INHERENT VICE by Thomas Pynchon

Book Quote:

“Doc got on the Santa Monica Freeway, and about the time he was making the transition to the San Diego southbound, the fog began its nightly roll inland. He pushed his hair off of his face, turned up the radio volume, lit a Kool, sank back in a cruising slouch, and watched everything slowly disappear, the trees and shrubbery along the median, the yellow school-bus poll at Palms, the lights in the hills, the signs above the freeway that told you where you were, the planes descending to the airport. The third dimension grew less and less reliable…”

Book Review:

Review by Doug Bruns (NOV 20, 2009)

Larry “Doc” Sportello, the protagonist of this latest Pynchon novel, is the quintessential hippy wild-man. He sometimes teases his hair into an Afro. He never passes up an opportunity to get high. He listens to rock ‘n roll, preferably stoned, and practices “free love” whenever–and wherever–he can make that happen. And yet he is a respected private investigator, a man who, in spite of himself, exercising wit and humor, succeeds. But just by the skin of his nicotine-stained teeth.

Pynchon is one of our masters, a heavyweight of American literature, the creator of fantastic personalities and teller of tall tales. He creates universes and peoples them with the odd and eccentric, the funny and the forsaken. In that respect, Inherent Vice follows in perfect Pynchon tradition. In this novel an over-saturated pulsating universe is dialed up and tuned in. It is filled with smoke and color and loud music and bright lights. But it’s not so much a crazy over-the-top universe, really. Rather, it is Los Angles circa 1970. The hippie culture is in full blossom, but a frost is in the air. Charles Manson has committed his era-ending crime. Nixon is in the White House, and his detractors are starting to smell a skunk. Yet some, like Doc, continue to wander around in a self-induced fog, spent and wasted most of the time. Doc just happens to occasionally get sober enough and lucky enough to keep his surprisingly well-adjusted head above water, while all about him the world goes helter skelter.

Doc is hired by his ex-girl friend, Shasta Fey Hepworth, to find her married tycoon boyfriend, LA developer, Mickie Woolfmann, whom she fears has been done dirty by his wife, who is probably in cahoots with her boyfriend. But Mickie, the boy-friend husband, has horsepower and bodyguards–who unfortunately didn’t, guard his body, that is. They are too busy trying to snag, score and guard the body of one of the many curvaceous southern California, bikini-clad femme fatales who populate this novel. The fix is in, in this crazy noir stoner detective story. Like a loose tapestry that is pulled a bit in this direction, starts to unravel in that direction, Inherent Vice twists this way, turns that, until your head spins–down you go, into a rabbit hole of swirling stories, acid trips and decaying culture and all the while the breaking of Gordita Beach waves where Doc lives, sandal-side, California-style, grooving that all is right with the world, regardless of Kissinger carpet bombing Cambodia, for the culture of the beach is what sustains him. Hang ten, man. If you get the sense that this is a dense collection of riffs accented by word play and nostalgia, you are correct. There is also the music. (Amazon has complied a playlist of over fifty tunes found in the novel.) Too, there is something about an odd network of computers which might someday become a web encompassing the whole wide world. And too, the drug cartel, Golden Fang, which is probably mixed up in Mickie’s sudden disappearance, unless it has something to do with the lost continent of Lemuria, which seems about to make a reappearance above the waves of the Pacific. Say, is that doobie behind your ear?

I started out trying to keep score of who’s who, or more usually, who’s doing whom–but somewhere about page twenty I ran out of steam. They come, they go, the crazies mixed up with the recognizable. Tariq Khalil and Casey Kasum, Gilligan, the Skipper and Clancy Charlock. Hawaii Five-O and the Magic Kingdom. The sixties on speed, rolled into less than four hundred pages of free-wheeling top-down less-serious-than-Pynchon Pynchon. Once I tossed my crib sheet aside and gave myself to the experience (that is the essence of the sixties, no?), the book opened for me and the fun began. The success of this book is the rumbling flow, like a ride in Shasta Fey’s ’59 Eldorado Biarritz. The pleasure is in the density, the twists and turns. Ride it like a perfect wave, as Doc would, if he would just get off the sofa, put out the reefer and turn off the Looney Tunes reruns.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 128 readers
PUBLISHER: Penguin Press HC, First Edition (August 4, 2009)
REVIEWER: Doug Bruns
AMAZON PAGE: Inherit Vice
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another crazy detective story:

And another recent book set in the 1970s:


November 20, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: California, Humorous, Literary, Mystery/Suspense, Noir, y Award Winning Author

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