Wednesday, 14 October 2015

inherent vice [thomas pynchon]

OK, so this isn’t vintage Pynchon. In amongst the laurels there were quite a few brickbats for the novel when it came out. It’s not hard to understand why. There’s a relentless frothiness to the narrative and prose, something akin to the holy surfer who is one of the dozens of barely-fleshed-out characters who pops up. Like the surfer, Pynchon seems to ride the waves of his prose, waiting for the one that will propel him onto a higher plain. This doesn’t occur all that often in what is a typically lengthy, if not meaty, tome. However, in the decision to riff off Chandler and Hammett, (with even an occasional nod to his contemporary, Elroy), Pynchon doesn’t seem too fussed with the transcendental or the parabola. This is a nostalgic, amiable text, where the hero, Doc Sportello, will not end up propelled into space, where the hero is, in fact, a hero, who tends to the meek and skirmishes with the forces of evil. It’s more Tolkien than Dostoyevsky. The novel doesn’t even have the metaphysical aspect of a similarly secondary text, Vineland. However, who’s to say that every writer should always emulate his or her peaks? If twere all peaks, the land would be flat. Inherent Vice has enough to keep the reader on their toes, trying to keep pace with the manic process of the detective novel, something Pynchon embraces with delight. This is a Maltese Falcon of a novel, ridiculous and charming at the same time. If anything, it would seem to suggest a paean to a youth the author may or may not have known, the beguiling simplicities of a pre-connected world, when personal space still existed; before we were all plugged into the mainframe. For those that remember that time, Inherent Vice is a treat; for those who, increasingly, will not, it is a pseudo-archeological record, as befuddling and vital as a Mayan codex. 

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