I'm giving this a second read, and am enjoying it more this time. The story is told by someone who is describing these events (taking place at the start of the 1970s, not long after the Sharon Tate murders) from a vantage many years later, but it usually depicts only what the main character, hippie private eye Doc Sportello, sees, hears, otherwise senses, and experiences and thinks. We get an impression of the weirdness of California in that era, but it's mainly from the zany vividness with which it's described - and partly it's just the never-ending cascade of novelties that even Doc is struck by, at a time of extremely rapid social experimentation and change. To Doc, though, it's pretty much all "groovy" except for the depredations of big business and the Nixon regime.
Doc is just that laid back and cool ... though as the story unfolds we also gradually get a sense of how audacious, resourceful, and gritty he actually is.
Although it can do with more than one reading, Inherent Vice must be Pynchon's most accessible novel, and in many ways the most likeable. I'm looking forward to a better understanding, this time round, of what actually happens.