It took quite some time to even partially warm up to “Inherent Vice”. It really didn’t click with me, in almost any aspect. It was only when I began coming across what I thought were more profound thoughts that moved beyond the mess of a plotline and characters that I began to appreciate the novel some more. Just a little.
I’m not surprised that Pynchon is such a highly regarded writer, nor am I particularly surprised why. This book offers some very valuable insights into the time period Pynchon was writing about, the culture, the people, as well as the image of L.A. which was the core focus of the course I was taking. But these weren’t things I found personally interesting, so it was difficult to tune into a book that frustrated and bored me for about 95% of its duration.
I still have almost no idea what the plot was. I would go through cycles, thinking I finally understood what the Golden Fang was, only to have another piece of information thrown at me that caused a high level of confusion and doubt. It was also difficult to keep track of all of Doc’s cases and the details to them, how each person was connected, or who was responsible in the cause of each. And because the plot was such a pain to follow, the characters fell into the same kind of hole with the events, all blending together, difficult to track, and not particularly distinguishable in their general mass. While the drug culture in the book has its own value, for me it got a little frustrating to read, although I did admire and appreciate some of the blunt, and perhaps what some people would label as ‘vulgar’, wording and imagery. It set the tone very well, but nonetheless didn’t cover up for what was a big confusing mess of things.
It was only a few simple but profound thoughts that ‘saved’ this book, just by a little. The most notable was Sauncho’s statement to Doc about the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie, about colour and how Dorothy saw Kansas and Munchkinland, later saying that if Dorothy saw Kansas in colour, then he wondered what kind of ‘hypercolour’ she saw when she came to the Land of Oz. There was something in that small paragraph of dialogue that triggered my thoughts on what it means to be a viewer of things on the inside and the outside, since, as Sauncho says himself, the viewer sees Kansas in black and white and the colour only appears later, which raises the question of whether what Dorothy sees in Kansas is colour. In a way this small aspect could be superimposed on the novel as a whole, which I appreciated and enjoyed, but still not that much more. I found the thought by itself to be better than the book as a whole.
There is value in “Inherent Vice” for people who enjoy this kind of structure, who want to read about those times, who are fascinated by the culture, or maybe are just looking to be acquainted with Pynchon’s work. There’s a slew of reasons, but none of them applied to me. It was a mandatory reading that I was eager to dive into, but once I did I wasn’t quite pleased with what I found. It was pretty far out of my comfort and interest zone.