"It takes, unhappily, no more than a desk and writing supplies to turn any room into a confessional. This may have nothing to do with acts we have committed, or the humours we do go in and out of. It may be only the room- a cube- having no persuasive power of its own. The room simply is. To occupy it, and find a metaphor there for memory, is our own fault...no apologia is any more than a romance- half a fiction...so we do sell our souls : paying them away to history in little installments. It isn't so much to pay for eyes clear enough to see past the fiction of continuity, the fiction of cause and effect, the fiction of a humanized History endowed with Reason." (Thomas Pynchon, V., p.224-226)
The events of this novel (which in some way serves as a prelude to Gravity's Rainbow) overlap into a story about the secretive sphere of international relations, Chinese-box complexity of alternative history, inhumanity of colonialism and, of course, how to hunt albino alligators in the sewers of NYC. The novel's structure is actually quite similar to Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, insofar as two plotlines, one historical and one contemporaneous are unfolding alternately, yet the same families are involved. Herbert Stencil, the novel's protagonist living in NYC, c. 1957 is increasingly tired and bored of Manhattan finery and city life. A series of strange events spur a sequence of memories and reflections for Stencil, and he soon begins to search for traces of his mysterious vanished father, an agent of the British Foreign Service in the tense years leading up to the First World War. Stencil finds in his father's diaries strange references to a woman named V. :
"Florence, April, 1899 . . . There is more behind and inside V. than any of us had suspected. Not who, but what: what is she . . . connected . . . with one of those grand conspiracies or foretastes of Armageddon..."
At this point the novel spirals back into that period, and Stencil's father is found undertaking a parallel search, for the mysterious woman known only as V. As with most of Pynchon's narratives, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the historical fact from his imagined fiction, or the paranoia of his characters from the actual events happening around them. However, the story itself and dialogue are fantastically funny. Herbert's best advice, for example, come not from his friends (who are too drunk to be bothered with him) but an intelligent prototype crash test dummy. The elusive V., as Stencil's father discovers after tracking her trail to Malta, may or may not be some sort of automata or cyborg. As Rick Moody (a fan of Pynchon) wrote, "The action of the novel goes as far afield as turn-of-the-century Egypt, southwest Africa during the First World War, and Malta after the Second World War...It is by turns hilarious, slow, and utterly mesmerizing."

Also see: A companion to V / by J. Kerry Grant. Athens, Ga. ; London : University of Georgia Press, c2001.
In law, the sign that separates adversaries in referring to a case. Although it comes from 'versus', it is pronounced 'and'. So R. v. Dudley and Jackson is pronounced "Regina and Dudley and Jackson". (R. = Regina or Rex depending on who is on the throne.) This at least is true of English law, as used in England and Australia. In the US it is also correctly written "v.", not "vs." (see How to cite a United States Supreme Court case), but I'm told the pronunciation is versus or vee. This is also colloquially true even in the and countries, among non-lawyers.

A long poem by Tony Harrison, set in the graveyard on Beeston Hill above Leeds where his parents lie. It reflects on the divisions between people, from football teams to Black/White, man v. wife and Left v. Right; and the way the unemployed youth of Leeds take out their frustrations by spray-painting obscenities upon the graves.

But why inscribe these graves with CUNT and SHIT?
Why choose neglected tombstones to disfigure?
This pitman's of last century daubed PAKI GIT,
this grocer Broadbent's aerosolled with NIGGER?

They're there to shock the living not arouse
the dead from their deep peace to lend support
for the causes skinhead spraycans could espouse.
The dead would want their desecrators caught!

Jobless though they are how can these kids,
even though their team's lost one more game,
believe that the 'Pakis', 'Niggers', even 'Yids'
sprayed on the tombstone here should bear the blame?

Why is it that these crude words are revealing?
What is it that this aggro act implies?
Giving the dead their xenophobic feeling
or just a cri-de-coeur because man dies?

So what's a cri-de-coeur, cunt? Can't you speak
the language that yer mam spoke. Think of 'er!
Can yer only get yer tongue round fucking Greek?
Go and fuck yourself with

'She didn't talk like you do for a start!'
I shouted, turning where I thought the voice had been.
She didn't understand yer fuckin 'art'!
She thought yer fucking poetry obscene!

The full poem is 112 verses long; it appeared in 1985, became an extremely controversial television film by Richard Eyre in 1987, and was strongly defended by the columnist Bernard Levin in The Times.

Reading V. by Thomas Pynchon, published 1961, is like reading an account describing the fevered dream of a malarial patient. A dream told in 491 pages. I once saw a picture that purported to show how a person who has suffered a stroke sees things. Nothing in the picture looked strange and yet nothing was familiar. And so while the book is supposedly a novel about the search for V. (who could be a person or a place), I cannot really tell you what it is about despite having spent 10 days reading it. The language is easy enough to read, but the plot, if there is one is not helped by the incidents that are supposed to move the story along. There are so many characters that enter unannounced and leave unnoticed. So many actions by the characters appear to have neither a coherent motive nor consequences. There are so many incidents that do not appear to have any relation to each other. So rather than there being many streams eventually uniting, you have streams meandering off and drying up, like the Okavango. When the book itself ends, it did not appear to do so because there is a resolution to the story.

And so the book was a difficult read because of this apparent lack of form. And that is probably why it is held to be a classic. The author's technical skill is amazing. Very few sentences are particularly good. Reading it sometimes felt as if it was a text translated from another language into English. And so holding the meaning of what one has read was difficult, requiring a sentence to be read once, then having to go to the preceding paragraph or page just to be sure that the line of thought remains the same. The sum of all these however, is something, that while too surreal to be liked, is fascinating. There was one sentence that was over a page long. Thoughts nestled within one another, like an onion. I found myself wondering if the author wrote the book while high. I probably thought so because it reminded me of Philip K. Dick's "Ubik" and "The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" which were weird reads that left me confused at the end. A bit like the movie Inception, with its ambiguous ending. However, the sophistication of the writing, like the page long sentence mentioned above reminded of Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay", a book with a fantastic story that is beautifully written, making difficult words and long sentences appear natural and enjoyable.

I cannot say whether I liked the book or not. But I'd recommend it even if just for the novelty of reading something that strange. I think anyone who has read James Joyce's Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake would enjoy this book. I have not been able to read beyond the first few chapters of either of the books in the preceding sentence. However, the feeling of disorientation I had when I read this book echoed what I felt when I tried reading Joyce.

This book is recommended. With caution.

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