello, wobbles his way through a woozy, sex and drugs and rock and roll exploration of the psychedelic landscapes of 1971 Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Don't let the pot haze fool you, Doc is a keen observer with his own code of conduct that is every bit as consistent and admirable as that laid down by his spiritual fore-bearers, Phillip Marlow and Sam Spade. There's mystery upon mystery here, brilliant wordplay, astounding dialog and some terrific humor.
Inherent Vice sneaks up on you. It's light, mysterious and fun but there's something deeper here. Like all Pynchon, there's a layer of paranoia that should not be ignored. There's more going on every day than most folks see and Pynchon is a master of providing glimpses through the fog. If the movie and this book get more people looking where Pynchon is pointing, I have to see that as a good thing.
As a writer, Pynchon, a towering figure in modern American literature, gives readers no time to take a breath. Action starts with the first sentence of Inherent Vice, “[s]he came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to. Doc hadn’t seen her for over a year. Nobody had.” That’s Doc’s ex-girlfriend, Shasta, and she needs a favor. She needs to have Doc check out her new boyfriend, who she has been asked to betray.
Doc’s a stoner, a bit past his prime years, but he’s a good guy and that gets him through what becomes a long board ride through some pretty scary surf. We’re in California, halfway between the Beach bands/surfer music days and into the post-Charles Manson days of the hippie movement, which is beginning to get into some pretty paranoid territory.
Capitalism in the days of the drug culture sounds beside the point, but to those who turn culture into profit, business is never beside the point. So we have Doc wandering through a weird LA full of dopers, musicians, addicts and rehab establishments, real estate developers, and shadowy multinational drug dealers/importers.
What should happen to Michael “Mickey” Wolfmann, husband and cheater-boyfriend? Should he be committed to an unnamed institution and should Shasta help? Where is Mickey Wolfmann anyway? Suddenly no one can find him even though, only yesterday, he had been peddling lots in his new desert development all over the TV (although all of the tech devices Doc deals with seem to have been invented in a parallel universe (check out the sound system in the trunk of his car.) (Cars also matter in this story.)
Doc Sportello’s subsequent investigative activities attract the attention of Bigfoot Bjornsen, a cop, who cannot be shaken loose and the attention of various shady characters who Doc, in his marijuana haze manages to elude through some weird combo of charm and the luck of the stoned. It’s a romp of sorts through an LA that is not romanticized in any way. That Thomas Pynchon really did live in LA in the 60’s and 70’s gives him the chops to offer us a social commentary, set in day many of us remember as sort of an idealistic construct. Although Pynchon highlights mankind’s less than elegant greed and pursuit of wealth, he doesn’t moralize or suggest that we will ever leave our baser natures behind, but that we may, eventually, catch a brief breath of sweet peace and virtue between one sleazy deal and the next.
Pynchon is a writer who is studied in college literature courses, who is hailed as a great “post modernist” writer and who has won prizes. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about any of these credentials if you don’t really want to. Inherent Vice satisfies as a fast-moving and very offbeat PI case, solved by a very “high” detective named Doc Sportello. You may relate to the story a bit more closely if you have, at least once, been talked into getting high yourself, although that may be totally unnecessary, and I do not recommend that you get any new habits in order to read this book. The novel also seems sort of like a ‘guy-thing’ but such distinctions are not necessarily as true as they once were.
As for the Mr. Sportello's 70's LA lifestyle, well, you had to be there, man.
nowhere near as good as V or The Crying of Lot 49, but also nowhere near as impenetrable as Gravity's Rainbow, which was less than zero fun to read. passable. didn't see the film yet, so don't know what Joaquin phoenix did with role.
Pynchon's writing technique is very unique and is said to be hard to follow.
I had to read this for a college course and 3/4 of my class didn't understand what he was saying.
Granted most of the people in my class were 18-20 year olds that read probably 1 book every two years.
If you are an avid reader, this is a must read.