Monday, February 18, 2013

V. by Thomas Pynchon

First Modern Library edition of V. by Thomas Pynchon from 1966
Thomas Pynchon's first novel, originally published in 1963, is a book that needs little introduction. Pynchon and his work, although widely known, all fall under the categories of cool, weird, and rare, and this Modern Library edition of his first novel is particularly scarce. V. is probably the most concentrated embodiment of what would later be known as Pynchon's hallmark weird, and technically daring style. It is less complex than Gravity's Rainbow, not to mention shorter, but in my view V. is just as good and definitely easier to get through. One plot line follows sailor Benny Profane and hangers-on from the Whole Sick Crew, and the other follows Herb Stencil and his family's history with a mysterious woman known as "V." The intricately laid plots eventually converge on each other as the novel progresses, forming a V-shape itself as Profane and Stencil cross paths and band together at the end to find V. Pynchon's first novel also features an amazingly diverse cast of characters, many of whom appear more prominently in later works like Pig Bodine and Kurt Mondaugen, and different segments set in various parts of history from all around the world. V. marked the beginning of a new kind of voice and style of writing that had never existed before, and is incredibly important for that reason alone, not to mention being the front bookend of Pynchon's oeuvre. This first Modern Library edition features great, simplistic 1960's cover art by S. Neil Fujita.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes

Dell Mystery edition of The So Blue Marble from 1946
The So Blue Marble is Dorothy B. Hughes' first novel and foray into mysteries, a genre to which she would go on to dedicate the majority of her career. Hughes was one of the more talented and recognized female mystery writers of the 20th century, and The So Blue Marble marks the beginning of her fun-to-read stories of suspense from 1940. This Inspector Tobin mystery follows former movie star Griselda Satterlee as she comes to glittery, mid-century New York City to relax and stay in her ex-husband's apartment while he's away. Griselda quickly finds herself in the center of a plot to regain an ancient blue marble, which feature the identical, sinister Montefierrow twins, who are convinced that Griselda has the eponymous marble. The reader learns that the marble apparently holds a secret, ancient formula which can be used to master gravity. As bodies pile up around the city, Griselda must work with Inspector Tobin to get the twins off her back and end the string of murders. While the driving force of the plot is a little farfetched, Hughes' book is incredibly engaging to read and one will quickly overlook how fantastical it is. Featuring great cover art of the twins' matching top hats in a pool of blood (by an unknown illustrator), this Dell Mystery edition is a wonderful artifact of the genre.

Back cover featuring the convenient Crime Map, which depicts the relevant areas where a murder took place