Inherent Vice is a novel by Thomas Pynchon, originally published in 2009. The term ‘inherent vice’ as a legal phrase refers to a ‘hidden defect (or the very nature) of a good or property which of itself is the cause of (or contributes to) its deterioration, damage, or wastage. Such characteristics or defects make the item an unacceptable risk to a carrier or insurer. If the characteristic or defect is not visible, and if the carrier or the insurer has not been warned of it, neither of them may be liable for any claim arising solely out of the inherent vice.’ The phrase appears often in William Gaddis’ ‘The Recognitions,’ a novel that influenced American post-modern literature and Pynchon. Gaddis’ novel uses the term to refer to defects in works of art.
In a generally favorable review, Michiko Kakutani of ‘The New York Times’ called it ‘Pynchon Lite,’ describing it as ‘a simple shaggy-dog detective story that pits likable dopers against the Los Angeles Police Department and its ‘countersubversive’ agents, a novel in which paranoia is less a political or metaphysical state than a byproduct of smoking too much weed.’