Reviews of Inherent Vice (2009)
Review by polarisdib (2009-08-20)
So the fact that I've been waiting for roughly about six months for this book to come out does not reflect well on my objectivity as a reviewer, as you can clearly see. However, it is through both my excitement about the book and the fact that I have in fact read pretty much everything Thomas Pynchon has ever written (everything published in book form and some of his articles, indeed), that I intend to make one of my best points as to why this book is so darned magnificent. It goes like this:
I got the book and sat down and started reading it. I was immediately impressed by the language, and the characters were hilarious. More interesting, though, is that it seemed to be a more genre work, some of the ol' familiar mystery PI territory. This book starts, and continues for the most part, as something like The Big Lebowski meets Elmore Leonard, and the particularly "Pynchonesque" parts of it reflect to his now suddenly concise asides and in some of the references to things he's interested in. More important, though, is that here is a book that he has written that is funny, entertaining, and readable for any person, not just Pynchon fans, and that even within the genre accommodations he makes, there is nary a linguistic cliche to be seen.
Ah, but that's where this gets good.
See, in mystery PI type novels, there's always a McGuffin, right? Except that this time, the best way I can explain it is, is that it is the plot itself that is the McGuffin. Impossible, you say? Well, let me explain via a moment I had with this book:
"Damn you Pynchon! You got me again!"
It was about halfway through the novel, when Doc Sportello is doing some more investigating during one of his slightly more sober moments, and he explains to another character that he's not even getting paid for this job, that I suddenly realize that I have no idea where this novel is going. I mean, genre mystery PI adventure, right? Guy finds the badguy, unearths the plot so to speak, maybe gets the girl depending on the mood of the storyteller? Nope, we're right back in Pynchon territory, where there's hidden meaning in everything, everything is significant, but when it comes down to it the "conspiracy" is just a bunch of silly situations and the "victims" are nothing but a bunch of distracted people. Sure, there's information in this novel that foreshadows that, in the words of All the President's Men, "This goes all the way to the top!" And on the other hand, what are you left with at the end? Just like any other Pynchon novel, characters just living their lives, characters that have found what they were looking for only to find that it's not even there, thus wandering around, innocence lost, but with a clearer sense of what they've gained, which is.... what exactly? Something, but not what can be described in a measly unprofessional review such as this one.
Only this time it's with stoner humor and hippies, yah?