Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gathered Awhile For Safety

At first the fog blew in in separate sheets, but soon everything grew thick and uniform till all Doc could see were his headlight beams, like eyestalks of an extraterrestrial, aimed into the hushed whiteness ahead, and the lights on his dashboard, where the speedometer was the only way to tell how fast he was going.

He crept along till he finally found another car to settle in behind. After a while in his rearview mirror he saw somebody else fall in behind him. He was in a convoy of unknown size, each car keeping the one ahead in taillight range, like a caravan in a desert of perception, gathered awhile for safety in getting across a patch of blindness. It was one of the few things he'd ever seen anybody in this town, except hippies, do for free.
 [Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice]

Pynchon's hippie-noir detective novel is what passes for a lark in his universe. It's clever and it's silly, and to be perfectly honest, the hippie-dippie schtick wears thin pretty quickly (Doc's a nice guy, but he's a Lakers fan).

At its heart, though, the novel still manages to confront the major Pynchonian concerns: the notion that all human endeavors begin in idealism, collective action, and the spontaneous organizing powers of "anarchist miracles," and that they all end  in greed and avarice, betrayal and bloodshed, entropy and alienation. America may never live up to the promise of its ideals, but in the meantime we are a caravan in the desert, gathered awhile in safety, asking nothing in return but what we can share.