- Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd
- Format: Hardback | 384 pages
- Dimensions: 160mm x 236mm x 36mm | 680g
- Publication date: 6 August 2009
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 022408948X
- ISBN 13: 9780224089487
- Sales rank: 85,946
This title is describes as 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 awhile 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. It is 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.
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Thomas Pynchon is the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Slow Learner, a collection of short stories, Vineland, Mason and Dixon and, most recently, Against the Day. He received the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.
By Sholto Spradbury 10 Feb 2010
The beaches south of LA were apparently Pynchon's stomping ground circa 1970, and with this book we have a writer famed for his globe-trotting evocation of far distant times and places, finally coming home. It is a warm comedy of sex, drugs and counterculture, clad in a superfluous facade of detective noir. He uses the milieu to playfully counterpoint contemporary situations, but this is only a nod to the concern with politics, history and the human condition, however satirical or surreal, that his weightier novels have championed. Thus we have a setting soaked in palpable and righteous paranoia, the legacy of the Manson Family, and Nixon's newborn War on Drugs - as instituted by then Governor Reagan. In this manner 'Inherent Vice' could be read as a prequel to 'Vineland', or a come-down coda to the craziness of 'The Crying of Lot 49'.
Pynchon has been at the end of a lot of critical shtick lately for his vaudeville set-pieces and cursory characterisation (or is it caricaturisation?), and he certainly hasn't changed his ways to pander to current conservative tastes in literature. Because of this, and despite claims that this is his most Ã???????Ã??????Ã?????Ã????Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢??accessible' novel, I can't see it winning him many new fans.
For myself, I thought it was a whole lot of fairy-floss fun, indulgent and nostalgic - like sitting down for one last chat with a dear old friend. Pynchon must be eighty by now, and I was thankful enough for 'Against The Day', so this book was a wonderful and unexpected treat.
By Joel Bateman 11 Jan 2010
Thomas Pynchon's latest novel, arriving only a couple of years after the massive Ã????Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢?~Against the Day', is by far his most accessible work to date. Yes, it's confusing, but it's confusing in the way that Ã????Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢?~The Big Sleep' is, not in the way that Ã????Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢?~Gravity's Rainbow' is. (Mind you, the plot of Ã????Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢?~The Big Sleep' famously makes no sense whatsoever.) I draw the comparison with Ã????Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢?~The Big Sleep' deliberately, since Ã????Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢?~Inherent Vice' overtly draws on the vintage hardboiled detective novels of Chandler and Hammett, transporting the action to the late 1970s in California, and making his detective a down-on-his luck old hippie (regular acid flashbacks included). The action is kicked into gear when Doc Sportello (our hero) is visited by an old flame, now the mistress of a notorious property developer. Several cases seem to intersect, and Doc finds himself up against apparent conspiracies of all stripes (and uses an early version of the internet to obtain some information). A familiarity with Pynchon's reference points is certainly helpful, since he has a lot of fun in playing with the conventions of the genre - plus, of course, those books are excellent reading in their own right. If you've never read Pynchon, but always wished you could say that you have, this is the one for you!