Inherent Vice, Chapter 9



Doc goes to see Coy Harlingen at the Boards mansion, but is driven away by English zombies and threatening suits. There are two counts of cunninlingus. Clancy Harlingen, Coy’s sister turns up and tells Doc that Mickey had a plan to give away a lot of the money he made.

p.125 Mention of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa, described as ‘the eternally suspended monster’ (p.126), about as ominous (and vague) a symbol as one could ask for.

p.126 Cantor’s Delicatessan
Georg Cantor (1845-1918) was a German mathematician who pioneered the subject of set theory, now at the foundation of all modern mathematics. He proved that there are different sizes of infinity – for example, the set of natural numbers is smaller than the set of real numbers, though both sets are infinite.

This is perhaps a comment on what can be known, and how even vague concepts like ‘infinity’ or ‘time’ can be broken down (a bit of a stretch, I know)

p.128 A TV soap opera features

‘something called “parallel time”, which was confounding the viewing audience nationwide, even those who remained with their wits about them, although many dopers found no problem at all in following it. It seemed basically to mean that the same actors were two different roles, but if you’d gotten absorbed enough, you tended to forget that these people were actors.’

The implication is that our regular ‘wits’ are insufficient to understand that people are not single, consistent selves, but instead are fractured constellations of memories and competing impusles.

It can also be read as a sop to the critics, or at least those who complain that Pynchon’s work (esp. Against the Day) is hard to follow and lacks fully developed characters (most vocally, Mr James Wood).

It also recalls this passage in V.

Rachel was looking into the mirror at an angle of 45°, and so had a view of the face turned toward the room and the face on the other side, reflected in the mirror; here were time and reverse-time, co-existing, cancelling one another exactly out. Were there many such reference points, scattered through the world, perhaps only at nodes like this room which housed a transient population of the imperfect, the dissatisfied […]

This passage is immediately followed by another swipe at TV, when Doc realises ‘the scope of the mental damage one push of the “off” button of a TV zapper could inflict on this roomful of obsessives’.

p.129-130 has what appears at first sight to be an either paranoid (or highly perspicacious) condemnation of the activities of those in authority.

If everything in this dream of prerevolution was in fact doomed to end and the faithless money-driven world to reassert its control over all the lives it felt entitled to touch, fondle, and molest, it would be agents like these, dutiful and silent, out doing the shitwork, who’d make it happen.

Was it possible, that at every gathering- concert, peace rally, love-in, be-in, and freak in, here, up north, back east, wherever -those dark crews had been busy all along, reclaiming the music, the resistance to power, the sexual desire from epic to everyday, all they could sweep up, for the ancient forces of greed and fear?

But for Doc, and perhaps for Pynchon, this is somewhat over the top- the ‘epic’ sexual drive, the ‘faithless money-driven’ etc. It’s function may be to send up people’s paranoia, and show the desperation with which people construc tales of conspiracy. And in case any readers are still nodding at these sentiments, there is always Doc’s verdict”

“Gee,” he said to himself out loud, “I dunno…”

(The alternative is that only someone in Doc’s state of perpetual befuddlement could doubt this idea).

p.146 Masse shots are forbidden- In billiards, a massé shot is when a player strikes a ball with the cue at a sharp angle and causes the ball to curve drastically or even eventually reverse direction. Given Pynchon’s predilection for the imagery of arcs, rainbows, refraction etc, he is most likely commenting on the status quos resistance to change, especially of a revolutionary nature.

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