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Paperback V. Book

ISBN: 0060930217

ISBN13: 9780060930219


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Book Overview

"This work may well stand as one of the very best works of the century." --Atlantic ReviewAcclaimed writer Thomas Pynchon's wild, macabre tale of the twentieth century and of two men--one looking for something he has lost, the other with nothing much to lose--and "V.," the unknown woman of the title.Pynchon's debut novel follows discharged Navy sailor Benny Profane as he reconnects with an eclectic collection of artists...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Very, very funny novel

Must break into the SERIOUS debate about this books merit by interjecting that this is, first and foremost, a very funny book. Just hilarious, on whatever level you prefer to read it at. Benny Profane indeed! I was an economics major, not a lit major, that probably helps me enjoy it, as I can readily choose to skip the "layers of meaning" that apparently must be front and forward to the literary types here. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much. Okay, not for Stephen King fans, certainly not for Danielle Steele fans, you do need the basic triple digit IQ to get past page 30. But you do not have to search for themes and meaning to enjoy this fine read, I swear. Not as accessible as Vineland, perhaps, but a lot easier reading than Gravities Rainbow, or the spotty and difficult Mason & Dixon. In V, the young Pynchon shows his early genius and wit. Confession: I have not actually read this book in about 8 years, that was my third reading, but I suspect that if it wasn't dated in 1997, after being written in 1960, it isn't dated now.

Who, or what, is V.?

Benny Profane is an ex-Navy, semi-fat self-proclaimed schlemihl with a compulsion to the inanimate and a seeming inability to get laid. In a process Profane calls "yo-yoing," going back and forth up the Atlantic Coast, Profane finds himself in the heart of New York enmeshed in a group of would-be Bohemians self-titled The Whole Sick Crew, of which some write 1,000 page romance epics incorporating a "Heroic Love" theory and others are Catatonic Expressionist painters who are seemingly capable of only painting Cheese Danishes.In the Crew there is an old man named Stencil, who is searching. Fueled by a cryptic journal entry of his father, Stencil is hunting for the identity of a woman named V. Is it a woman? Could it be Victoria Wren? Vera Meroving? Veronica the sewer rat? Could it be a place, such as Vheissu? Valletta? Or could it be, say, a V-2 rocket? Is it anything at all? Stencil must know.So, we are transported by Pynchon to various locales all over the world in different times to discover the mystery of V.; through an assassination attempt in Cairo, a cabal to steal the Birth of Venus in Florence, a V-2 rocket maker's flashback during a siege to Sudwestafrikan massacres of the Herero and Hottentot tribes, to World War II in Malta. Pynchon opens up his literary career with a bang, and V. is just as encyclopedic, confusing, and awesome as his other, later books are. In true Pynchon fashion the book is loaded with information, some of which is irrelevant to the plot, and is themes of entropy and paranoia are present.My favorite parts of the book were the sections on Benny Profane and his adventures with The Whole Sick Crew. Every chapter with Profane was macabre and hilarious; in this book I had a couple instances of laughing out loud. Pynchon wrote these sections with vibrancy and life, and situations such as Alligator Hunting and Suck Hour are zany, weird inventions of his own humor. The flashbacks are different. Not nearly as many humorous instances, and when you first read them you wonder how this one has to do with anything prior. After you get around that barrier you have to actually understand the flashback, as Pynchon wrote all of these in a style that kind of just throws you in the middle of the time/place, leaving you to figure out what is going on. And once you do, the flashbacks are great. Not all of the flashbacks were to my liking (I thought they generally got more bland in the latter half of the book), but once I finished the book I realized that all of the flashbacks were important parts of the story, and one less would have worsened the novel. Before you realize how awesome this book is and want to rush out and buy it, be forewarned that it can be very confusing at times, especially if you have no prior Pynchon experience. This is not the book to be introduced to Pynchon with. Even if you have read Pynchon, certain flashbacks are laced with Deutsch, French, Italian, Spanish, and some go into obscure philosophical ramblings and M

Post-Modernist Classic For People Who Hate Post-Modernism

It took me months of on and off reading to slog through this book the first time. The day I finished it, I tossed it on a shelf, grumbled "What was that?"...and started reading it again later that day. I've read it six times since, each time with growing pleasure at the intelligence, humor, characters, and the understanding that there can be American novels as art that are accessible to any reasonably intelligent reader. Not an Oprah book, no simple answers, or simple questions, but a meaty, densely-described view of a post-war world of ennui and aimlessness. Written around the Beat era, it's like a science fiction novel written by Tom Wolfe and David Foster Wallace, or a mainstream novel by Samuel R. Delany, Edgar Allan Poe and Vladimir Nabokov. You'll probably hate it, think about it for months and, like me, keep rereading it over the years.Oh, and it's a lot of fun, too.

The Systemized Dehumanization of Society

As far as I'm concerned, V, the enigmatic understated protagonist in Pynchon's first novel defies pigeonholing, and those readers who expect to be paid off for simply moving their eyes across the page, investing the same intellectual capital that might sustain a made for TV movie, will be sadly disappointed. Yes, Pynchon, like Joyce, Burgess, Borges, T.S. Eliot, Faulkner, et al., forces the reader to think, and for any genuine understanding, the reader must work, must do research, must have some basic knowledge of the references, must not be afraid to translate, for example, Schoenmacher into beauty maker and Mondaugen into moon eyes. A book like this challenges the reader rather than simply attempting to entertain him with a good yarn. So if you don't like word puzzles or obscure symbolism then stay away. If however veiled references to Stravinsky's Rites of Spring and how the WWII icon "Kilroy" originated and the mechanics of yo-yo-ing intrigues you, then plunge in.The book is ostensibly about Herbert Stencil's quest to discover the identity of a mysterious woman who makes several appearances in his father's journal, but it's really Stencil's quest to understand his father (in German father is Vater) and perhaps, ultimately, to find himself. Also, there are the colorful escapades of the Whole Sick Crew, the group that Herbert hangs with, including Benny Profane, a navyman, and Rachel Hourglass who has a fetish for her automobile.In a sense, fetishism, fondness for things, is the gist of the book; everytime V. appears she has one more artificial limb, or glass eye. She is less human and more thing, and perhaps this is what Pynchon is saying about the twentieth century and the World Wars that helped to shape it. In another sense the subject of the book is defined by its negative space. The holocaust and concentration camps of WWII are never discussed, but the theme of man's inhumanity to man is so central that the lack of mention seems intentional.Finally, however, V. comes to mean so many things more than just the systemized dehumanization of modern man: Vanishing Point, Vector, Velocity, Verboten, and Vater are but a few of the many possibles (see Alan Moore's V is for Vendetta for more)so that it becomes impossible to capture who and what V. really is. Like Moby Dick she is everything and nothing. Worth reading and re-reading for those who are more concerned with literary content then a good story.

History, Technology and Alligators--V. is one great book!

Thomas Pynchon's first book V. is one of the great books of the last 50 years. It is a book that is filled with symbol and meaning and portent. At the simplest level it is a story about Benny Profane, a poor "schlemil" whose pathetic life is filled with almost surreal adventures that lead him to gangs and love and alligators in the sewers! But Benny's adventures become inexplicablyintertwined with those of Stencil and the mysterious V. And therein lies the great challenge and great pleasure of Pynchon. There is a search to discover meaning and perhaps to discover one's own history. Pynchon's tale leads back to the diplomatic intrique preceding World War I and somehow connects us with the misadventures of Benny. And all the while, like some great mystery thriller in reverse, the deeper one gets into V., the more information that is revealed, the more complex the mystery becomes. Indeed, the thrill of Pynchon is to become ensnared in that mystery and try to find meaning in that complex and interconnected web. Ultimately, perhaps, like all the great questions in life, the question of the meaning of who V. is and the meaning of the book itself may never be answer. But the power of this novel is that it draws you in to consider that mystery. The book, somehow, finds connections between the great historical events of the beginning of this century and several generations of characters who themselves are all interconnected and the ever-changing technology of this century. Is V. a mysterious woman, a cause of the wars of this century or the essential meaninglessness of modern society? Read V. and discover that answer for yourself!
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