Inherent Vice, which you may know first as a movie, was originally a book by elusive and mysterious novelist Thomas Pynchon. Inherent Vice follows the adventures of prolific stoner and P.I. Doc Sportello.
Set in 70s Los Angeles the book is not only a wonderful story but a beautiful portrait of the city in a turbulent and glamorous time in its history. It drips Southern California nostalgia from Doc’s beachside flat to biker gangs, and free love hippies: Los Angeles counterculture versus the LAPD. Sportello is a familiar character in Los Angeles, a weed fueled paranoiac operating who’s always got something cooking, a wild eyed, shaggy haired California hustler.
The novel is a fast paced easy read that serves not only as a fun story but as an introduction to Pynchon’s writing which is notoriously heady. The New York crowd didn’t take so kindly to Pynchon’s LA mania, New York Magazine described it as feckless “with no suspense and nothing at stake, Pynchon’s manic energy just feels like aimless invention”. But LA itself is that. Manic energy that is seemingly invented, New York is notoriously self important, but LA is far more whimsical and loose. People work in entertainment. Everyone’s important while simultaneously nobody is. It’s always hot, it’s always active, a buzzing hive of paranoid potheads sweating in their cars, scrambling to figure out the next move. Pynchon captures that energy perfectly in Inherent Vice.