Inherent Vice, Chapter 13

PLOT- Bigfoot alerts Doc to a possible connection between Puck Beaverton (one of Wolfmann’s bodyguards) and Coy Harlingen. Blatnoyd’s death is revealed as being due to bites, as from a pair of fangs… Trillium Fortnight asks Doc for help finding Puck Beaverton… These names are really incredible… um… Doc and Trillium fly to Vegas, where they run into Tito, and after Trillium has sex with someone called Osgood, and two one-armed bandits spew out jackpots, Doc arranges to meet with Puck at the Kismet Lounge.


Time was when Doc used to actually worry about turning into Bigfoot Bjornsen, ending up just one more diligent cop, going only where the leads pointed him, opaque to the light which seemed to be finding everybody else walking around in this regional dream of enlightenment… never to be up early enough for what might one day turn out to be a false dawn.

Here we see again the fears of transformation, selling out, of missing out on the dream of enlightenment- although you know it is most likely a delusion, it is still one you crave, and perhaps, need.

p.209 Even Bigfoot falls prey to the paranoia (or the very real sense of worse times to come) in his talk of

“the evil subgod who rules over Southern California… who off and on will wake from his slumber and allow the dark forces that are always lying there just out of the sunlight to come forth?”

and how much closer they are ‘to the end of the world’.


“Everybody’s time is precious,” philosophized Bigfoot, reaching for his wallet, “in its own way.”

This feels like a comment on how people are inevitably present-centred- how easy it is to feel that the time in which one lives is distinctive and special. But if each time is precious, then perhaps none of them is.


A nice description of a slot machine that seems to recapitulate political history:

A long line of half-dollars went disappearing down a chute of yellowing plastic, the milling around the edges of the coins acting like gear teeth, causing each of the dozens of shining John F. Kennedy heads to rotate slowly as they jittered away down the shallow incline, to be gobbled one after another into the indifferent maw of Las Vegas.

Thus politics is only something that drives and feeds the profit motive. Las Vegas, as a Marxist economist comments on p.232, is arguably the purest form of capitalism for it

produces no tangible goods, money flows in, money flows out, nothing is produced. This place should not, according to theory, even exist, let alone prosper as it does. I feel my whole life has been based on illusory premises. I have lost reality. Can you tell me, please, where is reality?

Perhaps this corresponds to the bewilderment that greets the end of history (in a Marxist sense).

Inherent Vice, Chapter 12


Doc pays a visit to the Chryskylodon ‘laughing academy’, where he runs into (again) Coy Harlingen, who expresses doubts that he can ever ‘get out’ of his involvement with various powers. Wolfman’s missing tie, with the nude of Shasta, is seen on an orderly. Denis’ flat gets trashed, and not even by him. Doc pays a home visit to one of the volunteer police force who were involved in the battle in chapter… 2?3? And then there is a dream in which Doc is a child and does not understand death.

p.188 Ominous talk at Chrskylodon of their ‘Noncompliant Cases Unit’, ‘not quite operational but soon to be the Institute’s pride and joy.’

Also, a spatial distortion where Doc has a feeling that Sloane is close by, but ‘in some weird indeterminate space whose residents weren’t sure where they were, inside or out the frame.’

p.190 Further pessimism about the direction of things:

The world had just been disassembled, anybody here could be working any hustle you could think of, and it was long past time to be, as Shaggy would say, like gettin out of here, Scoob.

p. 194 ‘Back in junior college, professors had pointed out to Doc the ussful notion that the word is not the thing, the map is not the territory.’

The whole signs and signification thing. Not sure whether this is meant as giant reminder of the unreality of the text.

p.195 Small joke about use of the ARPA (the proto-internet) being like ‘surfin the wave of the future’. Then it is said to be ‘like acid, a whole ‘nother strange world- time, space and all that shit’. Down the rabbit hole of this sentence there is a big (though possibly trivial) debate about what globalisation and the internet have allegedly done to our sense of time (and in particular, sense of history) and space. Believe me, I know. I just wrote 3,000 words on it. Postmodernism and Time and Narrative and…

p.205 A short, but disquieting dream sequence, in which Doc is with a kid who resembles his brother, but is not, and a woman who resembles his mother, but is not. They are in a diner and the young Doc asks when a waitress named Shannon is coming back.

“Didn’t you hear what the girl said? Shannon’s dead.”

“That’s only in stories. The real Shannon will come back.”

“Hell she will.”

“She will, Mom.”

“You really believe that stuff.”

“Well what do you think happens to you when you die?”

“You’re dead.”

Why would he, or anyone else, think that people only die in stories?

I’m not sure if the following (on p.206) helps, or just makes it both sadder and more mysterious.

And now grown-up Doc feels his life surrounded by dead people who do and don’t come back, or who never went, and meantime everybody else understands which is which, but there is something so clear and simple that Doc is failing to see, will alwyas manage not to grasp.

It’s almost a lapse in the main genre register of the book, which so far hasn’t really been interested in a richer set of emotions for Doc (though it would be less distinctive in Against the Day or Mason & Dixon). If I had already finished the book (as would have been sensible, rather than this chapter by chapter, twice, approach) I would know whether it marked a shift in emotional tenor, as Doc realises that the 60s (whatever they were) are definitely over.

DFW story in The New Yorker

I can’t recall the last time I saw a story in the New Yorker by a writer I hadn’t heard of (i.e. someone like me). From what I gather, a lot of the ‘biggest’ (by which I mean prestige, not size) writers have exclusive contracts with them, so there is really no reason for them to ever look in the virtual slush pile- I’m amazed they even accept unsolicited fiction.

This, however, is not to complain. All the fiction they publish is available free online, which is why I am able to urge you to click your way to the late David Foster Wallace’s beautiful, sad, and very genuine story ‘All That’ which I’m guessing is an extract from his unfinished novel, The Pale King, due in April 2011.


I’m currently reading (and much enjoying) Frank Kermode’s (1967) The Sense of an Ending, which is about how narratives, both spiritual and profane, use their respective ends (often death, and the Apocalypse) to structure themselves.

The age of perpetual transition in technological and artistic matters is understandably an age of perpetual crisis in morals and politics. And so, changed by our special pressures, subdued by our scepticism, the paradigms of apocalypse continue to lie under our ways of making sense of the world.

There’s a piece on him in today’s Guardian, and he’s also giving a talk on ‘Shakespeare and the Shudder’ on February 8th at the British Museum. He has two new books coming out, one on E.M. Forster, the other a collection of pieces from the LRB.

Crumb and Speigelman talk comics

A very enjoyable account of their conversation from The Rumpus:

Spiegelman has drawn Santa pissing in the snow next to a “Remember the Homeless” sign, Bill Clinton getting a blowjob in front of a firing squad. In regard to a published New Yorker cover depicting a Hassid kissing an African-American woman, Spiegelman says a girl wrote him a letter saying how nice it was for him to have drawn Abraham Lincoln kissing a slave.

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