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Breath as Inherent Vice, pt. three (of five)

(continued from pt. two)

Royal Coat of Arms of Denmark (1903-1948)

An element that points to the book’s (near-)finality is that the cloud of buzz surrounding the book had something Pynchon fanatics were not used to. His voice in the book trailer (he sounds like an aging California hippie, a more robust and composed Zoyd Wheeler). This could signify a newfound laxness in the Pynchon armor: something of him must remain. Something beyond the soundbites in Simpsons episodes. This time, his voice climbs in and out of the valleys of uninterrupted speech, proof of breath, proof of existence.

Another clue that reveals Inherent Vice’s ultimateness or penultimateness is that Pynchon’s books have normally been Chinese rooms: they feign a plot to goad the reader into plowing on through that jungle of incandescent prose, when it is obvious that the mind behind the book has no firm grasp of the notion of plot. It just keeps veering off into tangential plotlines dividing into trees so complex as to end up almost genealogical in magnitude, the pedigree of Danish kings going back eight hundred documented years. Inherent Vice, by contrast, does not feign, but sincerely tries to follow a straightforward, one-thing-after-the-other plot (it doesn’t always succeed). It almost feels like the choice of the noir genre was not whimsical. Here is the most plot-driven of genres and here is a writer who is famous for non-linearity, inconclusiveness, the slow breaking apart of worlds turned into books, like glacier cliffs falling into a warming sea. It’s as if Pynchon’s mind tries to return home after a long flight of genius fancy, home to roost, and signal with a final ruffle of the feathers that it will fly no more. Enough is enough.

(Now, before we go on, a clarification: I do not intend to support a Christian reading of Inherent Vice –or of Pynchon’s books in general–. It’s just that human consciousness has this bug in its code, this inherent vice, if you like: these perfect spaces beyond death –either positive or negative in nature– whose purpose is to redeem all the things we endured in life and all the pain we inflicted on ourselves or others. In the paragraphs to follow, the terms “paradise” and “hell” are used as placeholders. Replace them with your own, if the ones used here are not satisfactory. This isn’t theology, unless we are ready to start theorizing about a secular one.)

(this essay first appeared in Greek in the electronic magazine The Zone, www.thezone.gr)

(the third part is scheduled to appear on Saturday, 3 December 2011)

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