By Thomas Pynchon
(Penguin Press HC, The, Hardcover, 9781594202247, 384pp.)
Publication Date: August 4, 2009
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Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon- private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog
It's been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It's the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that "love" is another of those words going around at the moment, like "trip" or "groovy," except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.
In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there . . . or . . . if you were there, then you . . . or, wait, is it . . .
Thomas Pynchon is the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Slow Learner, a collection of short stories, Vineland , Mason and Dixon and, most recently, Against the Day. He received the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.
Thomas Pynchon's latest novel, Inherent Vice, is a detective romp set at the end of the 1960s psychedelic era. Critic-at-large John Powers has a review. More at NPR.org
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Much of Thomas Pynchon's recent work has drawn criticism for overindulging in pop-culture references and outright silliness, and those who agree with this assessment will probably find much to dislike about the new novel, too.
In his zany new novel, Thomas Pynchon goes back to the Golden State to paint a nostalgic portrait of a fictional beach town near LA in the '70s -- when the counterculture finally lost the battle to the forces of control, governmental power and sobriety.
Unlike any previous Pynchon work, Vice fully embraces genre. And in doing so it's difficult to tell if the genre is merely pliable enough to accommodate all of Pynchon's literary whims or if the now 72-year-old author has basically been riffing on this form his entire career.