Gravity’s Rainbow Turns Noir In L.A.

Critic John Powers on Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, Inherent Vice:

I know people who swear that Pynchon has saved their lives. But I know others who say he is literally unreadable. Nobody will say that about “Inherent Vice,” his loosey-goosey new take on the L.A. private eye yarn. The scene is Gordita Beach, 1970, and the Age of Aquarius is yawning, not dawning. The detective is Larry Doc Sportello, a short big-haired stoner who’s closer to Elliott Gould’s Philip Marlowe than to Humphrey Bogart’s. As for the case, well, it begins with a woman, Doc’s ex-flame, Shasta… the book brims with Pynchon’s trademark silliness, from characters with names like Jason Velveeta and Sledge Poteet, to elaborate riffs on pop culture – for instance an imaginary TV movie called “Godzilligan’s Island,” or a hilarious discussion of Charlie the Tuna’s death wish.

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