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.
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