September 29, 2014

Thomas Pynchon will make a cameo in Inherent Vice movie, which is so clearly a lie


Pictured: Thomas Pynchon. Image courtesy of TVTropes.

Pictured: Thomas Pynchon. Image courtesy of TVTropes.

There are several ridiculous moments in the New York Times’ recent piece about Paul Thomas Anderson (or “PTA” as your film student ex-boyfriend used to refer to him) and his new movie, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. There is the fact that Anderson’s new look is apparently “hungover dad walking his dog on Saturday morning.” There is the omission of the word “successfully” from the sentence “first movie adapted from one of the writer’s celebrated novels” (ahem). There’s the offhand mention that the film is narrated by Joanna Newsom. And there’s Anderson’s first step in his screenwriting process, which was to transcribe the novel by hand in its entirety.

But the clicklure in this straightforward buzz piece (which, let’s be honest, we were gonna see anyway) is that Pynchon himself makes a cameo. Which we don’t believe for a second. Not because we believe that Pynchon’s aversion to the standard publicity process is so absolute that upon death he’ll join Emily Dickinson and Robert Johnson in the “anyone who finds a photo of them hidden in an attic somewhere is automatically a millionaire” club. Not because we think Anderson will judiciously edit the cameo out before theatrical release. Not even because we may have heard from a very reliable source at Penguin that Thomas Pynchon is actually two kids in a trench coat standing on each others’ shoulders.

But because Inherent Vice, while certainly retaining all the trappings of a Big Prestige Project (big name stars, critically pined-after writer/director, the return the of Anderson Virtuoso Tracking Shot), is exactly the kind of place where Thomas Pynchon WOULD show up. After all, he’s been less shy about putting his voice out there; why wouldn’t we expect him to show up in some mischievous blink-if-you’ll-miss-it way (he’s a corpse in the morgue! That’s his back in the crowd of people staring down at the crime scene! He’s Josh Brolin‘s chin!)?

But if Thomas Pynchon really is the hyperliterate trickster god that he is, then we hazard that such a cameo would be way below his pay grade. No, Pynchon’s cameo has to be more cerebral. Maybe his cameo is actually in Night At The Museum 3. Maybe Jonny Greenwood composed the score entirely out of Pynchon vocal samples (eh, I’ll still buy the album). Maybe Pynchon placed a single one of his hairs on EVERY FRAME OF THE FILM.

We don’t expect to see Thomas Pynchon anywhere except where he always is, which is behind you, right now.


Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.