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How Hard Can It Possibly Be?V isn't so much a difficult novel to read it is after all just words most of which are familiar as one in which it is sometimes hard to understand what is going on and why What does it mean? Does it have to mean anything? How does it all connect?Ironically if not intentionally the inability to determine what and why as well as who is part of its design Pynchon mightn't want to answer all the uestions he or life asksHowever that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of food for thought in the novelPynchon actually tells us a lot all of the time Like Ulysses there are lots of hints and clues and allusions and it's easy to miss them if you're not paying attention to the flow of the novel and taking it all in It's definitely a work that benefits from multiple readingsCharacters Both Sacred and ProfaneV starts with one of two protagonists the schlemiel Benny Profane on Christmas Eve 1955 On the anniversary of the sacred day upon which a Virgin Mary gave birth to Christ and thus started what would become Christianity both Catholic and Protestant Profane is wearing black levis a suede jacket sneakers and a big cowboy hat a sort of bohemian uniform at the timeHe drops into the Sailors' Arms which welcomes sailors from the tempestuous sea onto solid ground For them it's a dream come true where the barmaids all love to screw and remind you that every day is Christmas EveThis tavern is a haven and safe harbour The big breasted women here provide comfort and succour to men something we can easily get used to and take for grantedA Form Guide to StencilSixty pages later Pynchon introduces us to the second protagonist Herbert Stencil a man who refers to himself in the third person which allows him to create a repertoire of bad faith or inauthentic identities or Sartrean impersonations He has no one solid persona but somehow the ability to think of himself as and be not just the third person but a first a second a fourth and a fifth permits him to function reasonably adeuately if not always normally for a male and so the multiple personalities keep Stencil in his placeWhen we meet him however his place is not static it's dynamic He is on a single minded uest to find evidence of a woman named V who he believes once knew his deceased father As spread thighs are to the libertine flights of migratory birds to the ornithologist the working part of his tool bit to the production machinist so was the letter V to young Stencil He would dream perhaps once a week that it had all been a dream and that now he’d awakened to discover the pursuit of V was merely a scholarly uest after all an adventure of the mind in the tradition of The Golden Bough or The White GoddessWith these V shaped analogies and the allusion to these non fiction works is V itself just such a scholarly uest? Pynchon gives us some insights into the myth and mystery and significance of VThe next paragraph gives us even clues as to the nature of the pursuit or uest in general But soon enough he’d wake up the second real time to make again the tiresome discovery that it hadn’t really ever stopped being the same simple minded literal pursuit; V ambiguously a beast of venery chased like the hart hind or hare chased like an obsolete or bizarre or forbidden form of sexual delight And clownish Stencil capering along behind her bells ajingle waving a wooden toy oxgoad For no one’s amusement but his ownIn Pynchon's next novel The Crying of Lot 49 a woman Oedipa Maas would be the subject in and of the uest She would be the one doing the detective work Here a male is the subject and a woman is the object of the uest or pursuitWhile both Oedipa and Stencil take their uests seriously they meet with mixed success perhaps a hallmark of a post modern fiction However Pynchon seems to venerate Oedipa highly For all his earnestness profundity and third person pretension Stencil is a clown or a fool to match Profane's picaresue schlemielA Beast of VeneryWe all know the word venereal but how often do we see its root venery which means sexual indulgence or the pursuit of or hunt for sexual activity?The uest for man if not necessarily for Stencil is a uest for sexual pleasure for sexual delight for the sexual conuest of womanStencil is looking for one woman However because she is of his father's generation and vintage you have to ask whether in reality he is trying potentially on behalf of all men to understand the mystery of sexual attraction the mystery of womanhood and the place of women in society and if only from a male perspective the role of woman in a man's life The Birth of VenusFrom an etymological perspective the word venery derives from the Latin veneris which in turn derives from the Roman god of love and sex Venus who in turn was modelled on the Greek god AphroditeThe connotation of pursuit is thought to come from the resemblance of the word to the Latin venari which means to huntNot coincidentally the Botticelli painting The Birth of Venus features in the novelAccording to Robert Graves Venus was also adapted from the pagan sea goddess Marian who was often disguised as a merry maid or mermaid Suffice it to say this Venus rose from the sea hence the shell in the paintingIf we go back further in time we meet another goddess Astarte whom the Egyptians worshipped as a goddess of war and tenacity while the Semites worshipped her as a goddess of love and fertility The Greeks would later adapt Astarte as the basis of Aphrodite on the way to the Latin Venus It is also linked to the goddesses and names Astoreth Ishtar and EstherEsther is the name of a character in the novel partly Jewish she gets a nose job in an attempt by her plastic surgeon who wishes to make her look Irish while a model of Astarte is the figurehead of the xebec or sailing ship upon which Stencil's father Sidney died in the Mediterranean off Malta in 1919 In a way Sidney's death might be a return to the embrace of Venus after all she was a V and the great unknown of the ocean?Opposing ProtagonistsProfane and Stencil inevitably meet each other over the course of the novel and collaborate in Stencil's uest as it moves from Manhattan to MaltaThey approach life and womanhood in contrasting waysHere's a summary of ProfaneAimless directionless concerned with the present existential free style random improvisatory profane superficial interested in the surface physical decadent irrationalAnd StencilMotivated purposeful concerned with the past in pursuit of understanding and meaning structured organised profound interested in depth metaphysical civilised rationalDespite their differences they join together in Stencil's uest What they share obviously is their manhood the fact that they are men in a patriarchal society Whatever their differences as men they are on the inside whereas women in contrast are on the outside subjugated unable to exercise political power or social influence whatever other means of persuasion they might have at their disposalNot Who But WhatStencil's uest starts when he inherits a journal in which his father wrote the following cryptic note There is behind and inside V than any of us had suspected Not who but what what is she God grant that I may never be called upon to write the answer either here or in any official reportThere is a suggestion that Young Stencil is trying to find his own identity in V He was raised motherless having been born in 1901 which we are also told was the year Victoria diedStencil speaking in the third person says You'll ask next if he believes her to be his mother The uestion is ridiculousBut does it mean the answer is ridiculous? Does it mean we shouldn't ask the uestion? Are Stencil and Pynchon simply steering us away from the obvious or the possible? Is Pynchon suggesting that fiction at least post modern fiction need not be obliged to offer up answers that not every uest leads to its Holy Grail?I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that there's not just one V but potentially many Or at least Young Stencil finds clues as to the existence of many candidatesDoes it make any difference though? Does it matter who this particular woman this V is? Does the identity of any individual V matter when it is the what the abstraction of woman that Stencil might be seeking? Is he like us simply trying to understand womanhood in all of its complexity? Animation and AgitationWhatever the answer Stencil's uest animates and energises him Beforehand he had been inanimate His random movements before the war had given way to a great single movement from inertness to if not vitality then at least activity Work the chaseit was V he huntedFinding her what then? Only that what love there was to Stencil had become directed entirely inward toward this acuired sense of animatenessto sustain it he had to hunt V; but if he should find her where else would there be to go but back into half consciousness? He tried not to think therefore about any end to the search Approach and avoidSidney on the other hand was a spy and interrogator for the British Foreign Office whose function was to perpetuate the British Empire He regarded V as a threat to order He viewed her as an agent of chaos who in her different manifestations always arrived at a time when the world was in a state of siege She had an unerring ability to appear when the patriarchal world of Western Imperialism was under threat whether by civil war rebellion or revolutionIn a way V represents an undivided less phallocentrically structured world that unites the stability of land and the fluidity of the ocean as well as Europe and Asia West and East Woman and ManAt a generalised level V might represent the relationship between the Animate and the Inanimate between Life and Death between Eros and ThanatosThe Woman uestionIt's interesting that neither Stencil really wants to find a definitive answer to their particular woman uestion They are males and they can't see beyond an era during which men are firmly ensconced in the saddle of power and influenceThere is no preparedness to share power or to improve relationships between the sexesThe nature of womanhood is therefore a uestion that remains unsolved at the end of the novel Women remain a mystery to men perhaps because they men don't try hard enough or don't really want to understand They are unable to change their own perspective so that they might listen and learn They are content to live with the allure of mysteryIn a way what hope would there be for relationships if all of the mystery was obliterated?As Profane says towards the end of the novel Offhand I'd say I haven't learned a goddamn thingIn a way the unresolved concerns of the novel from a male point of view reflect Freud's plight The great uestion that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul is 'What does a woman want?What is to be Done?Both protagonists are selfish in their own masculine way Profane seems to be oblivious to the issue of what women might want Young Stencil is ambivalent However at least Pynchon is posing a uestion which I hope he did not view as ridiculousUltimately while it's arguable that V is a pro feminist novel I think Pynchon's view was that as at the time of writing in 1963 there was no solution to the relationship uestion in view There was uite simply to be done Perhaps the underlying truth is that unless and until man understands the place of woman in the world he will never understand his place next to womanSome perspective and hope might come from McClintic Sphere the jazz musician in the novel His counsel almost zen or beat is to keep cool but care Don't worry too hard about it just do it But try to do it with love not just lust and desireOf course the Women's Liberation Movement was only then starting to gather force However for all the good it has achieved since then I think there still remains much to be doneMaybe at the level of couples it can be done if we keep cool but careVERSEEsther Got a Nose JobAfter years of childhood miseryRed headed Esther got a nose jobOne day the doctor removed her humpAnd returned it to her in a bottleHe thought it was such a great successHe gave her another hump for freePig's StoryTask force offGibraltarMoving forwardEn route To MaltaOn tar colouredMediterraneanWaters underStars bloomingFat and sultryThe sort of nightWhen there's noTorpedoesOn the radarAnd Pig tellsUs all a storyAbout how he was Never caughtBehind the green doorThe night DoloresHeld an orgyNothing if Not ProfaneThey met mid functionAt the Rusty SpoonAlthough she's nowhereNear his age or sizeHe dreamed that he mightFind himself one nightAt the conjunctionOf her inner thighsVoila Vera MerovingAfter and Mostly in the Words of PynchonTwin tendrils of sunlightIlluminated a crimson stainIn the courtyard of the Baroue plantation villaA window swung openOn this fantastic dayTo reveal a striking woman In her forties and otherwise Barely clad in a negligeeThe hues of which werePeacock greens and bluesThe fabric transparentBut not especially obsceneOne Kurt MondaugenA crouching tiger hid behindWrought iron curlicues Astonished by his desireTo see and not be seenIf he waited long enoughA movement of the sunThis woman or the breezeIt might reveal to himA voyeur yes it might rewardHis impatient gaze his stareWith a glimpse of nippleHer navel or some pubic hairFor Want of GodolphinAfter and Mostly in the Words of PynchonVera wanted GodolphinFor reasons he Could only guessHer desire arose Out of nostalgia For the sensuousHer appetiteKnew nothing at allOf nerves or heatOr flesh or sweatOr last night’s caressBut was instead beholden Entirely to barrenTouchless memory Schoenmaker Offers to Make Esther BeautifulAfter and Mostly in the Words of PynchonYou are beautifulPerhaps not as you areBut as I see youI my love yours trulyWant to give youSomething that Is truly yoursI can bring outThe beautiful girlInside you latentThe idea of EstherAs I have done alreadyWith your face and noseDo you think me so shallowThat I would only Love your body?Don’t you want meTo love your soulThe true you?Well what is the soul?It is the idea of the bodyThe abstraction behindThe reality the perfect EstherBehind the imperfect one Here in bone and tissueJust an hour of timeIn my plastic surgeryI could bring your soulOutside to the surfaceI could make youPerfect radiantUnutterablyBeautiful and Platonically idealThen I could love youUnconditionallyTruly madly deeply dearly Who or what is V? Would love to sit here and say that I even cared It's certainly advisable to read this novel with a clear head Not the sort of book you want to sit up in bed with late at night with one eye open whilst the other one sleeps No this reuires complete and utter attention Alternatively you could forget what I just said let one's hair down grab a drink forget the plot and just be dazzled by some preposterously madcap and rollickingly eccentric passages of writing If someone passed me this book and I didn't know who had written it I would assume it was some wacko whos marble bag is a few balls sortJust because it's highly original and it truly is that doesn't mean it just gets to automatically ualify for masterpiece status Although for the hardcore Pynchon fans shouting at the screen I can fully understand if you view it that way If he really is the Godfather of postmodern hip lit then good for him I remember reading Vineland back in 2015 and it still remains the most fun I have had with a book ever This simply couldn't match it No way I even prefered Inherent Vice which oddly made much sense to me Normally I would have uit this but abnormally something keep me going but I don't uite know what is was Probably just wanting to know what lunacy was awaiting in the coming pagesOne thing I would love to give Pynchon a pat on the back for is his characters names They have to be some of the most brilliant out of the ordinary in all of literature So then what does V have that other early post war novels lack? It certainly emphasizes the creation of a sort of modern mythology which becomes apparent the further in you go Digressions of both idea and narrative here prove hard to crack most of the time it was like playing around with a device that had a ten digit code The mode of storytelling stretches far back from the postmodern era though Of course most will think Of Joyce He did it for the moderns with Ulysses writing a Homeric odyssey for a generation in which heroism lay flat on its faceV kind of reminds us that we never really made it that far away from ancient polytheism Benny Profane one of the central characters walks the streets of New York City alternating between spells of Erotic and Bacchic revelry As wanderer back from the war an archetype as old as written words Profane lacks a homeland where he might end his voyage Whilst the obsessive Herbert Stencil searching for V finds the uest for his Holy Grail undercut with the eternally unknowableHe isn't the only oneProfane and the whole sick crew blunder along tormented by drunkenness and misunderstanding and I only found a remote likability to the whole cast of players Pynchon creates characters so many of them in fact it's difficult to truly make heads or tails of any of them His world and his overstretched sentences seem bent on proving that even though the planet may be nonsensical than say Alice’s Wonderland there’s no reason we can’t have fun along the way If only I could have found this fun But another F word comes to mind Frustrating Ultimately V serves as a metaphor even for characters who aren’t at least on the surface searching for her or it She may be this person or that that country or this this down here or that over there Their crackpot epic journey always seemed to have the feel of one running blindfolded down an alley before nutting a brick wall That leaves me now to ponder over Mason and Dixon and Against the Day which some say is his best book I will likely read Vineland again though before considering one of those two 455Knowledge is a funny business Everyone pretends omniscience in the classroom but god forbid you spout off like an intellectual outside of it And then you have the subculture of people making an effort to read Pynchon in public and the other subcultures that amuse themselves at their expense The verdict seems to be know it all but please spare us from your efforts to prove itI'd sell my soul to write like this at the age of six and twenty There I admitted to lack of know how when it comes to the realm of Pynchon Of course the reference to souls might not be worth much coming from someone with no memory of being religious in any sense but I'd like to think the Catholic upbringing accredits the statement somewhat My horse may be hitched to atheism but I can still appreciate good theological diatribes with healthy roots in philosophy and literatureWhich is what I'm getting at here Roots Easily graspable statements with esoteric legs to stand on A sense of context that spans the contemporary as easily as the ancient and ties the two together in the delightfully tangible sense Ivory computers porcelain circuitry old materials caking the eternal Street from 1955's Norfolk to 1919's Malta and beyond To say the word 'automaton' and have the images of golems and cyborgs seamlessly interweave on the succeeding pages This isn't your banal tactic of cultural references and knowledge dropping at every turn I suppose I should give credit to Neal Stephenson for setting up an apparatus of tin foil and pipe cleaner to better display Pynchon's idol of ebony and titanium The desire to imitate that deceptive depth of story is understandable Not everyone can write in the style of the yo yo apex to apex apocheir to apocheir without the bottom ponderously dropping out or the string severing at the zenith or the snagging speed making the ride sickening to the stomachAnd again six and twenty 1963 In the US Did you know that this book passes the Bechdel Test? I wouldn't have believed it either least not without reading it for myself Or believed without experiencing for myself how conscious the story is of life and its seeming coincidences long lines of 'plot' drifting back and forth from immediate relevance to useless trivia It never forsakes the surface details for the underlying meaning and vice versa and there's even spots of real humor and true beauty to be found It's a rare talent that belies Pynchon's youth to describe the passions that drive the intricate clockwork of the small days and contextualize them in the themes that have do and will span for millenia And to switch from one to the other without any noticeable jerks or shuddering It makes one uestion the validity of the categories of knowledge that we function in conventional discourse that so many gain use of by sacrificing the essence of their critical thinking Puzzle pieces guaranteeing a pretty picture inherently forsaking its right to a blank canvas Events seem to be ordered into an ominous logic It repeated itself automatically and Stencil improved on it each time placing emphasis on different words events seem; seem to be ordered; ominous logic pronouncing them differently changing the tone of voice from sepulchral to jaunty round and round and round Events seem to be ordered into an ominous logic So knowledge? Pynchon has it and shows it in endless waves of connective tissues I don't claim to understand all of it But I have to thank him for my new found way of thinking about this reading business of mine my yo yoing along the V shaped tracks of books like his picking up bits and pieces with every passing over the same old stomping grounds There's a surface of tin cans and plastic rubbish in those lands and a wind whistling of ages past that sounds all the clearer the longer you walk You can walk forward and you can walk back but to tread the same way twice is an impossibility for better or for worse So I opted to tango once with Thomas The results are a mix of the same frustrations I had with the first 150 pages of Gravity’s Rainbow dropped thereafter and a newfound appreciation for the most famous maximilist’s skill for writing sentences of incredible inventiveness rhythm and frenetic lunacy After 300 odd pages of this novel the niggles new and old returned—the introduction of innumerable madcap characters and their endless zing flinging dialogue in the same voice; the overabundance of plots and their incoherent seeming natures; the constant battle to nail a lucid understanding of every third or fifth sentence; the repeated use of ‘whaa’ in the mouth of too many characters; the painstaking detail and brilliance of contextless scenes that could not be appreciated without sufficient foregrounding or a roadmap; the guilt at feeling ennui when so much is happening on the page that screams ‘appreciate this’; the screwball humour that lapses into searing pain through excess—and reading to the end turned to work On the plus side for the first 300 odd pages I was zipping along on Thomas’s often divine prose style allowing myself to be taken into weird and wonderful places regardless of their driftless seeming drift and for a few days I at last had a window into what ecstasy the Thomas fanboys experience when reading their man It went many many places and somehow also nowhere and for a little while I ‘liked’ Thomas Pynchon Triumph The uest for V sweeps us through sixty years and a panorama of Alexandria Paris Malta Florence Africa and New York But who where or what is V Bawdy sometimes sad and freuently hilarious V as become a modern classicThis is the first novel by the author of Gravity's Rainbow and a profoundly impressive and original work in its own right I propose that the titular V is neither a person nor a place but a prepositionWhat really is personal than a first novel? It's that all or nothing balls to the wall debut effort that can either send a fledgling writer plummeting to dream shattering depths with an effort that falls flat for any number of reasons or it can be the inaugural celebration all starry eyed young scribes dare to hope for that which heralds a staggering new talent to a canon populated by the many great wordslingers who've scribbled their way to well deserved immortality For argument's sake we'll work under the assumption that those flimsy flavor of the month bestsellers that are so in vogue for their seemingly eternal 15 minutes will in time be forgotten and written off as yet another regrettable mistake born of groupthink's lapse in judgment while these truly remarkable feats of literature persist through the agesIf one is to write what one knows how daunting must it be to know so much about such a wide range of complicated topics minute historical details of a time one either never experienced or was simply too young to fully digest regardless of youthful precociousness; engineering euations reuiring mathematical acrobatics and a than adeuate grasp on physics; an insider's take on the naval experience; an innate understanding of how to perfectly mix high minded concepts and lowbrow humor with a dash of poetic lyric and attempt to whittle it all down into a tome that won't crush potential readers under the weight of both the volume itself and the awe inspiring ideas roiling within?The little we do know about literature's most elusive enigma points to pieces of Pynchon being flung along the narrative's parade route like confetti adding flashes of biographical color to his intricately structured and beautifully written first novel that pits the animate against the inanimate and the internal self against the external veneer and has the best ever bonus of an Ayn Rand stand in reduced to baby talk in the presence of a pwecious widdle kittums cat? Aside from what can only be thinly veiled allusions to his Cornell days with Richard Fariña and their cult of Warlock regarding the Generation of '37 And we did like to use Elizabethan phrases in our speech; A farewell celebration for Maratt on the eve of his marriage; Dnubietna leapt up on the table upsetting glasses knocking the bottle to the floor screaming Go to caitiff It became the cant phrase for our set go to; The pre war University years were probably as happy as he described and the conservation as good to say nothing of the nod to a novel called Existential Sheriff the internal conflicts of the writer seem to be scattered throughout V like a breadcrumb trail back to the source himselfBecause Pynchon has be one conflicted dude To be a notoriously private man juggling such derision for the spotlight with the compulsion to write for unseen but rabid fans to churn out maddeningly densely obscure works that are nevertheless guaranteed to meet both critical and commercial success and increase sales of Excedrin in the following months to posses such finely tuned right and left brains that he can be considered nothing less than an engineer poet in his own right to walk such a fine line between historical fictions and fictional histories is it any wonder that a man so in touch with dueling perspectives would build his first novel on the foundation of This v That? A phrase it often happened when he was exhausted kept cycling round and round preconsciously just under the threshold of lip and tongue movement Events seem to be ordered into an ominous logic It repeated itself automatically and Stencil improved on it each time placing emphasis on different words events seem; seem to be ordered; ominous logic pronouncing them differently changing the tone of voice from sepulchral to jaunty round and round and round Events seem to ordered into an ominous logic He found paper and pencil and began to write the sentence in varying hands and type facesAs wartime paranoia obsessiveness elusiveness and ambiguity all seem to be trademark characteristics of Thomas Pynchon's epic narratives it's easy enough for the reader to constantly stumble upon these intentionally scattered meta clues Because his novels cover such a broad realm of subjects while proposing a very uniue and humorous philosophy of history the connections and transitions of V's hodgepodge of vignettes concerning a rich tapestry of characters struggling with both World Wars becomes and apparent as the story reaches its conclusion Overall this passage seems to function as an accurate metaphor for what it feels like to read VWith his eagerly anticipated seventh novel coming out in August of this year V now stands as one of his accessible works not to mention a fascinating example of his writing to look back upon in retrospect Benny Profane is the archetypal Pynchonian schlemihl; an endearing protagonist merely trying to get by as the rest of the world struggles obsessively with finding existential meaning in a universe full of closed systems Tyrone Slothrop of Gravity's Rainbow would later act as a carefully constructed version of this character While it's true that not all of Pynchon's protagonists are slackers simply looking for a good time they still function as tour guides who offer a or less objective view of the events taking place Even Herbert Stencil who exists as sort of an opposite of Profane still shares a set of common characteristics namely humility or humanity Call it what you willWe follow Profane after just getting out of the navy living in New York He falls in with a crowd of bohemians and drifters referred to as the Whole Sick Crew This group resembles the social crowd in the Recognitions as well as characters belonging to any standard party scene in a beat novel albeit far tolerable and acting as intentional parodies Profane loafs around finds a job hunting alligators in the sewers of New York After shooting Stencil in the ass on one of his jobs characters enter the picture and we are introduced to Stencil's obsessive uest to find the elusive V a sort of character that his father before him had been fascinated with From there the narrative drifts back and forth between historical episodes set during the tail end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th Pynchon's sympathies have always been directed at the marginalized poor oppressed idealistic liberal etc Even when he sketches portraits of his capitalist fascist hateful villains he still manages to show their early development from wide eyed idealistic dreamer to avaricious monster while avoiding a sort of idealistic bias because he presents the reader with the inherent weakness and hypocrisy of his liberal heroes just as well Gaddis did the same thing with Wyatt Gwyon and Edward Bast albeit both met morbid Faustian ends V functions as a metaphor for the late twentieth century synthetic dehumanization which has now become one of the blatant examples of postmodern theorizing but in 1961 this all must have read as of a prescient idea Several episodes in the book as ambiguous as they are sort of portray her as an unattainable object of desire The fourth chapter entitled In Which Esther Gets a Nose Job is the earliest introduction to this theme Naturally Shoenmaker the man who performs this operation later to become her insensitive lover is the first sort of villain to appear Robots modeled after humans appear later on Profane has a particularly profound and hilarious conversation with one of them Pynchon utilizes this theme as a way of revealing how human beings desire this sort of mechanical empty ontology as a way of escaping their own horrific human condition Once again this is why Profane's character is so very important He exemplifies the human spirit In his lackadaisical approach to life he achieves what is of the utmost importance to Pynchon The ability to merely exist and deal regardless of whatever sort of astronomical terror will abound Another reason why his own uniue brand of historical fiction functions so well What's horrifying than the first half of the twentieth century? Thomas Pynchon twenty six years old first novel twenty six first novel twenty six?Reads like The Adventures of Tintin on hallucinogens Full of great comic scenes mixed with political espionage and paranoia amidst philosophical comments on the nature of politics religion death time sexuality and war V is undeniably complex and I can admit that there were moments of mind numbing confusion but the book is so beautifully written that you just go for the ride It's a haunting and freuently hilarious postmodern satire V to me represents enlightenment or finality The uest itself is a long journey hence the time and globe spanning nature of the story The book itself is like a series of interconnecting short stories that sweeps through the majestic settings of New York Paris Malta Egypt Africa and Alexandria The nature of V seems nurturing motherly and caring in times of stress and suffering Pynchon is operating on a metaphysical plain where particles and matter can be seen and felt and the world is different from our own 2020 vision V is eventually seen felt and experienced for those who are willing to take the necessary steps Too many times are we fed little slices of fear from the characters who contemplate the nature of dying growing old separation from mans ignorance These men in search of V are in some way in search of an ego death to cure their fears in the face of God a maternal presence of spirit a being of upmost enlightenmentObviously there is so much packed into this near 500 page novel but that's what I got out of it first time around Political theory is examined extensively through different countries and characters Sexuality and youth seems prevalent within The Whole Sick Crew There are some comments on the Christian Church and Christianity in general Freudian psychology science and mathematics pop up and colonialism is touched on as wellOr you could be a schlemihl and take Benny Profane's approach I haven't learned a godammn thing Although not nearly as perfect as some of his later works there are many traces of Pynchon's genius in this novel It is not as drug induced decadent or heartbreaking as Gravity's Rainbow nor is it as beautiful ambitious or creative as Mason Dixon not to mention as impressively human or historically conscious as Against the Day Pynchon's writing in this early novel though showing early incarnations of his later works seems unrefined and confused There are so called Pynchon sentences here but none as decisive or as wonderful as in his later writings in which almost every page is stacked full of incredibly sharp yet long and haunting passages Most significant in Pynchon's later writing is his incredible writing on the movement of social and political structures and mechanisms In other words Pynchon's later writing is dynamic; things and people move in Pynchon's world and the movement feels significant as if it reflects on the movement of things and people in real life; a movement that is hard for us to grasp unless it is written by Pynchon's genius pen That being said V is a very good book I really enjoyed it There are some incredibly funny passages specifically some about alligator hunting in the New York sewers and some interesting passages on Malta Many of Pynchon's later thematic concerns appear in V such as automata transhumanism war capitalism historicity truth and most important Love but none of those thematic concerns seem as important as in his later novels given the fact that Pynchon had not found his artistic style yet I haven't often been as excited to start a new book as I was to start V Daddy's first Pynchon I was eager and abuzz for a while the man has been adjective ized for crying out loud Consider the greats that have that honor Dickensian Kafkaesue Vonnegut y What in the world does it mean to be Pynchonian? I couldn't wait to find out And reading Pynchon's first novel felt like a good place to startBased on V I'd say reading Pynchon feels dense and dream like There's a lot of surreal weirdness and an overarching ambiguity that you must embrace to move forward Things aren't plot driven so much as mood driven; characters and scenes wash over you wave like Here is a world of shark toothed sailors bohemian subway performers girls in need of nose jobs captivating clocks international espionage sewer alligators and oracular skeletons Sentence by sentence Pynchon's writing is dazzling I started dog earing examples I might point to and uickly found myself marking every other page feeling for all the world like an entomologist describing the diverse jeweled shells of some species of beetleSnow fell in tiny glittering pinpoints the alley held its own curious snowlight turning Pig to black and white clown's motley and ancient brick walls dusted with snow to neutral gray 15He walked; walked he thought sometimes the aisles of a bright gigantic supermarket his only function to want 31Was it home the mercury lit street? Was he returning like the elephant to his graveyard to lie down and soon become ivory in whose bulk slept latent exuisite shapes of chessmen backscratchers hollow open work Chinese spheres nested one inside the other? 35It was a desire he got off and on to be cruel and feel at the same time sorrow so big it filled him leaked out his eyes and the holes in his shoes to make one big pool of human sorrow on the street which had everything spilled on it from beer to blood but very little compassion 149Uptown was a bleak district with no identity where a heart never does anything so violent or final as break merely gets increased tensile compressive shear loads piled on it bit by bit every day till eventually these and its own shudderings fatigue it 158For that moment at least they seemed to give up external plans theories and codes even the inescapable romantic curiosity about one another to indulge in being simply and purely young to share that sense of the world's affliction that outgoing sorrow at the spectacle of Our Human Condition which anyone this age regards as reward or gratuity for having survived adolescence 216Taken one after another these elegant sentences have a soporific effect so that by the bottom of a page it may be hard to hold onto what you read at the top Certainly this is not a novel to rush through and one that can frustrate with its jangling jazz like composition But if you trust Pynchon to set the pace and follow along enjoying what's laid out immediately before you this is a remarkable novel deep and thoughtful in a way unlike most I've read before And as it continues on an impressive sort of craftwork is revealed in the structure that amplifies the meaning45 stars out of 5 Truly a massive talent but there is a streak of juvenalia here and some wholesale repeating of phrases which highlights the fact that this is Pynchon's first novel It's a bit rough or strained in a few spots plus there's a strange and repetitive tendency to include song lyrics Still what a debut I thought of it as an artistically crafted piece of entertainment than an entertaining art piece if you catch my hair splitting drift but then smack there comes into this rollicking montage of characters and patchwork of conversations some profound insight into art society humankind I am eager to read of his oeuvre to see what's come after he refined a bit Read in 2017 the twenty second book of my Alphabetical Reading Challenge V


About the Author: Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr is an American writer based in New York City noted for his dense and complex works of fiction Hailing from Long Island Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s he began composing the novels for which he is best known today V 1963


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