RARA-AVIS: Re: INHERENT VICE: A Report from the Trenches

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 25 Aug 2009

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    Some comments to my original post:

    > AI admit I had a bit of an 'eh' reaction to it... Which is not to
    > say I thought INHERENT VICE was bad, but I wouldn't
    > grade it above an A-minus, and when it's Pynchon, you hope for more.

    An "eh" reaction gets an A-minus? Man, if you were a high school teacher, the kids would love you!

    > in general I think you are more likely to enjoy his writing if you
    > like the humour.

    Well, I get the jokes, and some of them are pretty good (I love the Sinatra bit -- it's pure Marx Brothers), but much of the humour would come off better accompanied by a giant spliff and a bag of Doritos.

    > Yes, I think some may be missing the big, the very big, picture:

    But not the poster, of course.

    Or maybe, just maybe, there is no "big... very big picture," after all -- just the wishful thinking of the faithful. Maybe Pynchon just tried to write a detective story. Which is sorta cool.

    I mean, it's pretty obvious what Pynchon's themes are so far in INHERENT VICE. And they don't need an Erector set of pseudo- intellectualism or a ton of academic posturing to spot. After all, under the barrage of words and digressions, he's not exactly subtle.

    Oh, sure, if you put enough tweedheads in a room and set them all in deconstruction mode eventually you'll get all sorts of unique interpretations and blather about "non-falsifiable speculation," "the beauty of the ‘forking paths’ and their effect on things" and "the basic splitting process of the alternate realities and histories as followed by the ordinary and extraordinary ray" as exemplified by the alternative tangents of Doc's investigation.

    Pynchon himself might be amused by some of these interpretations. I sure am.

    Stare at a blank wall long enough, you'll see the entire universe.

    The "big, the very big, picture" may simply be that Pynchon has written a detective novel, and done an adequate -- but not earth- shattering -- job of it. There are worse crimes.

    My guess is that maybe Pynchon himself is a fan of the genre, and decided to have some fun. And this lightweight romp is what he came up with. But you probably have to find his stuff utterly hilarious to breeze through almost 400 pages of it. He may be a great writer, but he ain't no Richard Prather or Robert Leslie Bellem. And he sure ain't no Donna Moore.

    And as far as dope humour goes, Cheech and Chong are funnier.

    Doesn't mean that Pynchon can't write. Maybe the rank and file (viewed with so much disdain by some on this list) are simply less impressed by literary pretension, and more impressed by strong characterization and tight, taut writing; two trademarks of the genre that Pynchon has decided to dip his toe into.

    After all, there just might be a good story under there somewhere. Cut out 200 pages and a lot of the lamer jokes, and INHERENT VICE might make a dandy (and quite funny) HardCaseCrime book.

    Kevin Burton Smith Editor/Founder The Thrilling Detective Web Site
    "Wasting your time on the web since 1998."


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