Last week, Penguin released a YouTube trailer for Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon’s new noirish mystery about a stoner P.I. in 1970s L.A. The result is, well, only groovyish. Low-budget without seeming cheap, the nearly three-minute clip presents a fun montage of actor-less scenes: well-shot images of driving along the Pacific coast in L.A. and the beach, with atmospheric close-ups of a red convertible, a black cat creeping along a low beach-side wall, etc. (That’s the general rule with book trailers: Unless you can tape a telegenic or media-savvy author on a camcorder, like another new Penguin trailer with Andrew Weil, it’s best not to hire actual actors.)
The only actor here is the voiceover artist, who seems to be channeling Jeff Bridges’ The Dude from The Big Lebowski, with all the gravel of a middle-aged pothead. Interestingly, it’s not the voice of Ron McLarty, the narrator of the audiobook version of Inherent Vice. Even more curious, it seems that none of the text of this trailer is from Pynchon’s book. I just scanned the first chapter and I can’t detect a single line that corresponds to Pynchon’s actual writing. And I’m not just talking about the cutish joke at the end about the narrator’s astonishment that the book costs $27.95 – “$27.95? That used to be, like, three weeks of groceries, man.” If you’re promoting a book by Thomas Pynchon, wouldn’t you want to put Pynchon’s words front and center – and not have someone summarize the book’s set-up in a Pynchon-like style?