Skip out on “Inherent Vice”


By: Laura Antonucci, Columnist

“Inherent Vice” by Thomas Pynchon was a book I had been glancing at every time I had gone into a bookstore. It had a neon title and a synopsis on the back cover that made it sound like when I put the book down, I was missing out on a literary adventure of epic proportions.

So I finally broke down and bought it. Yet finishing this novel was the biggest struggle I have had in my entire reading life. It is a mess of era-specific lingo that was lost on me unless I had Google readily available.

The main character, Doc, is a joke of a person by today’s standards. I am sure that when “Inherent Vice” was written, drugged-out, barely-conscious hippies were as regular a sighting as the sun.

However, being over 40 years removed from the hippie era, the context of the novel is lost, making it unfamiliar territory to contemporary readers.

The plot follows Doc as he investigates a missing persons case, and comes into contact with a variety of people who take part in a variety of illegal activities. When Doc gets a lead on his case, he gets deeper into the corruption hidden within the city government.
After reading Raymond Chandler last semester, and being a fan of noir in general, I can spot a noir-themed book or movie easily.

That being said, “Inherent Vice” is vaguely noir. The era of the 1970’s is not an easy setting to write within, yet Pynchon tries really hard to incorporate everything that was popular with each level of social classes.

Drugs and corruption are frequently discussed and while both of these aspects of writing are very noir, they get muddled within each other.

“Inherent Vice” is confusing and difficult to follow. It is a very challenging book to read, even though it is not very long. Often there is either too much going on in the plot, or Pynchon drags you through a drug-tainted mind that has issues functioning, much less solving a missing persons case.

All in all, I suggest you skip this read.

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