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V.


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex, Dazzling, Fantastic
Elusive author Thomas Pynchon's 1961 debut novel is a truly fantastic achievement. That is, fantastic not in an entirely positive sense, but more in a 'stand back in astonishment' sense, since it is a work of remarkable maturity, virtuosity and energy, and with a scope, level of invention and diversity of characters that most authors will never come close to mirroring...
Published 19 months ago by Keith M

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Like I said difficulty or style is not a deterrent ...
I struggle with Pynchon; it's not the complexity or focus it requires, it is the over-stylization. There are pages and pages of meanderings that even over the length of the whole book have no relevance. For me his stories suffer for his need to reinvent narrative. Like I said difficulty or style is not a deterrent for me- I am a big fan of David Foster Wallace, and I will...
Published 19 days ago by Tomyu


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex, Dazzling, Fantastic, 4 Feb 2013
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: V. (Paperback)
Elusive author Thomas Pynchon's 1961 debut novel is a truly fantastic achievement. That is, fantastic not in an entirely positive sense, but more in a 'stand back in astonishment' sense, since it is a work of remarkable maturity, virtuosity and energy, and with a scope, level of invention and diversity of characters that most authors will never come close to mirroring. Purely a work of fiction, but referencing real-life characters and events, Pynchon's novel essentially contains two main narrative streams (although within these there are numerous sub-plots) - that of, ex-sailor, Benny Profane and the antics of his gang of New York associates, The Whole Sick Crew, and that of elderly traveller and son of British Foreign Office man, Herbert Stencil, who is embarked on a worldwide search for the mysterious V (almost certainly a woman, who or may not have been involved in a pre-Great War political conspiracy).

Pynchon's writing is bursting with exuberance throughout as his two main protagonists' paths cross in New York in 1956, and they come to realise that they have elements of shared history. Along the way, Pynchon's kaleidoscopic tale throws up more questions than answers, taking in historical events in New York (including an hilarious sequence hunting alligators in the sewers), Florence, Paris, South-West Africa and Malta, and postulating possible identities for his title 'character', including Victoria Wren, Venezuela, Valetta, Vheissu, Veronica (the rat) and Vera Meroving. For me, I found the 'contemporary' American sections most entertaining and compelling, although Pynchon also captures the early/mid-20th century English social and political sensibility perfectly.

From a narrative perspective, V is certainly far from an easy read, whilst stylistically I would compare it to the likes of (at their most extravagant) Philip Roth, Anthony Burgess, Iain Sinclair, Will Self and perhaps even Joyce. Therefore, whilst there are many compelling and hilarious passages, as a whole, I think it is probably too ambitious for its own good, although I also suspect that its complexities could be increasingly assimilated on repeat readings. In this vein, one thing I would recommend is to try to read it within say less than 10 sittings and a similar number of elapsed days (many more than this and the narrative thread(s) will quite likely get lost!).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Like I said difficulty or style is not a deterrent ..., 31 Aug 2014
This review is from: V. (Paperback)
I struggle with Pynchon; it's not the complexity or focus it requires, it is the over-stylization. There are pages and pages of meanderings that even over the length of the whole book have no relevance. For me his stories suffer for his need to reinvent narrative. Like I said difficulty or style is not a deterrent for me- I am a big fan of David Foster Wallace, and I will be starting The brothers Karamazov next- it's just that I found myself scanning large phases of the book without losing any grasp of the plot.
I had read Vineland prior to this and have been curious about Gravity's rainbow and Mason & Dixon, but I think I am done with Thomas Pynchon now.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Always another level to be discovered..., 2 Dec 2008
By 
T. Gregory (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: V. (Paperback)
If I have one thing to say about reading Thomas Pynchon, it's this: that by the time I finish reading one of his books, I'm sure that I'd understand more of it if I started now. In fact, I tend to start to feel this from part way through. This tends to be for two reasons: the first is that it takes a long time to get through the books. They're very dense, a lot happens, and it's not necessarily connected in ways you might expect. The second is that the guy is so incredibly bright and has in-depth knowledge in so many fields, that, halfway through reading a book, I will normally notice a reference to something I've only just found out about (be it anything from Caesar as God to specific integrations in mathematics).
I've so far read three of Pynchon's novels: Vineland, Gravity's Rainbow and V. V often seems a precursor to G.R., although it's an awful lot easier to keep track of the characters in this book than the other! Basically, if you enjoyed G.R., you'll enjoy this as more of the same, but you may miss some of the depth of the former. Compared with Vineland, however, this is a much more intricate book, less action-based, but with the same wit and attention to detail that makes that novel so enjoyable.
I've given this book four out of five as opposed to the full five mainly on the basis that it's hard work to read. If you're expecting that (which, with Pynchon, you should, really!) then that's clearly not a problem, and you should dive in. If you haven't read Pynchon before, note that it's very rewarding but an awful lot happens in a relatively small number of pages, there are a lot of different characters whose stories occasionally intertwine, and you can either take notes and try to keep track of what's going on, or just go with the flow and enjoy the ride. I have to admit, that so far I've only done the latter!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 9 Oct 2013
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: V. (Kindle Edition)
I'd heard of Pynchon for years but never got around to reading him until now. I need to read this again it was so epic. But first, Gravity's Rainbow. -a new fan
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, schizophrenic book., 22 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: V. (Paperback)
V is an unholy marriage between two different stories. Benny Profane is a beatnik who hangs around New York with a bunch of scoundrels called the Whole Sick Crew. Herbert Stencil is bent on proving that history has been driven by the letter V. The result of the combination is a book with more scope than you can imagine would fit into 450 pages. The book careens around the darkest and most colourful episodes of history by turns. Pynchon has his fingers in so many different pies that he manages to connect a huge spectrum of groups and experiences, and you're left with a jaw-droppingly global, if madcap, perspective, on what it means to be around in the second half of this century: 'Be cool, but care.'
Follow the participants in the V spree as they savour the thrills of Suck Hour in the Rusty Spoon, pursue alligators through labyrinthine New York sewers where a deranged Father once sought to convert rats to Christianity, and realise that a desert siege party is the worst of all places in which to attempt to monitor alien emissions...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twists and turns and twists and turns., 16 Feb 2004
This review is from: V (Picador Books) (Paperback)
I read Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon", and wanted to read more of this wonderful author's work. This is an incredible tale, stretching over thousands of miles and decades. The Pynchon style is not for everyone, but is character development is second to none, and his ability to go off on tangents in order to add depth without losing track of the plot in great. If you want you mind stretched and be entertained in the process, then maybe it's time that you went looking for "V".
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine literary prose and incredible characterisation., 24 Feb 2004
This review is from: V (Mass Market Paperback)
If you look carefully on Amazon, you’ll find more books ABOUT the writings of Thomas Pynchon than you will BY Thomas Pynchon. He seems to be the writer of choice for critics, literary analysts and scholars alike. That aside, you cannot question the depth of this man’s writing talent, and V is a great example.
I think that many people who read this book will find it a chore, and eventually wont “get” the story. It twists and turns and at times goes off on tangents that dare to keep the readers attention. Sure, it’s hard going at times, but worth every word. The character development is unconventional, but thorough. The art of the scenes and the situations (and the whole sick crew!) is immaculate. As the story draws to a close the pieces fit together beautifully and create 20th century literary classic.
A companion to this book (as with all of TP books) is available, but treat the book as a separate item, and don’t taint it with over analysis.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the attention, 26 April 2012
This review is from: V. (Paperback)
I bought V a couple of months ago and have only just found time to give it the attention it deserves. The ideal opportunity for this was a recent long-haul holiday. V is a complex, intricate and densely detailed novel which requires the reader to remember a large number of plotlines, characters and backstories. I had a similar feeling about the first episode of Boardwalk Empire and the film Gosford Park - at first it seems a bewildering amount is being thrown at you, but it doesn't actually take long to get properly acquainted with the worlds being presented. I enjoyed V very much and was still thinking about it the day after reading. It is in places hilarious, disturbing and sad, and overall a very satisfying read.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels we have, 8 Nov 2006
By 
galloping george (San Francisco, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: V. (Paperback)
I can't add much to what's already been said about Pynchon. He is one of my three or four favorite living writers all of whom have something in common and all of whom, I guess, are about the same age == MICHAEL MOORCOCK (whose War Amongst the Angels books are no more 'sci fi' than Pynchon's), DON DELILLO (who is maybe the best of them overall) and J.G.BALLARD (whose latest books aren't 'sci fi' either). There is something about these writers' sensibility, their grasp on modern times, that makes them constantly rereadable. I couldn't tell you who was the best, but I could suggest you try reading them one after the other. If you do, you will wind up knowing more about our present day than when you started. If you're unfamiliar with these writers, I'd suggest you start with this one, then try Players by DeLillo, The Atrocity Exhibition by Ballard and Blood and The War Amongst the Angels by Moorcock. I don't think there's ever been a better time to be reading novels. V will prove it.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living with and without imaginative power in the 20th century, 22 Sep 2010
This review is from: V. (Paperback)
Pynchon creates three overlapping worlds in V. The first features Benny Profane, a beer-bellied slacker in the mid 1950's, who stays in touch with his navy buddies while he lives in Manhattan, hunts alligators in the sewers, and drinks heavily with a young intellectual crowd that talks only in proper nouns. His second world features Sidney Stencil, a British spy who vanished in 1919, and his son Herbert, who was born in 1901 and relentlessly seeks the story of his father's death. The Pynch's third world is articulated most clearly by Fausto Maijstral, a poet born in 1919 who tells stories of love and guilt in a long lyrical letter (and confession) to his daughter.

At some point, each of these characters is affected by Victoria Wren, a British woman (born in 1880) who is drawn to espionage, sadomasochistic sex, and sexual fetishes. While their connections to Victoria--that is, V.--range from comical and weird (Benny sees her mad influence in the sewers) to profound (Fausto witnesses her death), V. has the greatest effect on the intensely imaginative Herbert Stencil, who has dedicated his life to learning about V. and her interaction with his father. This search for V. is the heartbeat in Pynchon's book.

In writing V., the Pynch creates a sharp contrast between the slacker world of Benny Profane and imaginative worlds of the Stencils and the poet Maijstral. In making this contrast, Pynchon shows a world of superficial and arbitrary affiliation for Benny, which is a not-inaccurate rendering of life for people living extended adolescences. (Believe me; I know.) Meanwhile, the worlds of the Stencils and Maijstral are beautiful, deep, and subtle, although the practical Sidney Stencil, a spy, is focused on finding the pattern in events that may or may not threaten British interests. Regardless, the many chapters featuring the perspectives of these characters are fascinating and show great imaginative power.

At the same time, Pynchon threads all his chapters with a single theme: inanimate objects and their capacity to enter our imaginations. At times, the effects of the inanimate in V. are harmless and familiar. The character Rachel, for example, is enamored with her sports car. At other times, the imaginative power of inanimate objects warps the mind, with V. finding self-destructive uses for cosmetic surgery and prosthetics. This fascination with inanimate objects also leads to what is another's character's suicide or murder. Only Benny is immune from this power.

V. is Pynchon's first novel. But is it the best place to start reading the fiction of this truly talented writer? Well, many Pynchoneers will disagree. But, I'd start with Vineland, where the Pynch's playfulness, mastery of form, concern with family, and awareness of the dark side are easily accessible, as well as sometimes hilarious. Next, I'd try Mason and Dixon, which, in my reading, weaves together 78 short stories, many of them masterworks, creating a narrative about a meaningful friendship (and everything else). Then, I'd read the books on whim, using Inherent Vice, Pynchon's mystery featuring a doper PI, as a change of pace. You can't miss with any of these novels (although I must say that Pynchon makes more of his slacker characters in his later books).

Regardless, V., which published in 1963, remains completely fresh and imaginatively engaging and is highly recommended.
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V.
V. by Thomas Pynchon (Paperback - 16 Feb 1995)
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