Some Kind of 29th-Century Sci-Fi Lobster

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Over at New York Magazine, Sam Anderson (interviewed here) has published a review of Inherent Vice that is one of the funniest pans of a novel I’ve ever read. “There is no easy way to say this,” Anderson begins, “so here it is. I hate Thomas Pynchon.”

I find him tedious, shallow, monotonous, flippant, self-satisfied, and screamingly unfunny. I hate his aesthetic from floor to ceiling: the relentless patter of his Borscht Belt gags, his parodically overstuffed plots, his ham-fisted verbs (scowling, growling, glaring,leeringlurching) and adjectives (luridlouchelecherous), the tumbling micro-rhythms of his sentences, the galloping macro-rhythms of his larger narratives. I hate the discount paranoia he slathers over everything with an industrial-size trowel. I hate the cardboard cutouts he tries to pass off as human characters, and I hate—maybe most of all—his characters’ stupid names. (I even hate his name, which makes him sound like some kind of 29th-century sci-fi lobster.) I hate the fake song lyrics he invents for his characters to sing and the fake restaurants (Man of La Muncha) he invents for them to eat at and the stupid acronyms he invents for them to pledge their lives to.

Although Anderson took pleasure in the opening stretch,

that feeling expired, sadly, somewhere in the vicinity of page 15. You can almost hear Pynchon flip his big glowing “¡PYNCHON!” switch, after which everything gets extremely, oppressively busy — so busy that the early sense of fun starts to curdle.

Ultimately concluding that

With no suspense and nothing at stake, Pynchon’s manic energy just feels like aimless invention… [Pynchon’s] wildest invention occurs right at the edge of cliché. He may have finally fallen over that edge… There were sequences toward the end of the book where I had no idea what was happening or even who was speaking, and it didn’t seem worth the energy to backtrack and figure it out. That’s not an ideal way to wrap up a detective story, however unorthodox.

Ouch.


Jeremy Hatch is a writer, musician, and professional bookseller leading a cheerful, aimless life in San Francisco. He is the Junior Literary Editor of the Rumpus and has a blog which he updates once in a while. More from this author →