Wednesday, November 25, 2015

INHERENT VICE by Thomas Pynchon

I hope this book is not your typical Thomas Pynchon novel, because, frankly, I do not feel that I have consumed a great piece of literature.  It is sort of a cross between an Elmore Leonard novel and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road but lacking the virtues of either.  It’s 1970, and Los Angeles (or thereabouts) private eye Doc Sportello never turns down an opportunity to smoke some weed or drop some acid.  How he manages to make a living in this line of work in his state of consciousness is somewhat of a mystery, but he is amazingly resourceful and does manage to keep his wits about him somehow, most of the time.  The storyline, though, is so convoluted that I couldn’t quite follow it, much less describe it here.   Basically, Doc’s former girlfriend Shasta Fay has taken up with married real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann and has come to Doc for help in keeping Mickey from being committed to a mental institution.   Then both Mickey and Shasta Fay disappear, possibly kidnapped by a sinister syndicate called the Golden Fang.  As a counterpoint to their disappearance, a musician/informant who supposedly overdosed seems to have resurfaced but fears for his life and the well-being of his family.  Meanwhile, Doc’s longtime nemesis, LAPD’s own “Bigfoot” Bjornsen, has pegged Doc as a possible murderer, so that wherever Doc goes, Bigfoot is lurking somewhere nearby.  This kind of craziness is not really my thing, and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish reality from Doc’s hallucinations.  The names of the characters (Vincent Indelicato, for example) alone are enough to dilute the seriousness, if any, of the subject matter.   So if you’re in the mood for a detective story with a bit of silliness and a 60s/70s vibe, this just might be the ticket.

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