Hawking Up Hairballs

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Pynchon Novel

Hot damn! A new Thomas Pynchon novel is coming out. It's called Inherent Vice. Here's a description of the novel from Penguin's summer catalog.

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 ... 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.

Pynchon is great with names, and he scores again here. Doc Sportello. It just sounds like the name of a private eye. As far as I'm concerned, Pynchon is a hit or miss kind of writer, but when he hits it's a homerun. His last novel, Against The Day, I found tedious, but Gravity's Rainbow is a classic. It might well be my favorite novel. It's certainly in the top five. "A screaming came across the sky." That has to be one of the great open lines of American literature.

Interestingly enough, "inherent vice" is a business term. It's defined as follows. "Hidden defect (or the very nature) of a good or property which of itself is the cause of (or contributes to) its deterioration, damage, or wastage. Such characteristics or defects make the item an unacceptable risk to a carrier or insurer."

"Inherent Vice" comes out in August of this year. I've already preordered my copy from Amazon.


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