Here’s a neat piece on a Pynchon conference in Poland. The thesis of the paper the author presented sounds somewhat similar to some ideas I had about Lemuria in the book when I wrote about it a while ago. I’ve only been in one gathering of Pynchon specialists before, and they were nowhere near as eccentric as those Nick Holdstock describes. n+1 academic conference descriptions always, at least in this and the Elif Batuman versions I’ve read, sound closer to something out of The Futurological Congress than those I go to; but I haven’t been terribly adventurous in my choices either.
The best review I’ve read of Inherent Vice thus far has been Thomas Jones’s piece in the LRB. I was especially pleased with the surprising comparison to Smollett. Also, the proposed dialectic relationship between Pynchon’s anarchist utopianism and technocratic capitalism—that the true lesson is that one is not imaginable without the other—leaves us to conclude that Pynchon is not in fact given to sentiment, does not want anyone to keep cool but care, but is rather a nihilist.
The title phrase comes from one of Pynchon’s letters to Kirkpatrick Sale in the Harry Ransom Center. I won’t tell you the lead-up, but rest assured that it is every word the groaner you think it might be. (A letter from Phillip Roth to DeLillo in the same archive advises him against using Pynchon’s blurb for Mao II: Roth writes that it has something like five cliches in seventy words.) I return to Gravity’s Rainbow now and then for light reading and to recall the electric incomprehension I felt when I first read it as a freshman.