July 22, 2009

Pynchonian Intrigue

inherent vice: n.: The tendency of material to deteriorate due to the essential instability of the components or interaction among components.

Ah, the sweet, sweet heft (well, less heft than usual at 400 pages, but still) of a new Pynchon novel--is there anything better? Back from the time-traveling Chums of Chance mayonnaise whirlwind, this new title is a marijuana-noir detective tale starring--!--a semi-autobiographical protagonist of the Dude variety (both via Lebowski and the beach). Subtler in tone than his Gravity's Rainbow ellipses hyperbole or V. rhinoplastic porn, Inherent Vice retains the sublime mathematics of interrelated characters (frozen-banana embezzling dirty cops, ex-surf-band saxophonists who are supposed to be dead, Asian girls who may or may not be hookers popping up everywhere) and infused paranoia that makes all of his stuff so compulsively readable. That, and his ingenious manipulation of ordinary language into a kind of kaleidoscopic syntax tapestry.

The science tag is a loose one, despite the insinuation of the title, but here's a book that indulges analysis of Pynchon's use of science as a narrative tactic: Lines of Flight: Discursive Time and Countercultural Desire in the Work of Thomas Pynchon by Stephan Mattessich, Stanley Fish, and Fredric Jameson. And here's a choice excerpt from V.:

In the eighteenth century it was often convenient to regard man as a clockwork automaton. In the nineteenth century, with Newtonian physics pretty well assimilated and a lot of work in thermodynamics going on, man was looked on as a heat engine, about 40 per cent efficient. Now in the twentieth century, with nuclear and subatomic physics a going thing, man had become something which absorbs X-rays, gamma rays and neutrons. (Chapter Ten, Part II)

Just for kicks, relive Pynchon's frenetic and hilarious "cameo" on The Simpsons and check out Wired's interactive "Unofficial Thomas Pynchon Guide to LA".

And then, wait for midnight on August 4th, when the book hits shelves...

No comments:

Post a Comment