What is "Metaliterature"? It is literature about literature, in this case, views, reviews, and thoughts provoked by stuff I've read. I'm hoping this might be a chronicle of the brain of a life-long reader as guided by intertextual coincidence. If you like what you read, read what I like.
Currently domiciled in the Vale of Glamorgan.
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Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
It's damn funny.
planned to read my backlog of Pynchon (before this point including Slow Learner,
Against the Day, Inherent Vice and the yet-to-be procured Bleeding Edge) in
chronological order – not that they must be so read, but rather that I wanted
to mirror the writer’s own artistic trajectory with mine as a reader. As with
other writers of great scope and ability, I need to pace Pynchons across my
life as they take a lot out of me as a reader, but to be honest I’ve been
looking for an excuse to skip the short stories and the hard-backed behemoth reminiscent
of Mason & Dixon that is Against
The Day and crack on with the reportedly more accessible Inherent Vice.
Thankfully, the impending (and now actual) release of the Paul Anderson film did
just that. Never one to be swept along in the wake of something I decided I had
to read it now or forever be beholden to someone else’s artistic interpretation.
reports suggest, it is by far the most accessible novel by Pynchon since
Vineland, something which came as a relief given I still have cold sweats about
Gravity’s Rainbow, which was my first introduction to Pynchon care of a blinkered,
unforgiving and intense Post-Modern American Fiction lecturer at University. Essentially
a stoner detective novel, garnering the film (not always favourable) comparisons
to the Coen Brothers’ classic doper noir The
Big Lebowksi, Inherent Vice takes its title from, as Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello’s
lawyer-friend Sauncho Smilax* tells him, a marine insurance term meaning
unavoidable harm (where insurers will refuse to insure cargoes of eggs for
example due to the high likelihood of unavoidable damage during a sea
crossing). Of course, being Pynchon, you can unravel that one as far as you
wish to take it, particularly when our setting is California in the late 60s
and early 70s, where surfers, dopers, hippies and activists jostle for elbow
room with corrupt developers, cops on the take (or just taking out their innate
brutality on the aforementioned categories), gangsters, dealers, and, so it
would seems, dentists out to avoid paying tax. The plot begins with a surprise
visit of Doc’s ex-girlfriend and wannabe actress Shasta Fey Hepworth, who then
goes missing along with land developer Micky Wolfmann, her new beau, at least
one Aryan Brotherhood Brother, his boyfriend, a motorbike gang member and a
dentist, the last two we know at least get snuffed. Doc sets out to unravel the
mystery fuelled or perhaps medicated by an astounding amount of marijuana, accompanying a
motley assortment of beach bums, surf musicians, psychics, skip-tracers and
slightly unhinged ladies of a variety of unwholesome endeavours and / or habits,
and ends up face to face with a shadowy cabal of gun-running, heroin-smuggling,
tax-dodging dentists, known only as The Golden Fang. Oh, and there’s a loan
shark whose side-line business feeds the back story of Doc’s nemesis-cum-ally Lieutenant
Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen.
I really – REALLY
– hope the film is as funny as the novel. It has gags, puns, jokes, innuendo,
the whole gamut of humorous prose, whilst also hanging together as a coherent
if fragmented kidnap and conspiracy narrative. The cast is huge, as was to be
expected, but I can’t recall a point where I thought “Now just who the jumping
f**k is this bell-end?” as each inhabits a particular mote of dust in this
singular crepuscular ray of blinding entertainment**. If I wanted to and didn’t
have the horror of so doing, I could strip layer after layer from the writing
which is a veritable palimpsest of meaningful stuff and intertextual reference.
Thankfully some other thoughtful readers have already done it (in part) and you
can add your two-penneth-worth at the PynchonWiki
site. Frankly, I’m just glad I’ve had my first few proper belly laughs at a
Thomas Pynchon novel in a long time. Time will tell if the film can live up to
the novel, but on a first reading, it looks to be the novel most suited to a
film adaptation, and in Paul Anderson I can only hope we’ve found the person to
do it. And perhaps you’ll spot a sly cameo by the man himself somewhere, at a
beach-front café or slinking by in the milky backgrounds. But probably not.
Benicio Del Toro in the Anderson version, and, so PynchonWiki
tells us can be interpreted as a truth-telling spiny-thorned climbing plant.
Again, unravel as far as you need.
Scott, brother / cousin (?) of Doc is a character that might bear a snip or
two. I don’t remember what he adds at all except that his band Beer plays on the
bill with the Boards and a resurrected Coy Harlingen
Many (many) years ago, when I first read War With The Newts, after scouring the Waterstones' internal database (whimsically named Ibid, and from which one could print the details of books onto the till roll in light- and so it seems, time-sensitive purple ink which, on the inches thick ream of leaves I printed for future perusal, faded within a few months rendering my catalogued wish list so much locker mulch) for authors with a suitably Czech-sounding name, having put away an entrée of my first slim Hrabal, a palate-cleansing Kundera and in need of a meaty Moravian main course, I think I might have completely and totally missed just how funny it was, bloated as I was by the doughy and Victorian-sounding translation and the rather unlikely ideation of the future political terroir of mankind and their unusual amphibian slaves and, latterly, sappers, the newts.
How's that for a sentence David Foster Wallace? INTERROBANG.
Well, there's no chance that Čapek's typically Czech…
Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end.
You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …
If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.
We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …