Thomas Pynchon's Magical Mystery Tour

Thomas Pynchon has decided to give his fan base a break. His seventh novel is practically beach reading

Vincent J. Ricardel / Contour / Getty

Book jacket to Thomas Pynchon's novel, Inherent Vice.

After the vast tundra of his last book, Against the Day, which was a thousand-plus pages, with more than a hundred or so scurrying characters and a shape-shifting plot that went everywhere and nowhere, Thomas Pynchon has decided to give his fan base a break. His seventh novel is practically beach reading. Inherent Vice (Penguin Press; 369 pages) is a comic-noir detective tale set in Los Angeles around 1970, not long after the Manson murders added their special note to the already twitchy local vibe.

But it's also a Pynchon novel, meaning it's a wizardly bit of philosophical...

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