August 30, 2009

Into the Viper's Den

Just finished Thomas Pynchon's new detective novel, Inherent Vice. Not exactly Against the Day or Gravity's Rainbow . . . but we knew that already, didn't we?

The closest parallel to Pynchon's previous fiction would be Vineland. They share a literary sub-genre that we could call viper spiel. As such, Inherent Vice is entertaining in a silly way, loose and rambling, like the free-wheeling, disconnected jabberings of the more creative potheads you may know. Sometimes gratuitous, always fun, Inherent Vice sprinkles just enough of Pynchon's particular time-slipping conspiratorial genius to make it a step above the usual crime genre boilers.

I tend to like my crime fiction a little tighter, and Elmore Leonard this ain't. Like Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, Inherent Vice highlights the nexus where it's author's concerns intersect with the crime genre. Unlike No Country for Old Men, the nexus is fuzzy and inexact.

As crime fiction, Inherent Vice is good, not great. As entertainment, it's good slapstick (a Pynchon trademark). As a Thomas Pynchon novel, it's lite fare. At the end of the day, it's a good read.

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