Inherent Vice, Chapter 6



Doc has lunch with Deputy DA Penny Kimball, with whom he’s having a low-key affair. For the most part, she questions him about Wolfmann and Sasha’s disappearances and the murder. She also asks about two stewardessess, Lourdes and Motella (or as Pynchon puts it, ‘stewardii’), and their connection to two guys named Cookie and Joaquin. Finally, she passes him onto the FBI, who question him, also about the stewardii. When he meets up with them later they go to Club Asiatique, where Doc meets up with the not-deceased Coy Harlingen, who warns him about the Golden Fang, a shadowy organisation based around a boat of the same name.

As I may have mentioned before (and will doubtless do so again), after a while it is hard to take anything in Pynchon’s novels literally. Everything starts to seem ominous, symbolic, a synedoche of the vast, but perhaps not entirely organised conspiracy that may (or even worse, may not- which would mean we were (gulp) responsible for the ills of the world) be in operation. So it is with Penny’s take on Doc’s frequent passing-out (p.69-70), most notably before Glen Charlock’s murder (in Chapter 2. Or 3).

“Besides, maybe you did do it, has that crossed your mind yet? Maybe you just conveniently forgot about it, the way you do so often forget things, and this peculiar reaction of yours now is a typically twsited way of confessing the act?”

On the simplest level, this is about Doc trying to evade responsibility, which is perhaps all that he can do. Pynchon’s characters are often cursed with the knowledge of what needs to be done, what should be stopped, but usually have neither the idea, means or opportunity of how to do so. In the face of such impotence, who can blame them for taking recourse in whatever comfort comes to hand? As Coy comments on page 86.

Only one or two of the old crew are left, and they’re suffering, or do I mean blessed, with heavy Doper’s Memory.

But since this is a historical novel, Pynchon may be suggesting that this kind of thinking is what has led to our twisted present. Also, that we need to do the opposite, to prevent things from getting worse (no one should ever doubt that this is possible).

On page 70 there’s a brief, almost summary-like passage about the case against trust.

He wished he could believe her more, but the business was unforgiving, and life in psychedelic-sixties L.A. offered more cautionary arguments than you could wave a joint at against too much trust, and the seventies were looking no more promising.

On page 73 there’s a mention of a ‘demonstration against NBC’s plans to cancel Star Trek‘, which, even more the passage discussed above, could be there for period detail, for plain fun (‘a convoy of irate fans in pointed rubber ears’) or as a nod to the death of utopian visions. We may never know.

There is a further attempt to make Doc an informer on p.75

More images of concealment on p.80.

At night it [Club Asiatique] seemed covered, in a way protected, by something deeper than shadow- a visual expression of the convergence, from all around the Pacific Rim, of numberless needs to do business unobserved.

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