Inherent Vice, Chapter 18
February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
PLOT-Doc goes to visit Adrian Prussia, where he is drugged by Puck Beaverton. After this he wakes up, handcuffed to the bed, and can do nothing but summarise the plot. Doc then escapes, killing Puck and Adrian, only to find that Bigfoot has set him up and is now stealing the Golden Fang’s heroin. Though he and Bigfoot appear to come to an understanding, this is only cover for a further set up, as the heroin is planted in Doc’s car. After some bait and switch, he stashes it in Denis’, then gets a call from Crocker Fenway, asking to meet so that Doc can return the drugs.
He recalled that somewhere behind him, back at the beach, it was still another classic day of California sunshine.
This feels like a historical reference, only it is Doc who feels that things were better in the past (his present).
He thought about Sortilege’s sunken continent, returning, surfacing this way in the lost heart of L.A., and wondered who’d notice if it did. People in this town only saw what they’d all agreed to see, they believed what was on the tube or in the morning papers half of them read while they were driving to work on the freeway, and it was all their dream about being wised up, about the truth setting them free. What good would Lemuria do them? Especially when it turned out to be a place they’d been exiled from too long ago to remember.
Here is the depressing answer to the idea that we might be ‘saved’- even if our lost (and imagined) utopia was restored to us, it wouldn’t help. The reason being that the consensus we operate under isn’t open to that- in Pynchon, the truth never sets anyone free, but instead enmeshes them in a series of conflicting impulses that lack easy resolution.
In Prussia’s office, the light itself has been compromised (see Against the Day for more of this light/knowledge/harm/guilt stuff).
Heated downtown smoglight filtered in from the window behind him, light that could not have sprung from any steady or pure scheme of daybreak, more appropriate to ends or conditions settled for, too often after only token negotiation.
There is also another stopped clock, that Prussia affects to read the time from. This is continued on p. 317
“So who sent you here? Who you working for today?”
“All on spec,” Doc said. “All on my own time.”
“Wrong answer. How much of your own time you think you got lef,t kid?” He checked the dead wristwatch again.
‘Time’ here can also be read in a broader fashion, in terms of the period and its supposed freedoms.
This being a novel with genre elements, the villain does need to show up, and this being a Pynchon novel, it is only in a drug-induced hallucination.
Linking of a sex ring to Governor Reagan’s administration. This is the most specfiic reference to a future ill thus far- previously it has all been shadows and vague threats.
Adrian Prussia is also told
“The Governor has some great momentum right now, the future of America belongs to him, somebody can be doing American history a big favour here, Adrian.”
Whilst the first and second propositions may be true, there is an ironical slant to the third- arguably, the big favour to history would have been not to help him.
A highly sexualised death, with plenty of S & M, not a new thing in Pynchon’s work, but one that I miss the point of here. Maybe its the ugliness of having someone like Prussia- a hired killer -take the moral highground with a pornographer.
Doc has a flashback, possibly from the PCP, and possibly not, in which he understands that
he belonged to a single and ancient martial tradition in which resisting authority, subduing hired guns, defending your old lady’s honor all amounted to the same thing.
What this thing is isn’t specified- it could easily be ‘nothing’. Heroism has no place, and no chance, perhaps.
**General observation- is all this being drugged and shooting and killing actually happening? It’s so genre appropriate that I can’t help but wonder.
The sun was just down, a sinister glow fading out above the edge of the world.
Bigfoot issues a little wisdom:
“What goes around may come around, but it never ends up in exactly the same place, you ever notice? Like a record on turntable, all it takes is one groove’s difference and the universe can be on into a whole n’other song.”
On the one hand, this is an affirmation in the power of change; on the other, it’s still the same record, still the same turntable.
This metaphor has already appeared, on page 262 (“as if some stereo needle had been lifted and set back down on some other sentimental oldie on the compilation LP of history.”).
Doc hides the heroin in a TV container in Denis’ place- when he comes back Denis is
sitting, to all appearances serious and attentive, in front of the professionally packaged heroin, now out of its box, and staring at it, as it turned out he’d been doing for some time.
Whilst this is a final, non-too subtle twist on the TV-as-narcotic theme that has run throughout the book, it may be doing more than critiquing TV. Perhaps TV is only one of many narcotics- it is then more about the psychological needs that each of these meet, rather than some… (ahem)… inherent vice of the drug.
Dream in which the Golden Fang ship has been redeemed and ‘dezombified’. Sauncho gives a ‘kind of courtroom summary’ which is both sentence and grounds for optimism.
“… yet there is no avoiding time, the sea of time, the sea of memory and forgetfulness, the years of promise, gone and unrecoverable, of the land almost allowed to claim its better destiny, only to have the claim jumped by evildoers known all too well, and taken instead and held hostage to the future we must live in now forever. May we trust that this blessed ship is bound for some better shore, some undrowned Lemuria, risen and redeemed, where the American fate, mercifully, failed to transpire…”
Is this, then, a verdict on people’s attempt to avoid and deny the politically hopeless state they find themselves in? Or is the book in many ways a resounding contradiction to this? Which has primacy?
The claim is ‘jumped’ as with a record (see page 334), which brings to mind a passage from Against the Day:
“Most people have a wheel riding up on a wire, or some rails in the street, some kind of guide or groove, to keep them moving in the direction of their destiny.” (AD, 46)
Though the notion of a ‘future we must live in now forever’ doesn’t sound optimistic, it could also mean that we have to abandon our laments for what we (imagine?) we have lost, and focus on constructing the best world we can. Also, the ‘we’ in the sentence is clearly far from all-inclusive- there is still those on the blessed ship, for whom the entirety of US history is no more than a cautionary tale. Unless they are just the fond imaginings, a futher escape, of people who feel themselves doomed.