Thomas Pynchon’s first book V. is probably one of the great books of the last 50 years surely could be classified as a modern classic. It is a book full of symbolism.
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 intertwined with those of Stencil and the mysterious V. Here lies the great challenge and great genius of Pynchon. There is a search to discover meaning and perhaps to discover one’s own history.
Pynchon’s tale follows 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. 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!
Fans of Danielle Steel or Stephen King might get a little bit of indigestion reading this though you do not have to have a triple digit IQ to follow this, read it and then re read it and then perhaps have another go you will find more meaning to this masterpiece from the young Pynchon. Enjoy!
Gabriel Garcia Márquez won the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature. Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera) (1985) is another favorite. Set in the late 19th century, it tells a story of the power of unrequited love, and how lovesickness (much like cholera) can plague human existence. The novel involves a love triangle between Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza and Juvenal Urbino which endures for fifty years, revealed through a flashback from childhood to old age. As children, Fermina and Florentino experienced a brief romance leaving Florentino obsessed with Fermina and lovesick. In his unsuccessful attempts to alleviate his all-consuming longing for Fermina, Florentino not only engages in 622 affairs, but immerses himself in a life of poetry and literature. He identifies with romantic poets. Meanwhile, at the age of twenty-one, Fermina is forced by her father, a wealthy mule merchant, to marry Juvenal Urbino, a doctor. Their arranged marriage endures. Fermina becomes a devoted wife. In contrast to Florentino, a romantic, Juvenal Urbino is a man of science, a doctor with a rational mind, committed to the eradication of cholera, and capable of providing Fermina with a sense of security. The novel opens with Juvenal’s funeral, after which Florentino again declares his undying love for Fermina, which makes her furious. Until the novel returns to this scene and Florentino’s renewed declaration of love for Fermina, one is left contemplating whether his love is a kind of noble or a pathetic, Don Quixote-like foolishness. In the final pages of his novel, Márquez answers that question. As with One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera reveals the extraordinary genius of Márquez. Highly recommended for patient readers as the story is an epic, well kindof 🙂
After a life spent in the arms of prostitutes (count 514 at the age of 50) the main character decides on treating himself to an adolescent virgin for his 90th birthday. His plans are disrupted by an unexpected blossoming of love for the girl who he woos silently for a year. Brilliant novella.