Read the cult classic behind the major new film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon and Josh Brolin. 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 a while ...
Read the cult classic behind the major new film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon and Josh Brolin. 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 a while 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...
Publishers Weekly, 2009-07-06 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 and 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 2009-09-28 Pynchon's deceptively lighthearted stab at detective fiction is a lazy jog through the brambles of stoned late '60s Southern California, with a half-cocked private eye named Doc Sportello, who specializes more in meandering than actual investigating. Freaks and straights talk past each other, their meanings eluding all attempts at mutual comprehension, and Ron McLarty channels Doc's slurred mumble expertly and vividly brings to life the novel's sun-soaked, druggy ambience. A Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, July 22). (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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