Inherent Vice Chapter 5


PLOT: Doc goes to visit Wolfmann’s wife, who lives in a luxurious house and has the requisite beefy yoga instructor with whom she may be in league. Just to compound her potential villany, she has an ‘English smoker’s voice’ (p.55). Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t discover much except for a rack of pornographic ties.

p.55/56- Doc pretends to be from an organisation called MICRO, the ‘Modern Institute for Cognitive Repatterning and Overhaul’. We can read this as a continuation of the not especially subtle linking of computers with the less permissive times to come. But I think there’s another side to this, namely the optimism with which some looked forward to a machine-orientated future, one where people would have more time for themselves (which, now that I write this, suddenly doesn’t seem such an absolute good), be ‘freer’ etc. This dream, alas, seems to have gone the way of that of the counter-culture.

The idea that everyones dreams are spiralling away from fulfillment is even partially extended to the police. On page 57 the LAPD are getting in some ‘last minute catering before their federal overlords showed up’ and then on page 65 a uniformed cop who is riding with Bigfoot is listening to them

way too attentive, maybe even, if you wanted to be paranoid about it, as if he was undercover, reporting to some other level inside the LAPD, his real job basically, to keep an eye on Bigfoot…

It is not just the subculture of stoner-hippiedom that is going to lose out, but also those who support the status quo (no ‘system’ ever being concerned with the greatest good for the greatest number).

A fine joke on p. 58 about misattributing a quote from Robert Moses (who the Pynchon wiki says was “master builder” of mid-20th century New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, New York. His career is summed up by his sayings “cities are for traffic” and “if the ends don’t justify the means, what does?)

You get that first stake driven, nobody can stop you.

to Van Helsing, the vampire hunter. In addition to being funny, this links the disparate enterprises of real estate, urban planning and perhaps surveying (see Mason & Dixon) to dark and unholy practices, the sucking of lifeblood etc.

Extended reference to John Garfield on p.58-59 (liberal actor who refused to name names when called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which led to his ruin).

Doc has a sudden erection on p.59 at the mere mention of Ida Lupino.

Every time her name comes up, so does this.

This recalls the conditioned erections of Tyrone Slothrop in Gravity’s Rainbow.

Finally, I am indebted to the Pynchon wiki for decoding ‘Arrepentimietno’ on page 62.

Spanish: n. repentance, penitence, contrition–all concepts important to Inherent Vice. There’s also a cool trilingual pun here: “pentimento” (now an English word, but from the Italian for ‘repent’) refers to an image in a painting that was painted over but then, with time, begins to show through the top layer of represented images.

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