Book #30: Inherent Vice

Apocalypse coming? How else to explain why I'm covering a Thomas Frickin' Pynchon novel on Un:Bound? Pynchon is one of the few names left in writing where the publication of a novel is an event. Part of this stem from his notorious, J.D. Salinger-esque shunning of publicity of any type, leaving questions of his motivations for writing what he does largely a mystery. But it's also due to the literary power of novels like Gravity's Rainbow, The Crying of Lot 49, and V., all of which exhibit a dense, twisted inversion of the modern novel.

So what to make of Inherent Vice, his most recent novel? Who knows...I can just go by what the book seems to be, since Pynchon isn't talking. His first real foray into genre writing, it's a detective story about a search for a missing person (or two), set in the heart of 1960s California. Larry "Doc" Sportello, hippie/druggie/private investigator is hired by his ex-girlfriend Shasta to look out for her current boyfriend, who she thinks will be abducted by his wife and her boyfriend. Why? Because they asked her to be in on it.

 Don't worry - this is the 60s and people just swing that way, at least they do in what amounts to a weird, almost stream of consciousness novel that's not written in first person. Pynchon tries to stay within the confines of the detective noir genre, a la CHINATOWN, but he can't help by his descriptions to comment on the area and the times the novel takes place in.

To what end isn't really clear, nor are the multitude of coincidences and events that pile on top of each other any real help. In the end it was an enjoyable book, maybe more-so that I would typically give it credit for since, unlike his last two novels (Against the Day and Mason & Dixon), it's a moderate length and a little more readily accessible. But as an example of the genre, and as a look into the time period, it comes too far off the heels of other, better books.