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Thomas Pynchon is one of the most celebrated American writers living today. His career has spanned over fifty years, and his novels have received numerous awards, including the National Book Award. His most famous book, Gravity’s Rainbow, was included in TIME’s “All-Time 100 Greatest Novels” (though it should be noted this list was limited to English-language novels published between 1923-2005).
The problem with Pynchon, however, is that he may be one of the most difficult writers to fully understand. Books like Gravity’s Rainbow and Against the Day are massive tomes that clearly required years of research and plot structuring to even envision, let alone write, and they can often prove difficult for readers who are unfamiliar with Pynchon. His penchant for tangents and bizarre jokes may leave some readers feeling lost and frustrated. Consequently, the many readers often abandon the endeavor of reading one of these huge and masterfully written books because they do not feel it to be rewarding.
The novel V., on the other hand, is accessible enough for any avid reader, and is focused enough to not intimidate. Published in 1963, V. was Pynchon’s first book. It was awarded the William Faulkner Foundation’s award for best debut novel, and was very warmly received by critics. Like Pynchon’s larger books, its plot is not linear, but there is a general overarching theme that readers will understand, though they will often find it difficult to explain. After finishing V., one will be able to follow Pynchon’s style, and will be likely to persevere through the more difficult material that comprises such masterpieces as Gravity’s Rainbow and Against the Day.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|