hit and read


“Inherent Vice” is Thomas Pynchon doing Raymond Chandler through a Jim Rockford looking glass, starring Cheech Marin (or maybe Tommy Chong). What could easily be mistaken as a paean to 1960s Southern California is also a sly herald of that era’s end. This, of course, is exactly the kind of layered meaning that readers expect of Pynchon. His fans tend to be drawn to either his massive, bafflingly complex efforts — the iconic, National Book Award-winning “Gravity’s Rainbow,” “Mason & Dixon” and “Against the Day” — or to the more constrained, plot-driven narratives of “Vineland” or “The Crying of Lot 49.” It is the big books, with their parades of gloriously obtuse set pieces, full of slapstick and conspiracy and minutely researched ephemera, that established Pynchon as a writer worthy of intense inquiry. Yet having a plot doesn’t make his work any less brilliant, any less Pynchonian. “Inherent Vice” is a perfect case in point. It has a plot. It has a main character. This clear structure will, no doubt, disappoint the big-book boosters, the obsessives who began contributing to the online wiki annotation of “Against the Day” before finishing its 1,085 pages. But maybe we should all take a hit off a fat spliff and enjoy the dirty, brainy achievement of Pynchon’s “Vice.”

more from Carolyn Kellogg at the LA Times here.