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Photos: Thomas Pynchon's Apartment In Manhattan Beach, The City That Inspired 'Inherent Vice'
The ever reclusive and anonymous Thomas Pynchon is now America's favorite author to scrutinize and speculate ever since the death of J.D. Salinger passed on the torch. With the release of Inherent Vice to theaters this weekend, the spotlight is back on the mysterious writer, especially with a (basically) confirmed cameo in the film itself. Pynchon fanatics grasp on to whatever tidbits of facts (real or speculative) they can on the man himself, particularly those early yearbook photographs of his high school and college years, and speculate where—or even who—the author is these days.
One thing that is certain: Pychon spent the 60s and early 70s living in a small apartment in Manhattan Beach, spending some of his time writing Gravity's Rainbow, his most celebrated novel. His time in the Southland is said to be what inspired the L.A. neo-noir of 2009's Inherent Vice, whose protagonist "Doc" Sportello lives in a beachside apartment in "Gordita Beach," a fictionalized Manhattan Beach. Gordita Beach also makes a brief appearance in his 1990 novel Vineland.
Teaser trailer for the Inherent Vice novel, featuring voiceover from the reclusive author himself.
Pychon's apartment is confirmed to be the the downstairs unit at 217 33rd Street. Jim Hall, executive director of the Redondo Pier Association, told the LA Times he remembers meeting the author and noticing his affinity for pigs. Readers may remember the character "Pig Bodine" from his novels V. and Gravity's Rainbow. A photograph on the back cover of a memoir by Phyllis Gebauer, a close friend of Pynchon's, shows the author's hand extending out of the door of his apartment giving a peace sign with a pig piñata named Claude and Gebauer in the foreground. In 2011, Gebauer donated her rare collection of signed Pynchon novels to UCLA.
Google Street view indicates that the cozy apartment, merely a few blocks from the beach and just south of the Chevron oil refinery, still stands at least as of October 2012. The building, including the upper apartment, last went for sale in 2011, selling for just over a million dollars according to Redfin. Even though Doc's apartment in the film is not the same address (though not too far away), Paul Thomas Anderson made sure they filmed those scenes in Manhattan Beach despite the logistical hassles. "Manhattan Beach is not where you bring a film company to do what we did—controlling streets, shutting down traffic, [but] Paul wanted to be in Manhattan Beach, because that's where Pynchon lived," the film's location manager, Larry Ring, told LA Weekly. You can catch plenty of glimpses of Manhattan Beach-as-Gordita Beach in the film's trailer if you haven't seen the film already (why haven't you seen the film already?!).
A new teaser for Inherent Vice titled "Paranoia", featuring footage not used in the feature film.
Cool, we have early photographs of Thomas Pynchon before he became famous and the apartment he lived in for about a decade, but you're probably asking what about Thomas Pynchon now? Hardly any photographs of the author exist, and his two cameos on The Simpsons feature the author's animated caricature wearing a paper bag on his head, spoofing his own privacy (though that is his own voice). In a feature on the making of the film, star Josh Brolin spilled the beans to the New York Times, confirming the on-screen presence of the author, adding "He came on as the kind of mercurial iconoclast he is. He stayed in the corner." Anderson was a little more cagey with his answer, and drew for Metro a not particularly helpful sketch of what Pynchon looked like. It is known, however, that Pynchon now lives in New York.
Although audiences have flocked to theaters this weekend in Los Angeles and New York to see Inherent Vice, it's no surprise that we have no idea where Pynchon shows up in the film since nobody knows what he looks like anyway. This guy seems to be on the right path:
This isn't a bad theory either:
INHERENT VICE Thomas Pynchon cameo theory: He's the guy who knocks out Joaquin Phoenix in the massage parlor.— Drew Hunt (@drew_hunt) December 12, 2014
Though let's be real, this is probably closer to the truth: