BOOKS: Inherent Vice: Thomas Pynchon

Inherent Vice

Thomas Pynchon is known for his dense and complex novels. He made his mark with novels such as "V." and "The Crying of Lot" in the 1960s and won the National Book Award for Fiction for "Gravity's Rainbow" in 1973.

So, "Inherent Vice," his 2009 novel set in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, is no less complex but also a comedic romp compared with the often serious tone of his other works. Yet, even with its trippy tale of a marijuana-fueled private eye, the book still evokes what the publisher described as "the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog."

The book opens with an old girlfriend showing up at the door of private eye Doc Sportello. She wants Doc to look into the case of a missing land developer who she's been seeing. Soon, it seems everywhere the pot-smoking Doc turns and everyone he meets – and everyone he meets is quite the character – has some connection to the missing land developer.

"Psychedelic noir" is not Pynchon's usual genre but he has a splendid way with it. Though the story is convoluted and complex, it is still funny and moving, all framed in Pynchon's narrative style and exacting turn of phrase.

Many readers may walk away from "Inherent Vice" scratching their heads. Others will wish Pynchon had written a sequel. More "Doc" and more of Pynchon's trippy detective stories would be a treat, even if the era when the book is set is fast disappearing by the last page.

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