Thursday, January 5, 2012

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 46.1 (Thomas Pynchon)

V.
Pynchon, Thomas
V.

Once again, I have no idea where I bought this. When I took it off the shelf this morning, I thought it was the copy I'd read in college, but it has a used price mark on the inside cover, which leads me to believe I may have bought it for Lori, who read through Pynchon a few years ago. It's possible, but highly unlikely, that I bought it used in college. I generally only purchased new books back then, unless I was buying textbooks.

Anyhow, I read V. in college. I think I read it the summer before my senior year. I definitely read it before reading Gravity's Rainbow. I remember feeling glad that I had read them in this order, as this felt like a warm-up for Gravity's Rainbow and probably would have been a less interesting read after having read that one first.

As with all of Pynchon, the frame of historical reference is so broad and my own at the time was so narrow that I have at various times in my life found myself referring back to this book as a point of departure. This usually occurs when I read something historical that refers to incidents or ideas that I first encountered in Pynchon's books.

It's kind of a strange phenomenon: much of what I remember in his work is my ignorance of the ideas and contexts the describes, yet I retained much of that information as a kind of place holder, waiting for me to return to make sense of it once I'd filled in certain gaps in my knowledge.

from V.


Christmas Eve, 1955, Benny Profane, wearing black levis, suede jacket, sneakers and big cowboy hat, happened to pass through Norfolk, Virginia. Given to sentimental impulses, he thought he'd look in on the Sailor's Grave, his old tin can's tavern on East Main Street. He got there by way of the Arcade, at the East Main end of which sat an old street singer with a guitar and an empty Sterno can for donations. Out in the street a chief yeoman was trying to urinate in the gas tank of a '54 Packard Patrician and five or six seamen apprentice were standing around giving encouragement. The old man was singing, in a fine, firm baritone:
Every night is Christmas Eve on old East Main,
Sailors and their sweethearts all agree.Neon signs of red and greenShine upon the friendly scene,Welcoming you in from off the sea.Santa's bag is filled with all your dreams come true:Nickel beers that sparkle like champagne,Barmaids who all love to screw,All of them reminding youIt's Christmas Eve on old East Main.

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