Inherent Vice Reviews

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The Complete Review
The New York Times: Reviewing Thomas Pynchon...


Please add any relevant reviews as they come in. Blog reviews are fine as long as they're substantial and more than a few paragraphs.

Illustration: Erik T. Johnson, for The New York Times Sunday Book Review

02/13/14 - Berfrois Albert Rolls: "Inherent Vice is no simple piece of nostalgia, as some critics complained upon its release, but an examination of a problem—that is, the consumerist tendencies — at the heart of the ’60s counterculture, a problem Pynchon recognized at least by the mid-1970s." Entire review »

02/07/10 - Revolution Newspaper "The reviews of Inherent Vice have been mostly positive, though some have been rather dismissive. Entertaining, they say, but nowhere near the depth of Pynchon's big books, such as Gravity's Rainbow and Mason & Dixon. A good "beach read." Some have also complained about Pynchon's nostalgia for the 1960s, specifically the late 1960s in Los Angeles." Entire review »

02/06/10 - Otago Daily Times Victor Billot: "The humble detective novel is exhumed, deconstructed, and reconstructed by Thomas Pynchon - not recommended for those who like detective novels, in the generally accepted sense, but a strangely appropriate form for the Pynchon modus operandi. An obsessive and labyrinthine style, conspiracies and esoterica, an intimation of great and subterranean powers at work, with so many multiple levels of frantic activity the text resembles an archaeological dig more than a book." Entire review »

10/26/09 - The Slovak Spectator Howard Swains: "Here is an opportunity to place a tick beside the name of one of modern fiction’s most impenetrable enigmas, a writer whose most decorated novel, 1973’s Gravity’s Rainbow, was originally dismissed by the Pulitzer committee as “unreadable, turgid, overwritten and obscene”. Pynchon, who famously shuns all publicity, has maintained a personal profile as oblique and indecipherable as his work, yet he is also among the most influential novelists of his generation. He is a post-modernist’s post-modernist, chronicling and mourning our era of paradox, where supposed advancements and technological progression only serve to hasten its entropy." Entire review »

10/01/09 - Vancouver Free Press Michael Hingston: "Much of 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. Reproduced lyric sheets to several made-up surf songs, such as "Soul Gidget" and "Just the Lasagna (Semi-Bossa Nova)" (the latter's opening lines being "Izzit some U, FO? (No, no-no!) Maybe it's — wait, I know!"), seem particularly ripe targets for scorn. " Entire review »

09/18/09 - The Harvard Crimson Jillian J. Goodman: "Perhaps with all his Nazis, conspiracies, and marijuana, Pynchon is actually a creature of excessive faith. Following the clues in a 40-plus-year literary career leads one to the idea that Pynchon will keep on producing, slowly and steadily, until he just keels over. Although he fulfilled the promise Plimpton saw many years and more pages ago, “Inherent Vice” demonstrates that Pynchon is always willing to go back to the well, with the faith that there will still be something there." Entire review »

09/10/09 - The London Review of Books Thomas Jones: "Possibly the weirdest thing of all about Inherent Vice, however, a perverse bright spot in the smog of despair, is the thought that somewhere out there in one of the beach towns of LA County, never very far away from wherever Doc is carrying out his desultory investigations, somewhere among the dopers and the surfers and the hippie chicks, among the dentists and lawyers and loan sharks, among the voters who put Nixon in the White House and Reagan in the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento, Thomas Pynchon is secluded at his typewriter, at work on Gravity’s Rainbow." Entire review »

09/10/09 - The National Mark Lotto: "The California dream, we are not surprised to learn, is just another piece of real estate to be bought, developed, divided up, and then sold back at a profit or rented out –that’s the fine print near the bottom of this golden land, that transcendence and escape fuel an economy that cannot be transcended or escaped. With every rent check written, every used car purchased, every feast ordered to feed the munchies, all the free-lovers down by the beach are merely leasing their freedom, like they’re sharecroppers. Inherent Vice feels very much like a book written during and about the housing bust, where the aspirations and hopes of so many were the helium molecules to inflate the banks accounts of the wealthy few." Entire review »

08/31/09 - Blogcritics Books Richard Marcus: "There's a note of sadness that runs through Inherent Vice that will hopefully have people questioning the neat and tidy image of the sixties that's being packaged these days. Pynchon make no apologies for where his sympathies lie, with those on the other side of today's right wing moral code. Yet at the same time he doesn't let sentiment or nostalgia prevent him from showing the darker side of that lifestyle. Still, you can't help but feel a pang for what was lost and what might have been when you come to the end of this book. Very few people seem to want to tell the truth about the 1960's but Thomas Pynchon isn't one of them. You couldn't ask for a better guide to its demise." Entire review »

08/31/09 - Huffington Post Mike Miley: "For those who have yet to be introduced to Pynchon, Inherent Vice would serve as a wonderful gateway drug to his more difficult work, though starting with Inherent Vice may be a bit misleading because his other novels are much more difficult (though more rewarding). On the other hand, those all-too-familiar with the rigor of reading Gravity's Rainbow or Mason & Dixon will delight in kicking back with a margarita and taking another trip with their buddy T.P. Either way you slice it, with Against the Day and Inherent Vice, it's clear that Thomas Pynchon still has it, and he's not going to let up." Entire review »

08/20/09 - New York Times Sunday Book Review Walter Kirn: "If Doc sounds like a literary joke — the Private Eye with drooping lids who can’t trust the evidence of his own senses — then he must be a joke with a lesson to impart, since Pynchon isn’t the type to make us laugh unless he’s really out to make us think. Even in V. and Gravity’s Rainbow, the colossal novels of ideas that have inspired a thousand dissertations as unreadable as the books are said to be but actually aren’t, he grounds his intellectualism in humor and livens it up with allusions to pop culture while sacrificing none of its deep rigor. He’s our literature’s best metaphysical comedian. The weighty points his work makes about the universe — that it’s slowly winding down as the Big Bang becomes the Final Sigh — tend to relieve our despair, not deepen it, by letting us in on the cosmos’s greatest gags: for example, that the purpose of the Creation was to make itself perfectly unmanageable and purely unintelligible. No wonder so many of Pynchon’s characters revel in chemical dissipation. Entropy — if you can’t beat it, join it." Entire review »

08/20/09 - North Coast Journal Jay Herzog: "The Manson murders hang in the backdrop of the novel, signifying the end of the hippie dream, but there's such a curious lack of real threat in Pynchon's laid-back world that when violence does finally break out it seems a bit out of place. The death-haunted grandiloquence of Gravity's Rainbow has given way to pothead paranoia, and it's interesting to see how the fantastic elements always present in Pynchon's work are here framed as someone's stoned fantasy. " Entire review »

08/19/09 - Francis Moul: "This is not an easy book to read. There are many layers of complexity, yet one also finds just plain fun. Keeping the characters straight is an engaging game, and the plot seems to be continually just out of reach. But the end does come, and with it some finality. Or is there?" Entire review »

08/18/09 - Daily Mail Helen Brown: "Pynchon's prose is as densely and deftly rolled as ever, loaded with hip erudition, demented digression, super slick dialogue and wacky wordplay. It perfectly reflects the murky mood of Los Angeles after the Manson murders, when the hippy dream had curdled and fear spread 'like blood in a swimming pool'." Entire review »

08/12/09 - USA Today Carol Memmott: "Readers may not always be clear about what's going on, but that's no crime. Most of the characters are high all the time and aren't sure either. Doc, interviewing suspects and witnesses, sometimes wonders, "Did I say that out loud?" More pressing matters for Vice's characters include wondering why there's "Chicken of the Sea but no Tuna of the Farm" and "trying to remember where the glue is on the Zig-Zag paper." If you think you don't possess the patience or the gray matter to "get" a Pynchon novel, Vice is for you. This reader would go so far as to call it a beach read." Entire review »

08/09/09 - Washington Times Christian Toto: "The author wraps his serio-comic story in a relatively conventional fashion, but it's a testament to his narrative control that he could steer the tale toward a satisfying finale. In the end, "Inherent Vice" emerges as a deeply cynical yet amusing snapshot of the Woodstock generation's final days in the sun." Entire review »

08/09/09 - New York Post Kyle Smith: "In the three novels that made his reputation — "V.," "The Crying of Lot 49" and the National Book Award winner "Gravity's Rainbow" — Thomas Pynchon used his electric imagination to whip paranoid conspiracies into a froth that bubbled with dread and comedy. Now it's four books later and his fictive powers suggest not tour de force but Tourette's." Entire review »

08/09/09 - St. Petersburg Times Colette Bancroft: "When you think about it, the tough detective novel is a natural form for Pynchon, given his longtime fictional obsessions with quests, paranoia and conspiracy, and the true nature of the American character. Inherent Vice makes rich use of the genre, as well as giving Pynchon plenty of opportunity for groaner puns and his beloved shaggy dog jokes (wait till you see what he does with Job 28:18), plus great swaths of flat-out beautiful, lyrical writing. And, despite its twist-and-turn plot, this is the most linear book Pynchon has ever published." Entire review »

08/09/09 - The Independent Thomas Leveritt: "Pynchon is both the US's most serious and most funny writer. With his most accessible book to date – half Chinatown, half Fear and Loathing, all searing jeremiad about the modern American soul – he may have come up with something even the British literati can read." Entire review »

08/08/09 - Contra Costa Times Gene Maddaus: "There are also references to local history, including a riff on Gordita Beach's troubled past. Egged on by the Ku Klux Klan, locals are said to have burned a black family's house to the ground and then confiscated the land for a local park. That seems to be a clear reference to Bruce's Beach, which was a black resort until the city of Manhattan Beach seized it in 1924 and turned it into a park. According to local historian Jan Dennis, there was an active local chapter of the KKK and black-owned homes were often torched." Entire review »

08/08/09 - John Boland: "Here's a first — a Thomas Pynchon novel that you can actually read and understand. In his 73rd year, the reclusive author who has furrowed the collective brow of generations of literary students with his dense, complex and often baffling fiction has finally come up with a genial and almost entirely comprehensible shaggy dog story in the form of a crime novel." Entire review »

08/07/09 - The San Francisco Chronicle Alan Cheuse: "If that wit appeals to you, then you're on the same wavelength - and height - of "Inherent Vice," the title of which, by the way, comes from a term out of the marine insurance business that describes breakage and damage you just can't avoid. Which reminded me of William Burroughs' definition of "Naked Lunch" as what you see on the end of your fork as you're raising it to your mouth, or Joyce's "ineluctable modality of the visible" in "Ulysses" - "what you damned well have to see." Pretty good for a minor Pynchon to conjure up the memory of those two books, yes? Or have I just been smoking?" Entire review »

08/07/09 - The Wall Street Journal Joseph Bottum: "Such confusion may be a deliberate narrative ­technique. Doc is so stoned most of the time that it is amazing that he manages to keep anything straight. But somehow, out of all the confusing threads, the ­detective’s investigation begins to weave something ­interesting in the last quarter of the book. It’s a pretty strange bit of fabric Mr. Pynchon ends up with—a kind of ­paranoid blanket, embroidered with conspiracy ­theories—but it manages to cover the mystery ­elements and put the story to bed in reasonable shape." Entire review »

08/06/09 - Newsday John Anderson: "Raymond Chandler meets Panama Red in Thomas Pynchon's casual, occasionally hilarious "Inherent Vice" - which makes sense for an author whose works can be measured in kilos (especially the last two, "Mason & Dixon" and "Against the Day"). It also makes sense for an author whose work has long married the perversely dystopic to the poetically giddy, with the same cosmic unease with which louche noir detectives have long found a home under the insistent Los Angeles sun." Entire review »

08/06-12/09 - Time Out New York Joshua Rothkopf: "Quickly, the novel grabs you in a sexier way than anything since The Crying of Lot 49, but with its familiar post-Chinatown structure (and an inevitable doozy of a conspiracy) comes an undeniable lightness. Heroin deals and loan sharks come as an underwhelming conclusion from a book that intimates a deeper social indictment; the heaviest it gets here is a Palo Verdes community dad leaning in and insisting to Doc, “We’re in place.” Still, the welcome vibe of the novel has the feeling of cruising around suburbs on a warm night; it may become an L.A. classic." Entire review »

08/06/09 - Washington Post Michael Dirda: "These majestic works are more than worth the effort, but they aren't what most people would call page-turners or comfort books. Which is just what "Inherent Vice" is. Imagine the cult film "The Big Lebowski" as a novel, with touches of "Chinatown" and "L.A. Confidential" thrown in for good measure. Imagine your favorite Raymond Chandler or James Crumley mystery retold as a hippie whodunit, set in Gordita Beach, Calif., at the very end of the 1960s. Imagine a great American novelist, one who is now a septuagenarian, writing with all the vivacity and bounce of a young man who has just discovered girls. Most of all, imagine sentences and scenes that are so much fun to read that you wish "Inherent Vice" were twice as long as it is. Imagine saying that about a Thomas Pynchon novel." Entire review »

08/05/09 - Paul La Farge: "An outline of the narrative strands that run through Inherent Vice would look like a web spun by a spider on marijuana: densely connected in the middle, but lapsing at the edges into loopiness. Suffice it to say that the assembled characters are, for lack of a better word, Pynchonian: there’s the ex-con Tariq Khalil, now affiliated with the Warriors Against the Man Black Armed Militia (WAMBAM); there’s Coy Harlingen, a surf-band saxophonist who may or may not be dead; there’s Fritz, possibly the first hacker to break into the ARPANET (the Internet’s precursor), which at that point consisted of less than a dozen nodes. There are puns and musical numbers and references to the lost continent of Lemuria. And at the center of it all, there’s the Golden Fang, which is certainly a ship but may also be a drug cartel, or a syndicate set up by dentists for tax purposes, or the secret power that controls the world." Entire review »

08/05/09 - The Eye Weekly Brian Joseph Davis: "Given that quick rundown, you may detect a hashy whiff of The Big Lebowski (and its source text, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye), but Pynchon uses no protective irony in regard to telling a mystery set in the counterculture. Almost every character is high — and there are pages where you feel high with them, drifting along before snapping back and exclaiming, “oh yeah, I totally get it” — but Pynchon is almost always in control. Every other line is either deadpan funny or sublimely strange, yet doesn’t detract from Sportello’s quest." Entire review »

08/09 - Bright Lights Film Journal John Carvill: "Think of it this way: if Gravity's Rainbow resembles a week-long acid binge, Inherent Vice is more like a single, perfectly rolled joint. On almost every page, there is something truly remarkable; again and again, Pynchon throws out an unexpected turn of phrase, a perfectly pitched joke, or a dazzlingly beautiful image. Each one of these takes root in your mind, where they ripen and bloom like kernels of psychedelic popcorn. You finish Inherent Vice and your first instinct is to flip back to the start and enjoy it all over again. It brings to mind what Oscar Wilde said in praise of one of his favourite vices, the cigarette: "A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?" " Entire review »

Illustration: Tatiana Suarez, for The Village Voice

08/04/09 - The Village Voice Zach Baron: "Like Vineland's Zoyd Wheeler (with whom Doc's cousin once played in a band), Doc is eventually forced to discover that though love itself endures, free-love most definitely does not. Already there's the prospect, in the high, 1970 summer of both Willis Reed and Charles Manson, that "a certain hand might reach terribly out of darkness and reclaim the time, easy as taking a joint from a doper and stubbing it out for good." Which, if you know the rest of the sad, Nixonite story, is exactly what ended up happening. Bummer, man." Entire review »

08/04/09 - Christian Science Monitor Carlo Wolff: "I suspect that he wrote “Inherent Vice” in hopes of aligning himself with today’s readers; I don’t feel he invested much in his characters, who rarely transcend cartoon level. He already has set up an “Inherent Vice” wiki, a kind of online index with which to track the characters. This will launch on the date of publication in early August, modernizing a book that, despite its hipness and creativity, feels strangely old-fashioned. It will join other wikis dedicated to his novels, nurturing a sense of community under the banner of metafiction." Entire review »

08/04/09 - Flavorwire: Reviewing the Reviewers Heather Schwedel: "Thomas Pynchon’s new novel officially comes out today, and it seems like every book critic in the world has already weighed in. The debate over the book’s merits reminds us of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Inherent Vice is a detective noir set in ’70s L.A.; the Times calls it Pynchon Lite, but the Wall Street Journal wonders if the book could actually be “a classic Pynchon opus masquerading as a light read.”" Entire review »

08/04/09 - Slate Jonathan Rosenbaum: "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 …" Once again, for his seventh novel, Inherent Vice, it sounds as if the author has furnished his own jacket copy, exploiting the doper humor that's often been part of his signature." Entire review »

08/03/09 - Washington Post Craig Seligman: "All of which suggests a cold, dark novel -- but as it happens “Inherent Vice” is Pynchon’s sunniest book. He may not have lost his pessimism, but the lethal intensity of the novels he was writing in his 20s and 30s, when his own future was still uncertain, has disappeared. And that’s a problem. For all the corruption and violence and evil that Doc turns up along the way, it never feels like very much is really at stake. The book begins to seem long." Entire review »

08/03/09 - Rolling Stone Rob Sheffield: "Inherent Vice is the funniest book Pynchon has written. It's also a crazed and majestic summary of everything that makes him a uniquely huge American voice. It has the moral fury that's fueled his work from the start — his ferociously batshit compassion for America and the lost tribes who wander through it. A master of pastiche, Pynchon is working this time in the mode of the hard-boiled detective novel à la Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, although it's more like a hard-boiled egg scrambled during a late-night munchies attack —" Entire review »

08/03/09 - The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani: "If “Vineland” read like a user-friendly companion piece to “The Crying of Lot 49,” then “Inherent Vice” reads like a workmanlike improvisation on “Vineland.” Once again the plot is propelled by a search for a missing woman, a former hippie who consorted with an incongruous representative of the capitalistic power grid. And once again there are efforts by the powers-that-be to turn hippies and potheads to the dark side, to turn them into informants through re-education programs or the enticement of money." Entire review »

08/03/09 - The New Yorker - Louis Menand: "Pynchon’s capacity for goofball invention is limitless. A list of characters’ names, drastically abridged, might be enough to suggest the variety, and also the relative fineness, of the narrative texture: Ensenada Slim, Flaco the Bad, Dr. Buddy Tubeside, Petunia Leeway, Jason Velveeta, Scott Oof, Sledge Poteet, Leonard Jermaine Loosemeat (a.k.a. El Drano, anagram of Leonard), Delwyn Quight, and Trillium Fortnight. Not overly fine, in other words. Plotwise, there are probably too many pieces of the puzzle to hold in your head, and it’s not completely clear where, or whether, every piece fits. But that, too, is standard business procedure in the form. Despite Chandler’s demand for greater realism, his own plots could be pretty far-fetched, and they’re not always coherent, either. When Howard Hawks was shooting the film adaptation of “The Big Sleep,” he got in touch with Chandler to ask who was supposed to have killed one of the characters, a chauffeur. Chandler was embarrassed to say he didn’t know." Entire review »

08/03/09 - The Buffalo News - Jeff Simon: "Lest anyone think “Inherent Vice” isn’t deeply Pynchonesque from its opening sentence (“She came along the alley and up the back steps the way she always used to”), you’ll be immediately disabused of that notion by going back to his amazing first novel “V.,” whose protagonist Benny Profane “schlemiel and human yo-yo” is clearly an East Coast forerunner of “Inherent Vice’s” Doc Sportello. Pynchon’s new protagonist is a short, 1970 hippie and private eye who lives near “Gordita” (read Manhattan) beach in L. A. (shades of Jim Rockford and Harry Orwell), has long hair, smokes every joint he can lay lips on and has no trouble doing a few lines of coke, too, just to be sociable." Entire review »

08/02/09 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Bob Hoover: "Pynchon is brimming over with asides like that one, chucklers that make "Inherent Vice" great entertainment. But, perhaps I need to reconsider, taking into account the man's reputation in some quarters as an American genius. Could his new book really be a symbol-filled allegory about the nature of the modern novel, a Nabokovian joke about fiction and its ultimate meaning? Sounds like I've been smoking some heavy-duty stuff, too. Naw, I think Pynchon's just having a blast, and we are lucky to join in." Entire review »

08/02/09 - New York Magazine - Sam Anderson: "Pynchon has always been a cartoonist: He specializes in simplification, exaggeration, and brightly colored types. This means that, paradoxically, his wildest invention occurs right at the edge of cliché. He may have finally fallen over that edge. His types, after 45 years, have themselves become types. The characters in Inherent Vice are not only paranoid, they walk around constantly talking about their paranoia. Aside from the dopily lovable Doc, everyone is just the standard tangle of phonemes attached to a Pynchonesque hobbyhorse: computers, threesomes, chocolate-covered frozen bananas. Switch those hobbyhorses around and you don’t lose much." Entire review »

08/02/09 -BlogCritics - Ted Gioia: "The small details are half the fun here. For no extra charge, the reader is given a new interpretation of the Japanese movie Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964) which explicates it as a reworking of Roman Holiday (1953) — full disclosure: I still can't decide whether Ghidrah is supposed to be Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck. We find Henry Kissinger on the Today show, formulating foreign policy: "Vell, den, ve schould chust bombp dem, schouldn't ve?" We learn about a Beverly Hills auto collision repair shop called The Resurrection of the Body. And we find a health food joint off Melrose called The Price of Wisdom, which is located upstairs from Ruby's Lounge — but you will need to check out Job 28:18 to figure that one out." Entire review »

08/02/09 -Los Angeles Times - Carolyn Kellogg: "Still, after getting pretty far out, "Inherent Vice" eventually circles back and ties up all its loose ends. It has a climactic moment, a cushiony denouement -- by gum, closure. If this stands in counterpoint to Pynchon's most acclaimed work, perhaps we should pay heed to the novel's title: "Inherent Vice" refers to a hidden defect that undermines a property's worth, a marine-legal term for a Shakespearean flaw. It could refer to Los Angeles; it could refer to the 1960s. Or it could refer to the author's work itself: With Pynchon's brilliance comes readability." Entire review »

08/02/09 -The Boston Globe - Richard Eder: "The hopes are recalled, reconstituted, and chastened in “Inherent Vice’’ and so are the ’70s shadows that overtook them. As for the beach, in California, it is restricted in some places, turned tawdry in others; though with beauty enough along large stretches, surfboarding still, and lots of bicycling." Entire review »

08/02/09 - Alex Good: "Inherent Vice is also nostalgic in that it takes us back to earlier Pynchon: the tangled intersection of politics, technology, and paranoia, a landscape of secret societies (here it's the Golden Fang or Chryskylodon) and submerged continents. Of course, there's lots of sinister slapstick involving perversely unmusical song lyrics and a bewildering cast of characters with such silly names as Sauncho Smilax, Bigfoot Bjornsen, Japonica Fenway, Special FBI Agents Flatweed and Borderline and sexy stewardesses Motella and Lourdes." Entire review »

08/01/09 -The Guardian - Christopher Tayler: "Behind a lot of Pynchon's complication, there's a simple sadness about lost possibilities and the things that America chooses to do to itself. It's expressed in the closing vision of Californian exurbia in The Crying of Lot 49, and it's here too in Doc's wish, on a misty freeway, "for the fog to burn away, and for something else this time, somehow, to be there instead". Sometimes, reading the book, I found myself wondering if Pynchon, of all people, hadn't undersold the era's apocalyptic paranoia. You get a much stronger sense of fear and confusion from Joan Didion's The White Album or Robert Stone's Dog Soldiers - more conservative books in some ways, but also more beady-eyed about the myths of the 60s." Entire review »

08/01/09 -Chicago Tribune - Art Winslow: "We find ourselves on a cultural tour that is alien and not. The real and fictional points of interest include the Aryan Brotherhood, a right-wing paramilitary auxiliary to the police department, groups such as the Bong Users' Revolutionary Brigades and Warriors Against the Black Man Armed Militia, heroin traffickers, ARPAnet (a precursor of the Internet), FBI agents named Fleetwood and Borderline, U.S. currency with Nixon's face on it, Chick Planet Massage, lost continents, zombie flicks, surf-music bands, Wyatt Earp's mug with its mustache protector, Dagwood and Yosemite Sam, and period television shows from "The Flying Nun" and "Adam-12" to "Dark Shadows" and "Gilligan's Island." Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll abound." Entire review »

08/01/09 -Time Magazine - Richard Lacayo: "And speaking of Leonard, Inherent Vice is like nothing so much as an Elmore Leonard novel with metaphysical aims. It has the same deadpan dialogue, the same lowlife panache, the same Venice Beach–to–Vegas locales that Leonard has touched down in. But the earthbound author of Get Shorty doesn't go in for Pynchon's lyrical riffs about the immemorial forces that pull the world's secret levers and keep the dispossessed of all kinds — the poor, the nonwhite, the nonconforming — from coming into their own." Entire review »

07/31/09 -BBC - Paul Mason: "Said observed that the late style artist typically "abandons communication with the established social order of which he is a part and achieves a contradictory, alienated relationship with it". But Pynchon doesn't need to: he achieved that long ago. This late turn in his literary style achieves something opposite but equally surprising. It is a move towards form, and closed form at that, towards genre, and towards communication. And it is a move away from subtext." Entire review »

07/31/09 - Laura Miller: "Hard-boiled detective fiction may not seem like the ideal vehicle for the often cryptic style and subject matter of Thomas Pynchon, but his newest novel proves otherwise. An account of the adventures of a hippie private eye pursuing assorted nonlucrative commissions in a Southern California beach town around 1970, "Inherent Vice" is a sun-struck, pot-addled shaggy dog story that fuses the sulky skepticism of Raymond Chandler with the good-natured scrappiness of "The Big Lebowski." It's an inspired formula; the mystery plot supplies the novel with a minimum of structure (as well as confidence that there's some point to the enterprise) and the genre provides ample cover for Pynchon's literary weaknesses." Entire review.

07/31/09 -CounterPunch - Alan Cabal: "It’s a hugely comic novel that ends on a wistful, tragic note lost in the fog, out on the freeway, the procession of the preterite, not sure where they’re going, not sure where they are. It’s a love letter to the Sixties, a wake, an elegy to doomed aspirations and thwarted idealism, but it speaks to our present condition directly and clearly, with an open heart. Nobody does it better." Entire review »

07/31/09 -The Independent (UK) - Andy Martin: "Inherent Vice is Pynchon's hymn to the Sixties, both homage and lament. In the novel we are at the end of the long Sixties, when the Manson gang have already sliced up Sharon Tate, the US military is still napalming Vietnam, and the West Coast counter-culture is suffering from an immense post-coital depression and hangover." Entire review »

07/30/09 -OregonLive - Vernon Peterson: "But something more serious is the underlying theme of "Inherent Vice." Southern California, America's leading edge and symbol, is not a promise of paradise gone sour. This Eden had a fatal flaw from the beginning. Real estate, a persistent theme in Pynchon's American stories, "Against the Day," "Mason & Dixon," "Vineland" and "The Crying of Lot 49," is the herald of New World doom. The empire has been built on the graves of Native Americans, dispossessed and nearly annihilated from one coast to the other." Entire review »

07/30/09 -New Statesman - David Flusfeder: "The tropes of the hard-boiled genre are here: a detective with a half-mended heart and a propensity to be beaten unconscious at crime scenes; a quest to track the missing; a rich folks' nuthouse; the corrupt LAPD. But whereas Chandler once admitted that whenever he didn't know how to advance his plot, he'd have a man walk through a doorway holding a gun, Pynchon just has his detective fire up another joint. It is in the moments away from the stoned haze of plot that this book is at its best. The sentences have their stately beauty, and Pynchon is poignantly good on the heartsick detective, his "lovelorn rectogenital throb"." Entire review »

07/29/09 - - Alan Chadwick: "Best of all, however, is the way Pynchon maps the psycho-geography and shifting sociopolitical sands of America at the time (drugs; the widening gulf between 'straight life' and counterculture; paranoia; and secret information)." Entire review »

07/28/09 - The Stranger - Paul Constant: "Beneath it all, surfacing sporadically like a cheap serial villain, is the nascent internet, which in the late '60s was called the ARPAnet. One of Doc's friends introduces him to the prototypical World Wide Web, and he increasingly relies on it for information. He wonders why "they"—the men he's positive rule the world from a smoke-filled room—don't make it illegal, the way "they" criminalized acid. Pynchon, doing some of the nimblest, most whimsical work of his career, doesn't provide the answer to that mystery, or many of the mysteries in Vice for that matter, but he shares his infectious excitement about living in a world full of useless, beautiful ideas. For Pynchon, it's not the truth but the search for the truth that matters." Entire review »

07/28/09 - The Boston Phoenix - Peter Keough: "So it's a long way around the block for little reward. And though it's true that Pynchon never pays off in terms of closure or neatly resolved meaning (that being the point), in Inherent Vice, ambiguity deteriorates into inanity. He's either trying too hard or not hard enough. Okay, you could scarcely expect another densely woven, absurdist masterpiece so soon after 2006's magnum opus, Against the Day, which at nearly 1100 pages weighed in as Pynchon's heaviest tome to date. Then again, Lot 49 came out only three years after his groundbreaking debut, V." Entire review »

07/27/09 - | Creative Loafing - Cooper Levey-Baker: "But despite its uncharacteristic focus and brevity, it’s clear from sentence structure alone that Inherent Vice could have only sprung from the pen of Thomas Pynchon. One early sentence describing an LA dry spell goes like this: “In the little apartment complexes the wind entered narrowing to whistle through the stairwells and ramps and catwalks, and the leaves of the palm trees outside rattled together with a liquid sound, so that from inside, in the darkened rooms, in louvered light, it sounded like a rainstorm, the wind raging in the concrete geometry, the palms beating together like the rush of a tropical downpour, enough to get you to open the door and look outside, and of course there’d only be the same hot cloudless depth of day, no rain in sight." Entire review »

07/26/09 - | TheObserver - Sarah Churchwell: "Like many a Pynchon protagonist before him, Sportello is on a doomed quest. Pynchon's novels are always more or less picaresque journeys; his characters travel perpetually, but rarely arrive anywhere meaningful. What Gravity's Rainbow calls "the terrible politics of the Grail" means that quests in Pynchon are inevitable and also inevitable failures. At best, they will be mock-heroic; at worst, they will be tragic, but they will never succeed. Inherent Vice may be Pynchon's most overtly nostalgic book, featuring a character overcome by a longing he pretends to shrug off." Entire review »

07/24/09 - - Tim Martin: "Unlike much of Pynchon’s other work, however, Inherent Vice wears its learning lightly, intermixing it with dialogue that zings, jokes that never overstay their welcome and a stream of hilariously bad puns and wickedly acute observations. Who would have thought it? One of America’s most wilful and obscure writers has produced the most enjoyable beach read of the summer." Entire review »

07/06/09 - Publishers Weekly - David Kipen: "Pynchon sets his new novel in and around Gordita Beach, a mythical surfside paradise named for all the things his PI hero, Larry “Doc” Sportello, loves best: nonnutritious foods, healthy babies, curvaceous femme fatales. We’re in early-’70s Southern California, so Gordita Beach inevitably suggests a kind of Fat City, too, ripe for the plundering of rapacious real estate combines and ideal for Pynchon’s recurring tragicomedy of America as the perfect wave that got away." Entire review »

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