Thursday, August 6, 2009

inherent vice

In the faithless money-driven
world nobody is forgiven,
unless they can afford attorneys
who drive them gently on their journeys
while parting them from all the money
they’d landed as the milk and honey
that passes for the promised land
they and their lawyers understand.

The world in which they roll the dice
evinces an inherent vice
that can’t defy the gravity
of rainbows of depravity
no culprits see while it is raining
dollars: they don’t start complaining
until the judge pronounces sentence,
which coincides with their repentance.

Machinery of power makes
inherent vice confess mistakes
once etherized upon the gurneys,
when jettisoned by their attorneys
and ridiculed by them, and spurned
despite the money they have earned,
as money-driven as the clients,
with whom they’d had their vice alliance.

Inspired by Michiko Kakutani's review of Thomas Pynchon's new novel, "Inherent Vice" ("Another Doorway to the Paranoid Pynchon Dimension," NYT, August 4, 2009):
“Inherent Vice” not only reminds us how rooted Mr. Pynchon’s authorial vision is in the ’60s and ’70s, but it also demystifies his work, underscoring the similarities that his narratives — which mix high and low cultural allusions, silly pranks and gnomic historical references, mischievous puns, surreal dreamlike sequences and a playful sense of the absurd — share with the work of artists like Bob Dylan, Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac and even Richard Brautigan. Like “Vineland,” his other ode to the counterculture era, this novel conjures a California where characters talk in the trippy, spaced-out language of the frequently stoned and lead wacky, slacker-type existences. It’s a California reminiscent of the one Tom Wolfe depicted in “The Pump House Gang” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” a place that stands in sharp contrast to the capitalistic conformity of the “Midol America” that Mr. Pynchon had suggested would arrive in the Reaganite ’80s. The hero of “Inherent Vice” worries that “the Psychedelic Sixties, this little parenthesis of light, might close after all, and all be lost, taken back into darkness,” that “everything in this dream of prerevolution was in fact doomed to end,” with the “faithless, money-driven world” reasserting “its control over all the lives it felt entitled to touch, fondle and molest.”…
Though “Inherent Vice” is a much more cohesive performance than the author’s last novel, the bloated and pretentious “Against the Day,” it feels more like a Classic Comics version of a Pynchon novel than like the thing itself. It reduces the byzantine complexities of “Gravity’s Rainbow” and “V.” — and their juxtapositions of nihilism and conspiracymongering, Dionysian chaos and Apollonian reason, anarchic freedom and the machinery of power — to a cartoonish face-off between an amiable pothead, whose “general policy was to try to be groovy about most everything,” and a bent law-enforcement system. Not surprisingly, the reader is encouraged, as one character observes, referring to George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” comic strip, to “root for Ignatz,” the anarchic, brick-hurling mouse, not Officer Pupp, the emissary of order and law.

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