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View Full Version : TTBC December 2013: Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon


Falselogic
12-01-2013, 05:51 PM
This is a "light" novel by Pynchon that deals with a detective, drug users, and the LA cops.

So, I'm sure everyone gets along wonderfully!

Have at it! This is my first time reading both the book and the author so we'll see how that goes!

Evil Dead Junkie
12-01-2013, 07:37 PM
So I've been giving some thought to why Pynchon speaks to me so much as an author in general and setting aside sheer virtuosity I think its because he offers a brand of absurdism without despair, which is about as close to my own philosphy as its possible to get. Rereading Catch 22 really brought this into sharp relief. Heller's humor is so (rightfully) caustic, he's grinning so hard he's going to break his teeth. There's none of that in Pynchon for me, even at his darkest he seems to suggest that even if the history of humanity is nothing but an open air mad house surrounded by idiot oblivian he's still happy to be here because durn it it's fun. There's surf rock and puns and strange names and wordplay and psychedelic drugs. If there's no order to the universe then well, Chaos is fun. It's like the gospel according to Groucho Marx.

And then there's the possibility that chaos is the illusion and ultimate control and order is reality. It seems in his later novels and especially in Bleeding Edge this is getting explicitly ties into his latent Judaism (obviously there's no real way to know if Pynchon is practing in his personal life). This only breaks down because in Pynchon chaos is usually benevolant and order malignant and never quite materializes anyway. (Golden Fang, WASTE et all).

As to Inheret Vice in particular whatcan I say I love it. It's my favorite California novel. It's funny, occasionally incredibly pretty, and even though its Pynchon on easy mode it still has someof his signature dense as a dwarf star passages done in high style.

So to my fellow Pynchon heads whatdo you think? Am I way of base? And of sowhy do you tune into Pynchon?

taosterman
12-01-2013, 08:27 PM
I had a hell of a time finding this in New Orleans, whose bookstores seem to pretend Pynchon never existed. Finally lucked out at a Barnes and Noble on the way to the airport (thank you, chains!) and read about 1/4 of it on the plane.

Love it so far. EDJ is right, it's so much easier to read than say V., but still dense, colorfully written, dotted with surreal tangents and frequently hilarious (I had to stifle laughter during my flight during the segment about how Doc met his lawyer). Can totally picture PT Anderson going to town with this material.

Evil Dead Junkie
12-01-2013, 09:23 PM
Love it so far. EDJ is right, it's so much easier to read than say V., but still dense, colorfully written, dotted with surreal tangents and frequently hilarious (I had to stifle laughter during my flight during the segment about how Doc met his lawyer). Can totally picture PT Anderson going to town with this material.

One of my favorite parts in the novel is when Doc flashes back to being being an alien scientist, inserted into our reality, sent across time and space and condensed and that is why he is so short. Anyone else it'd be a "ha ha hippies", joke with Pynchon you have to seriously consider he has revealed his lead is an alien.

Paul le Fou
12-02-2013, 03:50 PM
ffffffffffffff where can I find this book in Japan so I can actually participate D:

Grignr
12-02-2013, 04:12 PM
It's in the Kindle store so as a last resort you could read it on some device (or your computer screen).

Evil Dead Junkie
12-02-2013, 11:24 PM
, it's so much easier to read than say V.

About that, as I'm actually reading V right now (I reread Vice very recently and still want to talk Pynchon). I'm about 3/4ths through andhave found the "present day" chapters as delightful as ever and the big flashback sequence to be borderline unparseable. To those who've read the book is that just how it goes?

taosterman
12-03-2013, 08:20 AM
About that, as I'm actually reading V right now (I reread Vice very recently and still want to talk Pynchon). I'm about 3/4ths through andhave found the "present day" chapters as delightful as ever and the big flashback sequence to be borderline unparseable. To those who've read the book is that just how it goes?

Pretty much. Everything about Profane and the Whole Sick Crew is hilarious, but the flashback sections only come alive in bits and spurts, and I'm still not sure what it all adds up to or whether any of it has real meaning. I did find the chapter about Fausto Maijstral writing to his daughter after the German bombardment of Malta to be pretty mindblowing, so there's that.

MikeDinosaur
12-03-2013, 09:16 AM
I finished Gravity's Rainbow baaasically knowing what happened, but I couldn't tell you a single thing about the espionage subplot in V.

taosterman
12-06-2013, 08:33 AM
This book is just one hilarious, colorful vignette after another, and surprisingly easy to follow not only by Pynchon standards but by detective novel standards. Though considering its hallucinatory nature so far, I can't say I expect that to hold all the way through the end.

Falselogic
12-06-2013, 08:36 AM
I just started it.

nothing else to say yet.

Adrenaline
12-06-2013, 06:28 PM
Inherent Vice is only the second Pynchon novel I've read so it's hard to put it in a larger context. It's a really damn entertaining book though, sort of like if The Big Lebowski was set thirty years earlier and the Dude was a lot closer to an actual detective.

Rufferto
12-06-2013, 06:42 PM
That's a pretty good characterization. It's similar to how I see it, too. I'm not too far into it, but it seemed pretty strange to me at first how much they seem to demonize Doc for smoking weed, but then when they started in on anecdotes that affected his job performance, like sleeping in the middle of an investigation and almost getting convicted for murder, it was at least somewhat understandable. I'm also enjoying how Doc comes across as a competent detective, despite being slammed for being bad at his job, like in the aforementioned murder case.

What I'm most surprised at in this book is what everyone else said: It's pretty engaging, which is a stark contrast to Gravity's Rainbow, which was way less accessible.

Paul le Fou
12-07-2013, 06:29 AM
I'm really liking that it's a perfect boilerplate detective noir story so far... except hippies. There are too many damn characters thrown at the wall at once so it's harder to follow who's who. So, totally Pynchon. I'm only two chapters in but I'm gonna go lie down and read more!

taosterman
12-07-2013, 08:46 AM
Chapter 14: Hahahahahahahahaha Godzilligan's Island hahahahahahahahahahaha

Evil Dead Junkie
12-07-2013, 01:14 PM
Before spoiler territory opens up what does everyone think of the casting of Joaquin Phoenix as Doc?

I have to admit I'm kind of having trouble seeing it. Maybe it's just been too long since I've seen Phoenix play anything other than a wreck, but there's a benevolence to Doc that Phoenix just doesn't really have.

I have to admit that I think it's kind of curious Rufferto that you'd say the book demonizes him for smoking. I mean most of the criticism is coming out of the mouth of Bigfoot and that guy has problems of his own.

Rufferto
12-07-2013, 01:53 PM
I have to admit that I think it's kind of curious Rufferto that you'd say the book demonizes him for smoking. I mean most of the criticism is coming out of the mouth of Bigfoot and that guy has problems of his own.

I wasn't (and am still not) very far into the book, but it's this small chunk of the book where he's at Chick Planet and one of the girls working there insults him, and then he gets picked up by Bigfoot right afterwards, and Bigfoot starts shitting on him too, and then Doc's like "Oh yeah, there was that time I fell asleep on the job. DUE TO DRUGS" (Though obviously he doesn't demonize himself, it almost comes across as Doc justifying Bigfoot's contempt towards him.)

Evil Dead Junkie
12-07-2013, 04:47 PM
Returning to my original post for me the main point of the book, is that the sixties was an example of brief benevolant genuine disorder, which eventually was stamped out by the forces of order like Nixon and The Golden Fang.

Doc and his buds may not be the most together people but they'd never be capable of genuine malignance, let along genuine wide scale malignance the way that Golden Fang is. There's no question in my mind which Pynchon favors.

And I write that as someone who has had it up to my eyeteeth with Boomer self mythologizing.

Paul, my advice is don't get too hung up on the exact identity of everyone, just ride with it. You try and flowchart the book, or any Pynchon book and you'll probably go insane.

taosterman
12-08-2013, 09:47 PM
Before spoiler territory opens up what does everyone think of the casting of Joaquin Phoenix as Doc?

If you Google Image Search there are already some pictures of him in costume from the shooting and he looks pretty great. He defied my preconceptions of him as an actor so heavily in The Master that I'm willing to bet he's capable of pulling off a good Doc.

Adrenaline
12-10-2013, 05:48 AM
Yeah, my initial reaction was "huh?", but he's a damn good actor and I have faith in Anderson to know what he's doing.

Paul le Fou
12-11-2013, 01:12 AM
I dunno, I hadn't read the entire book when I heard (about 50% right now), but I had no problem imagining him in the Doc role. Maybe that will change with some character development later, who knows.

What other authors of such high and consistent quality as Pynchon have such obvious unrepentant fun with their books?

taosterman
12-12-2013, 08:15 AM
Finished last night. A delight to the very end, but I'll hold back on discussion until more people are done.

Adrenaline
12-13-2013, 06:14 PM
What other authors of such high and consistent quality as Pynchon have such obvious unrepentant fun with their books?

This is the definition of Vonnegut for me. He's dead though.

Evil Dead Junkie
12-13-2013, 06:25 PM
Evelyn Waugh got delightfully bitchy in his old age.

But no, not really.

Paul le Fou
12-15-2013, 06:21 PM
This is the definition of Vonnegut for me. He's dead though.

Yeah, good call on Vonnegut. I can think of other writers who have as much fun, and other writers who are good (Y'know, one or two I guess) but not many in combination.

Grignr
12-16-2013, 06:13 PM
I can't stop visualizing Bigfoot as Sheriff Stone from Scooby Doo Mystery Inc.

Paul le Fou
12-17-2013, 08:29 PM
Finished last night. A delight to the very end, but I'll hold back on discussion until more people are done.

I just finished!

Paul le Fou
12-25-2013, 04:32 PM
...so uh...


...what do you guys think about the golden fang

Falselogic
12-25-2013, 05:32 PM
I'm still only half way through the book! I'm going to try and power through.

These holidays can really throw a wrench into your game...

Grignr
12-25-2013, 07:45 PM
...what do you guys think about the golden fang

Not enough Golden Fang or Lemuria in the book! Golden Fang is like a Bond villain whose mastermind we never get to see. I guess they're ultimately a big chunk of the fed operation with the funny money "lagan" drops/ Coy the political provocateur/Mickey Wolfmann the philanthropist and everything else that didn't turn out to be the LAPD, so we see pieces of it getting disturbed by Doc's actions but there's not a lot of closure with it as a whole.

Unless you mean the Golden Fang schooner, which is pretty cool and gets resolved nicely.

Evil Dead Junkie
12-25-2013, 07:57 PM
Well Pynchon's stories are chockful of Shadowy Secret Societies who hold all the milignant power and may or may not exist, Tristero, the espionage guys in V, whoever is pulling the strings in Bleeding Edge.

They never quite emerge and what they're about specifically is never really important compared to the fact that they exist. Probably. They're like tumors under the skin.

Paul le Fou
12-26-2013, 09:54 PM
Well I mostly wanted to get some discussion going. But yeah, I don't think the Golden Fang is meant to be something solvable. It's a Shadowy Conspiracy thing, representing all the shit going down behind the scenes. I mean we've got a Hong Kong smuggling ring, a boat (perhaps run by the same?), a syndicate of Dentists as a tax cover, Chryskylodon the rehab institute/weird cult, and in a hallucination, the embodiment of authority going behind the curtain to take care of stuff they can't do above the line, vis a vis Adrian Prussia, and a rich intermediary and a whitebread cover family.

This being Pynchon I'm inclined towards the hallucinatory one, the most symbolic, possibly tying it all together. I had the feeling earlier that the Golden Fang was the FBI, but whether it's FBI, LAPD, Government - it's the seedy underbelly itself, the workings of authority (legitimate or otherwise) in the shadows, the secret structure of violence and authority working to keep everything in line. They work with the Aryan Brotherhood, the volunteer militias, smugglers and gun runners and money launderers and real estate and drugs and rehab. They show up at every turn because they're involved behind every scene.



How about Lemuria? Was I the only one who thought that they waves at the end, when they chased the Golden Fang to the secret surfing spot, had a Lemurian connection? Doc had said that the waves moved like "there was something down below," iirc. I thought for a while there that Lemuria was rising and the Golden Fang was related to it.

Falselogic
01-02-2014, 09:18 AM
Okay go crazy talking this up!

I won't be reading because I'm still trying to finish it...

Falselogic
01-12-2014, 10:31 AM
Finished it late last night.

I don't really know how I feel about the book.

The story and characters are kind of a hot mess. What comes out of all that though is Pynchon's love of Los Angeles and its creativity. Not just movies and music but everything that LA creates even the corruption of its police force and its land developers seem to have a place in his heart.

I kept thinking of Mike Davis' City of Quartz any time Pynchon talked about the city, and if you want to know more about LA I heartily recommend it...

This is most apparent when Doc goes to Las Vegas and Pynchon doesn't seem to have a single nice thing to say about the place.

I love that in the end, after all the plots within plots within plots Doc is back where he started and nothing has changed. Very much in the noir tradition there.

I don't know if I'll read any more of Pynchon's books but I'm glad I was exposed to the man.

Paul le Fou
01-13-2014, 10:08 PM
Finished it late last night.

I don't really know how I feel about the book.

The story and characters are kind of a hot mess. What comes out of all that though is Pynchon's love of Los Angeles and its creativity. Not just movies and music but everything that LA creates even the corruption of its police force and its land developers seem to have a place in his heart.

I kept thinking of Mike Davis' City of Quartz any time Pynchon talked about the city, and if you want to know more about LA I heartily recommend it...

This is most apparent when Doc goes to Las Vegas and Pynchon doesn't seem to have a single nice thing to say about the place.

I love that in the end, after all the plots within plots within plots Doc is back where he started and nothing has changed. Very much in the noir tradition there.

I don't know if I'll read any more of Pynchon's books but I'm glad I was exposed to the man.

Hmm. I'd point out that this is Pynchon Lite, but based on your comment it might not be worth reading further. This is probably as close as Pynchon comes to characters and plots that are straightforward and make sense. More common is muddled chronology, many more disparate plot threads with a little interweaving, more surreality and possible parallel existences or other worlds, and less of a conclusion. I mean, Against the Day is one of my favorite books, but it's a whole different kind of read than something like this: a generational historical pivture of WWI, anarchy, labor unrest, mathematics, light, bilocation, and so much more.



But yeah, the ending was interesting. All the shit that got kicked up settled back down almost exactly into place, minus a few bodies that didn't seem to matter and plus a bit of money. It adds to the ineffability and futility of something like challenging the fang/fbi/shadowy powers that be, and keeps with Noir tradition.

Ah, noir. What a cheery bunch.

Evil Dead Junkie
01-13-2014, 11:14 PM
It's interesting to me that you (False) seem so fixated on the LA thing when Pynchon is pretty well known for being a total NYC dude. Not saying he doesn't write LA well (IV is probably my favorite California novel period) but its not like its all he has going for him.

I'm surprised that you wouldn't give him another shot. You should at least give Crying a go (ironically another California novel) it'll take you all of an afternoon to read.

Falselogic
01-14-2014, 06:22 AM
It's interesting to me that you (False) seem so fixated on the LA thing when Pynchon is pretty well known for being a total NYC dude. Not saying he doesn't write LA well (IV is probably my favorite California novel period) but its not like its all he has going for him.

I'm surprised that you wouldn't give him another shot. You should at least give Crying a go (ironically another California novel) it'll take you all of an afternoon to read.

Maybe it's just his writing style but there is an awful lot of giving directions and description of the city that could be cut without hurting the narrative... I assumed it was in there because the author one was trying to make it sound authentic (we southern Californians love talking about directions) and or he loves the city. Both of which indicate more than a familiarity with the locale

Adrenaline
01-14-2014, 06:24 AM
I think Vice is a more enjoyable read than Lot 49, but Lot 49 IS pretty darn short.

Falselogic
02-03-2014, 02:16 PM
I enjoyed Inherent Vice and I want to thank the people who recommended it! Thanks also to everyone who read it with us!