A Companion to V

A Companion to V

A Companion to V

A Companion to V


To the uninitiated, Thomas Pynchon's V. seems to defy comprehension with its open-ended and fragmented narrative, huge cast of characters (some 150 of them), and wide range of often obscure references. J. Kerry Grant's Companion to "V." takes us through the novel chapter by chapter, breaking through its daunting surface by summarizing events and clarifying Pynchon's many allusions. The Companion draws extensively from existing critical and explicative work on V. to suggest the range of interpretations that the novel can support.

The hundreds of notes that comprise the Companion are keyed to the three most widely cited editions of V. Most notes are interpretive, but some also provide historical and cultural contexts or help to resurrect other nuances of meaning. Because it does not constitute a particular "reading" of, or "take" on, the novel, the Companion will appeal to a wide range of users. Rather than attempting to make final sense of the novel, the Companion exposes and demystifies Pynchon's intent to play with our conventional attitudes about fiction.


As was the case with the Companion to the Crying of Lot 49, the present volume had its genesis in my experience of trying to introduce Pynchon to undergraduate readers. Each time I assign one of his novels, I am reminded how much of a challenge Pynchon presents to those who are encountering his work for the first time, and I find myself fending off a flurry of complaints about how obscure and difficult a writer he is. It is sometimes hard to persuade students that the game is worth the candle. With V. in particular, a significant number fail to finish the book, as if they are convinced that it is a labyrinth they will never find their way out of if they venture too far from the entrance.

Several factors give rise to this state of affairs, not the least of which is the novel’s daunting surface. With its shifting points of view and its complex narrative structure, its cast of more than 150 characters and its extraordinarily wide range of reference, V. makes considerable demands on the stamina of the reader.

This companion is designed in part to overcome many of the difficulties posed by these aspects of the novel. the chapter summaries should help the reader keep a map of the main incidents in mind, and notes will resolve at least some of the perplexities caused by unfamiliar names or historical references. in addition, extracts from the work of critics who have written extended commentaries on V. represent the range of interpretive strategies that the novel has invited.

While making no apologies for what I hope may be the immediate and readily perceived benefits of selective reference to the Companion’s several hundred entries, I would also like briefly to suggest the manner in which this particular way of supplementing the . . .

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