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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.