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V. (Perennial Classics) Paperback – July 5, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Having just been released from the Navy, Benny Profane is content to lead a slothful existence with his friends, where the only real ambition is to perfect the art of "schlemihlhood," or being a dupe, and where "responsibility" is a dirty word. Among his pals--called the Whole Sick Crew--is Slab, an artist who can't seem to paint anything other than cheese danishes. But Profane's life changes dramatically when he befriends Stencil, an active ambitious young man with an intriguing mission--to find out the identity of a woman named V., who knew Stencil's father during the war, but who suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"This work may well stand as one of the very best works of the century." -- "Atlantic Review""Filled with wild humor, intentive wordplay and a darkly imaginative power."-- "Philadelphia Inquirer""[A] brilliant and turbulent first novel." -- George Plimpton, "New York Times Book Review""[L]eaves the imagination spent and the mind reeling." -- "New York Herald Tribune"

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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (July 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060930217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060930219
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott Esposito on September 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although not quite unique, Thomas Pynchon's approach to narration is extremely unusual. Often he seems to drone on in endless detail. At times his books read like a description of a vaudeville slapstick routine. Commonly, narrative structure, presumably at the heart of most novels, seems abandoned, or even purposely ignored. The upshot of this is that Thomas Pynchon's novels are strange, and decidedly not for everyone.
Of course the flip side is that for those who find Pynchon to their liking he is a rare treat, an intriguing enigma that you simply cannot stop talking about. Such is the case with V., a novel that over the years has shown a propensity to spark almost endless debate. Ostensibly it is the story of two men, Stencil and Benny Profane. Benny spends the greater part of the novel tramping around New York City with his friends, the Whole Sick Crew, generally not doing much of anything except procrastinating and running through various jobs and friends. Stencil spends most of the novel a quest of sorts, using a unique technique to track down details about an elusive and mysterious woman known only as V.
It has been noted that it is a technique of Pynchon's to surround the reader in layer after layer of detail and leave her to ferret out some sense; V. is certainly in keeping with that tradition. Wrapped up in this book is enough social critique, pop culture, historical theory, hilarious humor, and prediction of the future to make the reader's head spin like the roulette wheel at a casino. Rather than a shortcoming, this overwhelming downpour of data is one of the best parts of V., as there is just enough cohesion among the disparate elements that certain associations, even theories, can be developed. But are the associations really there or just in the reader's head?
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Format: Paperback
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.
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1 Comment 54 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
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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