Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Up to something

Good old Michael Wood on Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice in the NYRB (from September 2009; I'm a little behind):

"A new gourmet health-food restaurant opens 'off Melrose.' It is called the Price of Wisdom, and located above a seedy bar called Ruby's Lounge. This allows the owners to put up 'a hand-lettered sign reading, THE PRICE OF WISDOM IS ABOVE RUBY'S, JOB 28:18.' Inherent Vice also has a collision and repair shop called Resurrection of the Body. There is something touching about jokes one has to work so hard for, and Pynchon has a special tenderness for the mode, memorably signified, in Gravity's Rainbow, by the Hobbesian law firm of Salitieri, Poore, Nash, De Brutus and Short.

"These gags and allusions are fleeting instances of cultural thought at work, failures of seriousness that are prodigies of connection … No thought is banal if it is up to something, and the novelist's task, and ours, is to watch the thinking as it happens and before it fades, not detach or prejudge the style or the content." (70-71)