Vineland

By Thomas Pynchon

9,841 ratings - 3.69* vote

A group of Americans in Northern California in 1984 are struggling with the consequences of their lives in the sixties, still run by the passions of those times -- sexual and political -- which have refused to die. Among them is Zoyd Wheeler who is preparing for his annual act of televised insanity (for which he receives a government stipend) when an unwelcome face appears from out of his past.An old nemesis, federal prosecutor Brock Vond, storms into Vineland at the head of a heavily armed

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Book details

Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 1995 by Rowohlt Tb.

(first published 1990)

Original Title
Vineland
ISBN
3499136287 (ISBN13:9783499136283)
Edition Language
German

Community Reviews

Warwick

Vineland is downplayed by Pynchon fans and completely ignored by curious newbies, who tend to pass over it in favour either of the big-game status of one of his doorstop meganovels, or of the appealing slenderness of The Crying of Lot 49. Shame. All his gifts and his mysteries are on display here, wrapped up in one of his most enjoyable, inexplicable, and lushly all-enveloping plots. Rereading it now, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s terribly underrated.

The essential storyline, if there is one, concerns the quest of fourteen-year-old Prairie to find her long-lost mother Frenesi, a hippy-chick revolutionary turned government informer, who has left a string of lovesick boys and girls wherever she’s been. But around this kernel Pynchon deposits layer upon layer of sub-plots, super-plots, side-plots and inter-plots until you are wading thigh-deep through new characters, new locations, new sensations, on every page.

It reads chaotically, but the chaos is intricately plotted. Pynchon is doing twenty things at once in this book, and all of them brilliantly. Prairie’s story is set in the 1980s, but the key events in Frenesi’s life happened fifteen or twenty years before that – and what Vineland is really about is what happened to that generation. How the counterculture kids of the 1960s turned into the Reagan voters of the 1980s. In that sense it’s a political novel.

OK, a political novel, all right – but that doesn’t really explain the experience of this book, does it? Because along the way we have a psychic detective investigating a Godzilla attack, we have a UFO abduction during a passenger flight to Hawaii, we have a community of kunoichi, or female ninjas, in the Californian hills, a political prison deep in a nuclear fallout shelter, a Tokyo sex auction, a community of zombie-ghosts, and a potted history of mallrats. Often these incidents are slipped in obliquely, so that you put the book down blinking, as though coming up from hypnosis, thinking vaguely – did I really read that…? Did I get that impression from the words on the page, or was I imagining something on my own initiative? Pynchon is a master at palming ideas off unseen, adding more and more dependent clauses to his sentences, pushing the key information further and further down, so that it seeps in through a kind of osmosis and, though you understand what he’s talking about, you don’t quite recall being told.

This sense of fluidity is abetted by his extraordinary ability to slip-'n'-slide time and place when you least expect it, jumping in and out of different timezones without the usual formalities but without, also, any jarringly ‘experimental’ effects. Have a look at what happens during this conversation sometime in the 1970s, where Prairie’s dad Zoyd is talking to a friend about finding somewhere to stay near Frenesi’s family:

“On the one hand, you don’t want this turning into your mother-in-law’s trip, on the other hand, they might know about someplace to crash, if so don’t forget your old pal, a garage, a woodshed, a outhouse, don’t matter, ’s just me and Chloe.”

“Chloe your dog? Oh yeah, you brought her up?”

“Think she’s pregnant. Don’t know if it happened here or down south.” But they all turned out to look like their mother, and each then went on to begin a dynasty in Vineland, from among one of whose litters, picked out for the gleam in his eye, was to come Zoyd and Prairie’s dog, Desmond. By that time Zoyd had found a piece of land with a drilled well up off Vegetable Road, bought a trailer from a couple headed back to L.A., and was starting to put together a full day’s work…


Whoa, whoa, whoa, did you catch that? We just panned down to the dog for half a sentence, and before you know it we’ve followed two generations of puppies all the way through a quick ten years, so that Pynchon can now sleight-of-hand straight into a conversation in the '80s without having to do any ponderous throat-clearing of the ‘Several years later…’ variety. He pulls this shit on every page and he is GOOD at it. Most of them you won’t even notice.

Pynchon’s women, as always, are cool and concupiscent, but the horniness is balanced here – uniquely in his oeuvre – by having a wry female protagonist who is never sexualised. Prairie is unflappable, observant, the writing never patronises her – she’s one of the great teenage girls in fiction.

Frenesi, by contrast, is the archetypal Pynchonic femme fatale, replaying the author’s usual paranoid sexual fantasy of how nice girls just can’t resist the manly charms of the Asshole King, who goes here by the name of Brock Vond, a federal neofascist who’s eagerly prosecuting the Republicans’ War on Drugs. A lot of people who discuss Vineland find Frenesi’s motivation implausible – would she really throw everything away, her politics, her principles, her daughter, just because she can’t stop fucking this guy? And is Pynchon really going to hinge his entire Heath Robinson plot on such a flimsy velleity?

Yeah, he is, and the book doesn’t get enough credit for playing such a calculated move. ‘I’m not some pure creature,’ Frenesi agonises at one point, during a painful imagined break-up with a girlfriend who put her on the usual pedestal – ‘you know what happens when my pussy’s runnin' the show…’ It’s a dynamic played out in almost all his books, but the collateral resonances are nowhere made more obvious, the D/S overtones in her submission to Brock prefiguring something essential about what happened to her whole generation:

Brock Vond’s genius was to have seen in the activities of the sixties left not threats to order but unacknowledged desires for it.


There’s the whole novel in a sentence. Does Pynchon believe it? Say rather that it’s his secret fear. That’s why it’s necessary for it to play out on the interpersonal level too, which pretty soon, given his characters, comes round to some kind of Sylvia Plathlike every-woman-adores-a-fascist deal.

Vineland is infused with a genuine, unfashionable nostalgia for the acid dreams of the Sixties, but a nostalgia tempered by the resolve to assess the roots of its failures as time went by and ‘revolution went blending into commerce’. Against these incursions all he can offer are the tried and tested defences of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

Mucho went to the stereo and put on The Best of Sam Cooke, volumes 1 and 2, and then they sat together and listened, both of them, to the sermon, one they knew and felt their hearts comforted by, though outside spread the lampless wastes, the unseen paybacks, the heartless power of the scablands garrison state the green free America of their childhoods even then was turning into.


You can sink into this book and swim in it, and the pages will close up over your head. It’s just beautifully made – hilarious and sexy and sad and constantly provocative. And it has more to say about what the 1980s were really about than any number of Brett Easton Ellis or Martin Amis or Jonathan Coe novels can manage. Perhaps it’s not objectively his best book, but it is, for my money, his most fun.

Oriana

So when you think of Pynchon you think of serious work, right? And trudgery and difficulty and obfuscation and pedanticism, and like this dizzying thing that just makes you feel unintellectual and slow for never being able to catch up, right?

Well if that is the case, you have never read Vineland . Because oh. my. god. This book is so fucking good.

I'm not going to try to summarize or anything, because this book is too sprawling and reeling, and anyway that would be an afront to its amazingness. But look, it's got all the same basic building blocks as any Pynchon book—a million characters exhaustively historied, unfollowable plot twists, crazy ranting paranoia, incredibly phraseology, bizarre songs, sixties culture, sex and violence (in fact, large swaths are oddly comparable to Kill Bill, if you ask me)—but it's done at a much...easier level somehow. It's much more accessible, it's hilarious and warm, and you don't feel like you're in quicksand the whole time, just desperately trying to understand and keep breathing.

See, people never talk about the really unimaginable joy that soars through Pynchon's work. And beauty! I mean look, this book is tough, for sure, and I won't try to claim that I understood everything, but honestly it just doesn't matter. It's just so much fun to read. It's not work at all.

And the ending! Once I had like thirty pages left I started getting that dark foreboding feeling, you know, like there's no way he can end this satisfactorily, there just isn't enough space. I was so sure he was going to do something horrible, leaving everything messy and unfulfilling, end things like right in the middle of a sentence or something, but no! The ending was beautiful, just like the rest of the book, totally satisfying and wonderful. Jeez I loved this book. Wow.

Steven Godin

This is without a doubt one of the most insane books ever written, even by Pynchon's standards this is something else, the characters are bonkers, the story if you could call it that is nuts!, not a lot makes sense, the writing feels schizophrenic, there are moments that could have come from things such as, James Bond, Tarantino, Asian ninja flicks, cartoons, the hippie movement, 80's action B-movies, spirituality and a whole lot more. The one thing that's in it's favour is the fact it was just so much fun to read!, you are riding the crest of one crazy wave, best to just go with the flow and let Pynchon's unique vision take hold.

Manny

The novel transports him back to California, the country he has often visited, even lived in, but which still seems like a dream, everything too vivid, too distinct, too much to be real, the Pacific viewed from halfway up a mountain, separated into bands progressing from aquamarine to eggshell, sea transformed into sky in a series of gradations as precise as the steps in a theorem, the ever-present background hum of violence occasionally coalescing into tangible form, raised voices from the lobby, a scream, coming downstairs to see a man slumped over the front desk, blood pouring from a hole in the occipital region of his head, a cramped office where nerds take a break from creating the future to sit on the floor and drink coffee from laboratory glassware and then return to symbolic manipulations that may turn into billions of dollars which will then be stolen by smart operators more familiar with the legal aspects of stock options, mystical sex on waterbeds with girls who still call themselves hippie chicks when they are naked and speak indifferent Spanish and Japanese, Pynchon reconstructs it all in living technicolor, it is a kind of minor miracle.

Adam Dalva

Pynchon's most underrated, I think - a bighearted, funky read; a worthy 3rd "V" book.

Darwin8u

"...everybody's a hero at least once, maybe your chance hasn't come up yet."
- Thomas Pynchon, Vineland

description

I first read Vineland about 25+ years. It was my sophomore year in college. I was idealistic and I met this guy in the college bookstore named Thomas Pynchon. Since it was my FIRST (or was The Crying of Lot 49 my first?) Pynchon, I think I missed way more than I gained (except for the desire for MORE Pynchon). Looking back now, Pynchon for me starts to divide into his BIG GREAT novels and his funny, shorter novels.

In my brain, Vineland fits with Inherent Vice, Bleeding Edge, V., and The Crying of Lot 49. On the otherside of my Pynchon index card sits Gravity's Rainbow, Mason & Dixon, and Against the Day. Obviously, there are no perfect systems here. But that is how Vineland sits for me. It was VERY good, just not GENIUS Pynchon. The slimmer, more linear, suffer/pot noir stuff seems more likely to be finished and read. But his bigger, Maximalist, juggernauts are waves that if you can catch and ride, will float you to Nirvana. The bigger the Pynchon risk, the better your chance for seeing God (or at least splitting a sub with her).

Vineland basically tells the story of how the hippies of the 60s sold out (in various ways) and moved from rejecting Nixon in the 60s to embracing Reagan in the 80s. Like most of Pynchon's novels, this one is filled to overflow with Pynchon's humor, caricatured characters with absurd names, pop culture, paranoia, and weed. I enjoyed it and if I was going to rank it against most writers it would rank high. But it is on the lower end of the Pynchon heap.

Geoff

Everybody always told me Vineland was Pynchon’s worst effort - what? No way no how, brothers and sisters, this here is an endless DNA chain or like Russian doll of embedded story after story descending and re-emerging through various strata of narratorial layers, pop culture send-ups, genre parodies, all funny as hell and twisted and ridiculous while also extremely smart and painted with mind-tweaking flights down and up imaginative spiral staircases! And there’s so much heart in this book this old cold hombre almost teared up at certain moments. Worst Pynchon? - C’mon, this is his classic Saturday night drive-in camp flick, for the mentally agitated among us, to be paired generously with Inherent Vice, and a downright lovely & insane ode to mid-20th century American popular culture - get on it.

Ian "Marvin" Graye

If Three Should Be Five

I first read “Vineland” some time in the 90’s. Based on an imperfect recollection of it, I rated it three stars when I joined GoodReads. I’ve raised my rating to five stars, partly because of how much fun I had reading it a second time.

I can’t think of a better novel to read between now and when we emerge safely into the Post-Trump era.

Reprise and Foreshadow

“Vineland” reprises the longing and quest for an absent woman that was at the heart of “V” (in this case, the daughter of left-wing activist parents, a “third generation lefty”, student radical, film-maker and the novel’s heroine, Frenesi Gates); it features Kommandant Karl Bopp, former Nazi Luftwaffe officer and subsequently useful American citizen (who could have emigrated from “Gravity’s Rainbow”); while it foreshadows the focus on the underground and anarchism that was so fundamental to “Against the Day”. More realist than Pynchon’s previous three novels, its description of the American landscape is as detailed and expressive, usually as humorous and sometimes as sentimental as it would later be in “Mason & Dixon”:

“The shape of the brief but legendary Trasero County coast, where the waves were so high you could lie on the beach and watch the sun through them, repeated on its own scale the greater curve between San Diego and Terminal Island, including a military reservation which, like Camp Pendleton in the world at large, extended from the ocean up into a desert hinterland…”

"They were in a penthouse suite high over Amarillo, up in the eternal wind, with the sun just set into otherworld transparencies of yellow and ultraviolet, and other neon-sign colours coming on across the boundless twilit high plain…(381)"

“A lightning storm had appeared far out at sea and now, behind them out the window, was advancing on the city, taking brightly crazed shots all along the horizon. Somewhere in here a stereo began to play a stack of albums from the fifties, all in that sweet intense mainstream wherein the tenor drowns of love, or, as it is known elsewhere, male adolescence.”

“Zoyd, who was driving, came at last upon a long forest-lined grade and cresting saw the trees fold away, as there below, swung dizzily into view, came Vineland, all the geometry of the bay neutrally filtered under pre-storm clouds, the crystalline openwork arcs of pale bridges, a tall power plant stack whose plume blew straight north, meaning rain on the way, a jet in the sky ascending from Vineland International south of town, the Corps of Engineers marina, with salmon boats, power cruisers, and day sailers all docked together, and spilling uphill from the shoreline a couple of square miles crowded with wood Victorian houses, Quonset sheds, postwar prefab ranch and split-level units, little trailer parks, lumber-baron floridity, New Deal earnestness. And the federal building, jaggedly faceted, obsidian black, standing apart, inside a vast parking lot whose fences were topped with concertina wire. ‘Don’t know, it just landed one night, sitting there in the morning when everybody woke up, folks seem to be gettin’ used to it.’ (317)”


This sounds like somewhere that is really there and that you’re in the passenger’s seat of the car that Zoyd is driving and you can see it, too. Whilst laughing.

Reaganomic Drug Hysteria

Published in 1990, the novel is set partly in 1969 (in cinematic flashback), but primarily in 1984, the year in which Ronald Reagan won a second term as President. It was also a time when Reagan’s economic policies (dubbed “Reaganomics”) and his “War on Drugs” (which initiates what Pynchon calls “national drug hysteria”) were in full flight. Perhaps presciently for Trump, it’s worth noting that the assassination attempt on Reagan was made just 69 days into his first term in 1981. People must have known what they were going to get.

Ironically (or maybe not), the ultimate source of the drugs was the CIA:

“Verily I say that wheresoever the CIA putteth its meathooks upon the world, there also are to be found those substances which God may have created but the US Code hath decided to control. Get me?...Notice how cheap coke has been since ‘81?”

Leaning Across the Counter-culture

It’s well known that Pynchon has always had counter-cultural sympathies. Here, they’re front and centre, as is the associated politics. Frenesi conceives of her life working in the seventies underground documentary film industry this way:

“When the sixties were over, when the hemlines came down and the colours of the clothes went murky and everybody wore makeup that was supposed to look like you had no makeup on, when tatters and patches had had their day and the outlines of the Nixonian Repression were clear enough even for the most gaga of hippie optimists to see, it was then, facing into the deep autumnal wind of what was coming, that she thought, Here, finally - here’s my Woodstock, my golden age of rock and roll, my acid adventures, my Revolution. Come into my own at last...Here was a world of simplicity and certainty no acidhead, no revolutionary anarchist would ever find, a world based on the one and zero of life and death. Minimal, beautiful. The patterns of lives and deaths…”

Student Film Collective

Frenesi belongs to a student film collective called 24fps, whose motto is:

“A camera is a gun. An image taken is a death performed. Images put together are the substructure of an afterlife and a Judgment. We will be architects of a just Hell for the fascist pig. Death to everything that oinks!”

description

I Love a Man in Uniform

Paradoxically, Frenesi has inherited a “uniform fetish” from her mother, “as if some Cosmic Fascist had spliced in a DNA sequence requiring this form of seduction and initiation into the dark joys of social control.” She enjoys a privileged personal and financial position, because after the death of agent Weed Atman at the College of the Surf protest, she’d been compromised by FBI agent, Brock Vond (“a rebel cop, with his own deeply personal agenda, only following the orders of a repressive regime based on death”) into supplying information and film footage about other activists for a fee (in his eyes, she had good “snitch potential”):

“He figures he won his war against the lefties, now he sees his future in the war against drugs.”

“Duly sworn officers of the law, wearing uniforms, packing guns, bound to uphold the Constitution, you think men like that would lie?”


description

From New Deal to No Deal

However, come Reagan’s autumnal wind, things started to change:

“She understood that the Reaganomic axe blades were swinging everywhere, that she and Flash [her husband] were no longer exempt, might easily be abandoned already to the upper world and any unfinished business in it that might now resume...as if they'd been kept safe in some time-free zone all these years but now, at the unreadable whim of something in power, must reenter the clockwork of cause and effect. Someplace there would be a real axe, or something just as painful, Jasonic, blade-to-meat final - but at the distance she, Flash, and Justin [their son] had by now been brought to, it would all be done with keys on alphanumeric keyboards that stood for weightless, invisible chains of electronic presence or absence...We are digits in God’s computer…”

They go from “once carefree dopers” to drug criminals sought out by paramilitary law-enforcement agencies like the crop-destroying Campaign Against Marijuana Production (CAMP), Brock Vond’s Political Re-Education Program (PREP) and the Ultra High-Speed Urban Reconnaissance Unit (UHURU)(one of many “Star Trek” references). Pynchon paints a picture of the Reagan government as a brutal, conniving fascist regime that repealed the New Deal and replaced it with No Deal:

“It’s the whole Reagan program, isn’t it - dismantle the New Deal, reverse the effects of World War II, restore fascism at home and around the world, flee into the past, can’t you feel it, all the dangerous childish stupidity - ‘I don’t like the way it came out, I want it to be my way.’”

Reagan attacks the counter-cultural underground as if it were a vicious alien virus intent on destroying the American mainstream. The residents of Vineland become victims of Rex84 (an armed exercise to test the US military's ability to detain large numbers of American citizens in case of civil unrest or national emergency.) Pynchon describes it as “big and invisible...silent, undocumented, forever deniable.”

The Nature of Resistance

Reagan is resisted by a coalition of forces, including dopers, bikers, students, unionists, “die hard industry lefties” in Hollywood, the Old Left, Wobblies, the New Left and Anarchists.

Guerillas turn skywriting and billboards that proclaim “Drug Free America” into “Drugs Free America”. Only, within a few years, they’re either dead or drinking Bud Light.

While I suspect that Pynchon is more sympathetic to Anarchism than I am, Frenesi comes from a family tradition that is more labour-oriented than focussed on the Identity Politics of the New Left and the Anarchist movement. Her parents have experienced HUAC inquiries, Hollywood black lists and strike-breaking. Their politics is more concerned with the plight of the working class under American capitalism than it is with more social and cultural issues. For the sake of convenience, I’ll call the former Hard Left Politics and the latter Soft Left Politics.

While the Soft Left continued its struggle into the 80’s, its effectiveness was undermined by Reagan's use of authoritarian force and the distribution of psychedelic drugs by the law enforcement agencies. Worse still, the Soft Left was placated, sedated and negated by the new drug of complacency and conformity, Television (the Tube). Pynchon seems to lament that the Soft Left became more prominent than the Hard Left. Despite his consistent identification with the counter-culture, he seems to regard its social and cultural concerns as introspective, self-obsessed and narcissistic.

To the extent that the New Left focuses on the status of the individual, it’s political program is individualistic in nature. In contrast, the Old Left focuses on the role of workers under Capitalism, and its political program is collectivist.

description
Tubular Blues

The Broken Collectivity

Either way, Reagan severely damaged the collective of resistance, so that Pynchon refers to it as “the broken collectivity”.

Blue-eyed Frenesi's reaction was to turn blue. She suffered postnatal depression after the birth of her daughter, Prairie, who joins the quest for her mother with her father, Zoyd Wheeler, and various federal agents (not just Brock Vond) who are obsessed with her. In a way, the quest to find Frenesi after she disappears ends up being a quest for the restoration of family, and arguably family order.

This is Pynchon at his most sentimental or empathetic (what he calls a "little wave of tenderness"). However, it also suggests an additional degree of scepticism about Anarchism. This is what he has to say about Brock Vond:

“Brock Vond’s genius was to have seen in the activities of the sixties left not threats to order but unacknowledged desires for it. While the Tube was proclaiming youth revolution against parents of all kinds and most viewers were accepting this story, Brock saw the deep - if he’d allowed himself to feel it, the sometimes touching - need only to stay children forever, safe inside some extended national Family…They needed some reconditioning.”

Perhaps, the State doesn’t need to be abolished. It too might just need some reconditioning. Whether this reads too much into Pynchon’s work, I still think it can be questioned whether he equates the counterculture with Anarchism. It's arguable that an alternative culture of any significance requires a social democracy (a democratic family) within which to thrive. An anarchist society would be too full of unregulated and counterproductive individualism and conflict.

The Words of the Next Generation

Rightly or wrongly, Prairie's boyfriend, Isaiah Two Four, blames the Tube for what went wrong:

"Whole problem ‘th you folks’ generation, nothin’ personal, is you believed in your Revolution, put your lives right out there for it - but you didn’t understand much about the Tube. Minute the Tube got hold of you folks that was it, that whole alternative America, el deado meato, just like th’ Indians, sold it all to your real enemies, and even in 1970 dollars - it was way too cheap…"

February 26, 2017

Madeleine

I don’t usually finish a book and start a review in the same breath. But I also don’t usually allow myself to read more than one of an author’s works within a calendar year (many books, little time, etc. -- though of course Stephen King would be this year’s other exception because the Tower, all things yield to it): T. Ruggs, you magnificant bastard, I hope you know how many personal rules I’m violating because you’re the first time since auspiciously picking up my first collection of Bukowski poems that I’ve been able to add a This Writer Changed My Life For Always notch to my literary bedpost. Reading “Vineland” confirmed what “Gravity’s Rainbow” left me suspecting: I bloody love Thomas Pynchon. Rilly.

Finishing “Gravity’s Rainbow” left me with an almost obscene urge to help myself to another serving of Pynchon, which is an urge I’ve been fighting for months now. I finally caved, intending to take on “V” but settling for “Vineland” because part of the joy of Pynchon is the inherent madness, and I just can’t handle another meaty tome yet (the latter weighs in at a few pages shy of 400; the former.... uh, does most assuredly not). And because I haven’t talked about GR enough, I am still a little battered from that experience (my opinion on bananas might be forever changed, too). I needed something a little less daunting first. Enter: “Vineland.”

This book was so good. Now being able to pinpoint a Pynchonian pattern – a few: musical outbursts, sleuthing plots, oddball character names, stunning tangents that really aren’t that tangential after all, a natural vocabulary only found in the most ruthless of Scrabble opponents – helped me identify what I adore most about Pynchon’s prose. It’s his ability to concoct some of the most overtly zany scenes in literature, to confront the reader with these in-your-face storms of hilarity for the sake of maximizing the subtle tragedies he gently lets the story consider, leaving the reader to marinate in sadness. It’s an effect that would be any mixture of sloppy, condescending, formulaic or tedious if attempted by anyone else but Pynchon makes it work. The real success is that his characters who need be sympathetic are so when someone realizes that her best days are behind her or comes to the dawning realization that he’s being used by an entire government or has an ugly epiphany about the mother she never knew, it is the most heartbreaking scene in the world.

As for the effort involved in decoding the obscure references that are sprinkled throughout Pynchon’s books as liberally as the Bacon Bits on any salad worth eating, I was deeply grateful that T. Ruggs's novel begins the same year as I did, which meant I caught waywayWAAAAY more cultural allusions this time. The narrative flows better when I’m not running to a secondary source every three lines and I appreciated the opportunity to enjoy this book less haltingly, which isn't to say that I didn't need to have a few reference materials handy. There were enough hazy hippie memories to keep me on my toes, though I caught a number of those as often as I had a flutter of joyful recognition every time The Doors or Zeppelin or Pink Floyd or some other People's Republic of Rock and Roll favorite got a shout-out.

I feel a reread of "The Crying of Lot 49" and maybe "Inherent Vice" in my future. Color me fucking amped.

Tom Quinn

Believing that the rays coming out of the TV screen would act as a broom to sweep the room clear of all spirits...

A ginormous set of characters stomping around Northern California and beyond, doing weird shit as the national culture shifts its goalposts around them. Zoyd leaps through windows, more a symbolic penance than any true means of escape. Hector is so addicted to television that it's impossible to know what he knows to be true and what's an invention of his deluded mind. Frenesi is a snitch on the federal payroll at a time when computers are leading the heartless beauracratic charge to find ways to cut the budget. And Brock Vond is the unseen but mighty arm of a government keen on flexing its muscles. These and other lunatic fringe types mix and mingle as everybody moves from one side of the law to the other, some with ease and some with painful consequence.

...Frenesi now popped the Tube on and checked the listings. (83)

Pynchon confronts the lines between fantasy and reality in this TV-soaked and cinema-saturated trek through the recent past. Borrowing cues from 70s cop dramas, Kung Fu, and c., camp meets compassion as Pynchon makes worlds collide in a kaleidoscopic fireworks display.

3.5 stars. Since I doubt anyone comes to Vineland without some other Pynchon already, I'll do the old compare and contrast here: I thought it was similar to but a lot denser than Inherent Vice, and I enjoyed rolling things around symbollically like some kind of artsy-fartsy wine tasting where Thunderbird and Boone's Farm are considered top-shelf. It's fun and often funny but Pynchon still makes you work for it. At least here we follow a straightforward plot, unlike Gravity's Rainbow or V. Because of this the book is much less puzzling and much less of an academic's wet dream - so it lives in the shadow of Pynchon's greater hits, but it's also that much more accessible.

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