Inherent Vice, Chapter 17

PLOT- Coy tells Doc how he ended up being recruited as a snitch. Doc and Shasta reunite. Sort of. She makes him wonder if there’s any difference between he and Coy.

This is a thematically tight chapter, with its references to zombies, enslavement, addiction, being in the service of evil and irresistable powers.

p. 297

“You can’t always blame zombies for their condition,” says Doc, what may be only a joke, or instead a wider comment about our many forms of enslavement.

p. 297

Anybody understand why they call it ‘real’ estate’?” wondered Denis.

Good question.


Right now Coy had the look of sailor on liberty, willing to live inside the moment till he had to be back in some condition of servitude.


Further space reference, to Pink Floyd’s ‘Interstellar Overdrive’.


Coy’s method for kicking heroin is called, ironically, ‘Higher Discipline’. The irony is compounded by the fact that there is the incentive of ‘a once-a-year fix of Percodan, then regarded as the Rolls-Royce of opiates’. There is thus no recovery from addiction- just the substitution of one drug for another.


Coy makes the ‘karmic error of faking his own death’.


Nice mix of contradictory, yet truthful attributes in Doc’s self-description

He was back to his old wised-up self, short on optimism, ready to be played for a patsy again. Normal.

p. 305

Shasta tells Doc about the way Mickey treated her, how it was ‘so nice to be made feel invisible that way sometimes’. Here is a non-drug based method of dissociation- being treated so badly you cease to feel like a person. Even this, she suggests, can be a relief.

p. 312

has some karmic advice- ‘the best way to pay for any luck, however temporary, was just to be helpful when you could.’

p. 313

Shasta describes Coy and Doc as

cops who never wanted to be cops. Rather be surfing or smoking or fucking or anything but what you’re doing. You guys must’ve thought you’d be chasing criminals and instead here you’re both working for them.

Though it might seem that there is a difference between them, Doc is not sure. There is then, on p. 314, this  passage.

Doc followed the prints of her bare feet already collapsing into rain and shadow, as if in a fool’s attempt to find his way back into a past that despite them both had gone on into the future it did.

At first this seemed hard to decipher- if the past had gone on into the future, that makes it seem like it hasn’t changed, so why need he try and find his way back to it? On third reading, I think it’s just a lament for a past (perhaps an imagined one) that led to a negative future. Which perhaps raises the question- how idyllic could such a past have been if it led to a present ruin? By imagining our past utopia, we must also undermine it, else there cannot be the Fall that leads to the present.

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