September 22, 2009

Playlist: Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice

Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Inherent Vice, is a brilliantly lighthearted mastery of detective noir. Set in Los Angeles in the 1970's, it's a time capsule decorated with remarkable detail by the period's fascination with drugs, a crumbling counterculture, and its popular music. The novel's protagonist—private eye extraordinaire Larry 'Doc' Sportello—is, cinematically speaking, a pairing of Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade and Jack Nicholson's Jake Gittes with Jeff Bridges' The Dude: Sportello is street saavy, but he doesn't do much investigating without first lighting up a joint.

The New Yorker appropriately quote's the genre's master Raymond Chandler in its review: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean." Pynchon's Sportello fits into this dictum as an everyman of his era: perpetually stoned, an avid fan of both Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and John Garfield, and susceptible to the charms of popular music, whether it's Roy Roger's "Happy Trails To You" or the The Beach Boys "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

Here's a playlist derived from songs and bands that appear in the novel:

Rolling Stones - "Something Happened To Me Yesterday"
Chantays - "Pipeline"
Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - "I'm The Urban Spaceman"
Archies - "Sugar Sugar"
Roy Rogers - "Happy Trails To You"
Trashmen - "Surfin' Bird"
Tommy James & The Shondells - "Crimson and Clover"
Thunderclap Newman - "Something In The Air"
Surfaris - "Wipe Out"
Dominico Modungo - "Volare"

Buy the book at Amazon or your local independent book store.

The Rolling Stones - Between the Buttons

1 comment:

  1. that's a fantastic piece of art

    uh, no pun intended