Top Ten-ish anyone? Well, that was the plan when I thought I could curtail my longwinded wordiness enough to encompass both my fiction and nonfiction choices all into one article. Alas and alack, I am unable to dress to the '09s today — but will be back to address the rest, at the top of the '10s.
by Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Pynchon once said that maybe his fiction is “not the world, but with a minor adjustment or two it's what the world might be." The late sixties psychedelic noir of Inherent Vice is definitely a portrayal of a life off-kilter, rambunctious fun but tinged with trademark oppressive paranoia and kaleidoscopic pop culture allusions – from Gummo Marx to Mike Curb. Throwing off some gravitas to chase a few rainbows, subplots and whatnots abound as the affable hippie-ish P.I. Doc Sportello, resourceful throwback to the “great old PIs – Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, the shamus of shamuses,” takes a case involving his old girlfriend Shasta, missing amidst the world of Mickey Wolfmann, a rich and married "real estate big shot” whose wife and lover want him institutionalized, though there are conspiracies galore in the course of getting to the people behind the people behind the scenes. So while Doc is wrestling with his feelings for Shasta he is lured into schemes with an ensemble of characters and entities that include his archenemy, a vindictive cop named Bigfoot Bjornsen; a surf band sax player and spy; and a mystical schooner called the Golden Fang which may also be a heroin cartel, an enterprise of "vertical integration," an international conspiracy, or a tax dodge set up by some dentists. Doc also confronts wildly entertaining dopers (“Watch your head” …”How ‘m I spoze to do that, man?”), counterfeiters, rockers, surfers, hustlers, and — in a persona ostensibly out to make Doc “overthink myself into brainfreeze” — an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a soft spot for Ethel Merman. It’s a fast-paced and tautly written tale in an L.A. setting – no mean feat for a book so kitchen-sink-and-all full, as much a visionary variety fun-pack along the lines of a Tom Robbins or Carl Hiaasen escapist fare as it is a Pynchon imprimatur.