Inherent Vice: A review

inherent vice, novels, ebooks, movie, reviewThe Atlantic posted a pretty interesting look at Thomas Pynchon, in light of his movie coming out in December. Pynchon has an unusual style that turns some off but draws a pretty good swath of converts.

I’m not sure if I became one of them, but I will say I enjoyed Inherent Vice, if even at the end I wasn’t sure what the point was. As The Atlantic later put it in its review of the film, “It’s about a pothead bumbling about L.A.”

That pretty much sums up this story about stoner private detective Doc as he works to solve the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend and her millionaire new lover in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Along the way he nearly gets killed, gets high a lot, ends up on frantic car chases with a mentally ill woman behind the wheel (the subject of his first-ever investigation, it turns out) and plays a cat and mouse game with his police “friend” Bigfoot.

He solves the case, sort of (it might be better to say that the case sort of solves itself, or maybe turns out to not need solving). Perhaps that’s the point of Inherent Vice, that crime and sin are a natural part of the culture in which Doc exists, and have a way of passively sorting themselves out. As a PI, Doc is the antithesis of the hard-boiled detective of crime noir novels. He’s a hippy bumbling his way through investigations, getting high and having a lot of sex. But like Columbo, the bumbling is at least something of a ruse; he’s more competent than he let’s on (both to us as readers and to other characters). People underestimate him, and that’s both his charm and his schtick.

Did anyone else who read this book think of the Big Lebowski when reading Doc’s exploits?


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