New in Theaters: ‘Inherent Vice’

Owen Wilson and Joaquin Phoenix sleuth confusedly in 'Inherent Vice' (Warner Bros.)
Owen Wilson and Joaquin Phoenix sleuth confusedly in ‘Inherent Vice’ (Warner Bros.)

inherentvice-coverWhen Thomas Pynchon published Inherent Vice in 2009, it became very clear that the revered author of Gravity’s Rainbow was still interested in his basics (baffling plots, conspiratorial confusion) but was now also cool with knocking out an honest-to-God fun read. Paul Thomas Anderson’s resume of overbusy, overcrowded Southern California anthology meta-fictions (Magnolia, in particular) would seem to make him the perfect man to bring this book to the screen.

Inherent Vice is opening this week in limited release and likely to wide befuddlement; it’ll go wider around the nation in January. My review is at Film Racket:

“Thinking comes later,” mumbles Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) at the start of Paul Thomas Anderson’s foggy, funny film of Thomas Pynchon’s psychedelia-noir Inherent Vice, only he never quite gets around to it. A lot of things get in his way, you see, from the moment that his ex-old lady Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston, an angelic , transfixing moonbeam of a smile but with not much to do here) lays on him a whole rap about needing help with her new old man. In the grand tradition of beautiful women whose true motives are submerged beneath shimmering layers of twinkle, Shasta’s initial request is more complicated and dangerous than it initially seems, particularly after she goes missing. Doc’s journey starts off being about making sure that Shasta (clearly the love of his life, though neither of them may know or want to know it) is okay, it turns into a quasi-historical tour of a Southern California counterculture circa 1970 on the verge of imploding under the weight of its own bafflement and paranoia…

Here’s the (fantastic) trailer:

Department of Weekend Reading: September 5, 2014

reading1

Reader’s Corner: Best Books of 2013

 

Best-of lists are particularly absurd when it comes to books, with thousands of titles being released in 2013 alone and easily hundreds of them most likely being worth forking over $25 for. But nevertheless it’s helpful to pull notable ones out of the stacks of new releases; otherwise where would you even get started?

To that end, I published a piece over at PopMatters with short writeups on my 15 favorite books of 2013. It’s a good collection with something for everybody, fantasy to military history, graphic novels to current affairs, Thomas Pynchon to Scientology. You can read it here.

Reader’s Corner: A Pynchon-less National Book Awards

Once, Thomas Pynchon cameo'd on 'The Simpsons.' Or did he?
Once, Thomas Pynchon cameo’d on ‘The Simpsons.’ Or did he?

So here’s who didn’t show at Wednesday night’s National Book Awards dinner at Cipriani in Manhattan: Thomas Pynchon. Never mind that his Bleeding Edge was one of the finalists for fiction, the man just doesn’t do award ceremonies. Or interviews. Or much of anything, besides you know, living and writing.

goodlordbirdJames McBride (The Color of Water) took the fiction prize in an upset win for his Good Lord Bird and George Packer very deservedly won for The Unwinding (my review is here).

Here’s the full list of finalists:

Fiction

  • Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers
  • Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland
  • James McBride, The Good Lord Bird
  • Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge
  • George Saunders, Tenth of December

theunwinding1Nonfiction

Also at the dinner was E.L. Doctorow, who received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (nice title, that). According to the Times, Doctorow gave the evening a resolutely analog spin:

[Doctorow] cooled the mood down with a somber speech on technology, government surveillance and the Internet. (Somewhat uncomfortably, Amazon.com and Google were sponsors of the event.)

“Text is now a verb,” Mr. Doctorow said. “More radically, a search engine is not an engine. A platform is not a platform. A bookmark is not a bookmark because an e-book is not a book.”

 

Trailer Park: ‘Salinger’

SALINGER_FINALThe theories that have swirled around the reclusive J.D. Salinger over the decades since his disappearance are many and mostly ridiculous (a personal favorite being that he actually still walks among us … writing as Thomas Pynchon). It’s what happens when you write a defining novel like The Catcher in the Rye and then just drop off the face of the earth.

It will be interesting to see what Shane Salerno’s award-potential documentary Salinger is going to be able to come up with when it opens this fall. What pops up in the trailer looks to be a mix of biography, adulation from various literary types and actors, and wildly imaginative speculation—the most enticing of which being: Is there a new book in the offing?

You can check out the trailer here: