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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  19,397 ratings  ·  1,050 reviews
The 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. ...more
Paperback, 547 pages
Published July 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published August 1st 1963)
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Ruby Tweak If he mentions a minor fifth, it is either in (perhaps intentional) error, or he is referreing to a microtonal/non-Western scale. A minor fifth appear…moreIf he mentions a minor fifth, it is either in (perhaps intentional) error, or he is referreing to a microtonal/non-Western scale. A minor fifth appears between two notes that are fixed on a piano, but not fixed on all instruments. The southeast Asian roots music known as gamelan uses such frequencies in tuned, metallic percussion instruments. The Beat writers (from which Pynchon spawned) famously were "searching for that note between C and C#." It may have been Kerouac who said this first. Subdividing systems such as the Western scale is a motif common in Pynchon.(less)
MoviesForYourBrain Yes; I say this because Pynchon's style is really love-it-or-hate-it, so I would read V. first in order to kind of see whether or not you like his sty…moreYes; I say this because Pynchon's style is really love-it-or-hate-it, so I would read V. first in order to kind of see whether or not you like his style or not. If so, then move on to Gravity's Rainbow. Happy reading, my friend!(less)

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I’ve been reading V. quite a while ago I couldn’t get out of dictionaries and encyclopedias – the book is a carnival of words and ideas.
Say a man is no good for anything but jazzing around. He’ll go live in a cathouse, he’ll jazz it all over town.

People like anything: gossip, rumours, hearsay, tall tales, myths… The only thing they don’t like is truth…
Geronimo stopped singing and told Profane how it was. Did he remember the baby alligators? Last year, or maybe the year before, kids all over
Ian "Marvin" Graye
How Hard Can It Possibly Be?

"V" isn't so much a difficult novel to read - it is after all just words, most of which are familiar - as one in which it is sometimes hard to understand what is going on and why.

What does it mean? Does it have to mean anything? How does it all connect?

Ironically, if not intentionally, the inability to determine what and why, as well as who, is part of its design. Pynchon mightn't want to answer all the questions he or life asks.

However, that doesn't mean there isn't

Knowledge is a funny business. Everyone pretends omniscience in the classroom, but god forbid you spout off like an intellectual outside of it. And then you have the subculture of people making an effort to read Pynchon in public, and the other subcultures that amuse themselves at their expense. The verdict seems to be know it all, but please, spare us from your efforts to prove it.

I'd sell my soul to write like this at the age of six and twenty. There, I admitted to lack of know-how when i
MJ Nicholls
Nov 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: merkins, novels
So I opted to tango once more with Thomas. The results are a mix of the same frustrations I had with the first 150 pages of Gravity’s Rainbow (dropped thereafter), and a newfound appreciation for the most famous maximilist’s skill for writing sentences of incredible inventiveness, rhythm, and frenetic lunacy. After 300-odd pages of this novel, the niggles (new and old) returned—the introduction of innumerable madcap characters and their endless zing-flinging dialogue in the same voice; the overa ...more
Steven Godin
Who or what is V? Would love to sit here and say that I even cared. It's certainly advisable to read this novel with a clear head. Not the sort of book you want to sit up in bed with late at night with one eye open whilst the other one sleeps. No, this requires complete and utter attention. Alternatively, you could forget what I just said, let one's hair down, grab a drink, forget the plot, and just be dazzled by some preposterously madcap and rollickingly eccentric passages of writing. If someo ...more
I propose that the titular "V." is neither a person nor a place but a preposition.

What, really, is more personal than a first novel? It's that all-or-nothing, balls-to-the-wall debut effort that can either send a fledgling writer plummeting to dream-shattering depths with an effort that falls flat for any number of reasons or it can be the inaugural celebration all starry-eyed young scribes dare to hope for, that which heralds a staggering new talent to a canon populated by the many great wordsl
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"A phrase (it often happened when he was exhausted) kept cycling round and round, preconsciously, just under the threshold of lip and tongue movement: "Events seem to be ordered into an ominous logic." It repeated itself automatically and Stencil improved on it each time, placing emphasis on different words-"events seem"; "seem to be ordered"; "ominous logic"-pronouncing them differently, changing the "tone of voice" from sepulchral to jaunty: round and round and round. Events seem to ordered in ...more
Sean Blake
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Thomas Pynchon... twenty six years old... first novel... twenty six... first novel... twenty six?

Reads like The Adventures of Tintin on hallucinogens. Full of great comic scenes mixed with political espionage and paranoia amidst philosophical comments on the nature of politics, religion, death, time, sexuality and war. V. is undeniably complex and I can admit that there were moments of mind numbing confusion, but the book is so beautifully written that you just go for the ride. It's a haunting a
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although not nearly as perfect as some of his later works, there are many traces of Pynchon's genius in this novel. It is not as drug-induced, decadent or heartbreaking as Gravity's Rainbow, nor is it as beautiful, ambitious or creative as Mason & Dixon, not to mention as impressively human or historically conscious as Against the Day.

Pynchon's writing in this early novel, though showing early incarnations of his later works, seems unrefined and confused. There are so called "Pynchon sentences"
Tom Quinn
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I haven't often been as excited to start a new book as I was to start V. Daddy's first Pynchon! I was eager and abuzz for a while--the man has been adjective-ized, for crying out loud. Consider the greats that have that honor. Dickensian. Kafkaesque. Vonnegut-y. What in the world does it mean to be Pynchonian? I couldn't wait to find out. And reading Pynchon's first novel felt like a good place to start.

Based on V., I'd say reading Pynchon feels dense and dream-like. There's a lot of surreal wei
Jul 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Reading Thomas Pynchon's first novel is like plunging head first into a room with very little light. As the novel progresses, Pynchon regulates that light sometimes letting the reader see very clearly, narratively speaking, and other times enveloping the reader into near darkness.

The two main characters are discharged Naval officer Benny Profane the self-described "schlemiel" and Stencil, the hunter of the elusive woman/idea known only as V. Though not exact opposites, their destinies do not int
Nate D
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Schlemiels, adventurers, foreign agents
Recommended to Nate D by: Jeff Geisinger
What to say of Pynchon's half-century spanning epic?

Like Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon's first novel (published, I think, at an astonishing age 26) is concerned with questions of life and death, here both at the internal, personal scale of our relations to people, things, and the outer world, and on a broad international scale of war, colonialism, and political intrigue. Linking the two, Herbert Stencil, adventurer and obsessed historian, tracking the intertwined history of his British foreign off
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Feb 21, 2012 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: V.
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Stencil
It’s a long distance from 1963 to 2009. The prior, V.’s pub date. The later, when I thought maybe I had found perhaps the Pynchon key in Inherent Vice. I unlocked a bunch of great stuff with that key. Fantastic stuff. Stuff I dug. Stuff I got lost in. Against the Day. The newest thing. That one from the early ‘90s. I’m still waiting to see if it fits Mason & Dixon. Gravity’s Rainbow is next, but I’ve already done 2/3 of that one and know I don’t need no damn key for it.

That key doesn’t fit V..

Jul 04, 2013 marked it as to-read
Ignore talk below of my previously setting this aside - I am giving it try #2 and am enjoying it much more - perhaps it's the timing - it begins on Christmas Eve and the first chapters unfold during the week between Christmas and the new year... ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
The search for the identity of V is the primary question in this masterwork from Pynchon. It is funny and tragic and crazy and totally Pynchon. I honestly cannot remember everything this book - it does not stick in my memory as much as Mason&Dixon, Gravity's Rainbow or Against the Day. I mean, I loved the pleasure of reading it. But months later, I remember just the story of the genocide in Africa and some other snapshots but overall the image remains vague. Perhaps I read too much Pynchon in to ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Events seem to be ordered into an ominous logic.”

V is for Virginia, V-Note, Victory, Victoria, Vendetta, Vibration, Voice, Vision, Valletta, Voyeur, Vodka, Vieux, Villas, Villages, Voluptuous, Vainglorious, Vinegar, Vistas, Vomit, Victims, Vehicles, Veins, Vocal, Vice Versa, Voodoo, Volunteer, Virtue, Vertical, Vicious, Vanity, Vanishing, Vitality, Vacated, Ventures, Visible, Virgin, Venery, Veiled, VaudeVille, Vantage, Vegetables, Vicinity, Valley, Verge, Villiers, Violence, Vagrant, Voslauer,
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016, owned-books
Thomas Pynchon has written some of the best pieces of English fiction that I've ever read. He projected worlds in Against the Day and in Mason & Dixon that were amazing, magical, utterly enthralling. The world he tries to project in V., however, went over my head.

The writing feels upolished, unrefined, not really the Pynchon I've grown used to. The sub-plots and digressions, which are rambling to an extreme degree even for Pynchon's standards, are less-than-stellar most of the time. Except for
Lane Wilkinson
EDIT: I give up again. 'V' is a travesty of juvenile puns, unconvincing dialogue, and (my own pet peeve) characters with impossibly trite names. Seriously, what gives?

EDIT: I decided to try reading it again.

have you ever had the feeling that an author is simply trying to bludgeon you over the head with abstruseness? have you ever read one of those books that all of the "serious readers" swear is an infallible masterpiece, despite its meat-fisted appropriation of the stylistic innovations of Eli
Mk Tantum
Jul 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: lovers of Thomas Pynchon and those who adore reading with a companion.
From this book I learned that:

a) Thomas Pynchon may be the smartest man alive.
b) Pynchon's vocabulary is one of the most extensive I've ever come across.
c) Reading Pynchon is tedious and often unpleasant.

Even with the companion and a book discussion group, reading this novel was like wading through a bog. Every time I grasped the plot, I'd lose track of Pynchon's message, and every time I caught a glimpse of the message, I lost the plot.

No wonder the man's a recluse. Talking to him must be like
Nov 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yesterday didn't know either
Recommended to Mariel by: tomorrow never knows
I'm suffering from a painfully drawn out flu so I feel bad enough already. It can't be made worse by trying to review V. on gr. (If I wanna hit my head in frustration, well, it already hurts plentiful.)
V. was my first Thomas Pynchon. I chose it because it was cheapest (used). I like discounts. The notes in the margins for a college paper were fun too. I'm proud of my mercenary side. Now the self-congratulations end and I'll wrestle my mind and alligators in those mental gutters to convey why thi
J.L.   Sutton
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Pynchon's V is one of my favorite novels (it's on my rotating list of favorites which also includes Dostoevsky's The Idiot, Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead and a few others). Describing it is next to impossible (for me at least). V seems like it's about so many things, but when you stop to think about it, it's not about any of those things at all, but something else. The main protagonists include Benny Profane, Rachel Owlglass, Stencil, a group of artists known as the Whole Sick ...more
Paul Dembina
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seems to be a book of 2 separate (although related parts):

1) The present (well, as of the time the book was written) involving a rag-tag set of characters centred on a group of US Navy sailors (probably based on Pynchon's own stint in the navy)
2) A series of flashbacks to periods from late 19th century up until the end of the 2nd World War, at various locations around the Mediterranean

For me not classic Pynchon, it shows signs of the greatness to come with some hints of the humour and wackiness
Mattia Ravasi
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2017

A puzzling but glorious read that is, paradoxically enough, both breath-taking fast and extremely broody, thrilling and self-absorbed. It will require quite a lot of dedication to be fully enjoyed.
For once, these one-lined reviews on the cover has it right. I doubt if people actually read the book before writing those lines/words : Fantastic, soul-crushing, zeitgeist, terrifying, razor-sharp—It might just be anything for any book and could just be right. For all these 496 pages I didn't care for who or what V. is, but there hadn't been an enjoyable read as this one. I should've started Pynchon with this one and moved to Gravity's Rainbow. I'd have to reread Mondaugen's chapter again and m ...more
Ian Scuffling
Wherein a young Thomas Pynchon writes a post-war Moby-Dick-esque epistemological grail quest wherein the veiled titular grail, V., is a stand-in for Melville's leviathan, and the whole-ness is unseen thru obscurity, omission, chaos, conspiracy and uncertainty rather than the vastness of its size and the shifting nature of metaphor, language and humanity.

Besides, Vineland and Slow Learner, I'm a versed Pynchonite, so it's funny that I had yet to read his first. But having read so many of his othe
Daniel Chaikin
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I spent last night thinking about this book when I should have been sleeping. That's a far cry from where I was a few weeks ago, lost in Cairo and ready to toss the e-book...and where I was again in Florence. Namibia was terribly disturbing, but I had to respect the effort. Malta was a bit slow too. But Pynchon never lost me for a second in Paris and when he got back to Malta again, I was fully engaged

What the hell am I talking about, you might ask, if you haven't read this. (And probably you ha
Simon Robs
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well well well, here we (I) are/am again in that penumbral off-kilt offing into the vortex of Pynchon-land where everything is or is not what it seems 'cause the seams don't quite gather, opposites, while apposite gather nicely to one another. I (we) who enter this realm know one for sure thing: there can be no pellucid "review" per se to this or any other "P" novel due to its [by design?] complex reconditity, its various IT factor of exponential entendre, its plethora of wackily named wacky cha ...more
Cymru Roberts
Thomas Pynchon is supposed to be a premier American author. When deciding which book of his to read first, I took some advice from a reviewer and picked up V. V. is Pynchon's first novel, and according to the reviewer, it is shorter and easier than his most famous book, Gravity's Rainbow. Taking this into consideration, it was an ominous sign when I lifted V. from the library shelf to find it so thick. Clocking in at 547 pages, I knew I had a wordpuker on my hands.

Then we get to the names. The n
Sep 22, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
After 70 pages or so that bored me silly I decided to give it up. I know the author was young (a mere 26 if I remember correctly) but this does not completely justify the sponge-like absorption of so many and so different influences (from Heller to Joyce and Virginia Woolf and magic realism and so on), that cannot really talk to each other so that the narrative seemed to me like a fabric whose threads were all cut and left hanging.

Maybe, another time (another life) I will try to read a maturity
Loring Wirbel
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The quandary: Would a full five-star ranking tend to reduce the luster of five for Gravity's Rainbow or Against the Day, or does a ranking automatically take into account a certain grade inflation allowed for youthful indiscretions? After all, for a Pynchon not yet 30 to accomplish such a degree of research into pre- and post-WW1 Europe, in a time well before Google searches, seems astonishing.

My solution is to address V. the way Thomas Jefferson addressed his copy of the Holy Bible: carry along
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Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. is an American writer based in New York City, noted for his dense and complex works of fiction. Hailing from Long Island, Pynchon spent two years in the United States Navy and earned an English degree from Cornell University. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known today: V. (1963 ...more

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