Title: The Good Life
Content: Fourth in the Pynchon bibliography, this was a break with the grand post-modern tomes of the past; character-based, very warm and human, and yet also political, dealing with the loss of civil liberty from government repression and control. Set in 1984, America is a “scabland garrison state,” as Orwellian as ever with Ronald Reagan’s re-election year and the dark political forces aggressively prohibiting the freedoms gained in the 1960s. The extensive flashbacks to the 60s, the heart of the novel, follow the devastating effect the government’s program of infiltrating and destabilising the 60s counterculture has on the major characters. The narrative focuses on the married couple of Zoyd and Frenesi, and their child, Prairie, their family’s dissolution and their journey back to reconciliation. Pynchon’s prose is electric, with a tendency towards long complex sentences ripe with clause upon clause that build up to heady effect. The novel is organically structured, with extreme jump cuts, scenes shifting rapidly in space and time to fill in new characters’ back stories, flashbacks within flashbacks. But it all ties in, knits together and wraps up so elegantly and satisfactorily. It gets zany at times, with Ninjas, Godzillas and Italian weddings. Very laugh out loud funny, the novel is full of human moments and warm community and yet very dark. The power structures that seek to repress and control are a very real threat; ’’the unrelenting forces that leaned ever after . . . into Time’s wind, impassive in pursuit, usually gaining, the faceless predators . . . [who] had simply persisted, stone-humorless, beyond cause and effect, rejecting all attempts to bargain or accommodate, following through pools of night where nothing else moved wrongs forgotten by all but the direly possessed, continuing as a body to refuse to be bought off for any but the full price, which they had never named.” Vineland, the area, becomes a metaphor for primal, untouched, unsullied America, Eden looming out of the mist, the hippies its first settlers, extolling the simple pleasures of sharing food, music, laughter and community. The Good Life.