V. (1963) is Thomas Pynchon’s debut novel. It won the William Faulkner Foundation award for best novel of the year.
12/01/09 | Novel


by Jimmy Chen

Her name is not Luka. She does not live upstairs from you. Do not believe her lies.

Just another self-absorbed songwriter—scribbling stanzas under some tree, a crying fit over the kitchen sink, the usual crap. Wrote a smash single in 1987. And I loved her.

All these chicks think they’re so evolved with their linen grocery bags, scented candles, and yogurt themed lunches. Buy a guitar: that is okay. Buy a blank journal at Barnes & Nobles, the ones with fancy Japanese paper with twigs n’ shit embedded in the pulp. Fine, but it’s not going to help your lyrics.

My amorous conquests do not exclude these literary types. The ladies were not interested. Jewel said I was ‘immature’ because I ate nachos. Sinead wasn’t impressed by my mechanical pen collection. I wasn’t impressed by her scalp. They judged me for helping out at Boeing, for shopping at Mervyn’s, for being a ‘weird’ guy.

I won the freaking National Book Award people. But still, I’m no Paul Simon. I’m not some bald guy with a wooden guitar and 4,000 capos. I don’t feel anything, according to V. Baby, the revolution is over. Coke bottles your water. Get a facelift already.

Still paying off my debt to publishers with blurbs about Rick Moody. That’s the thing with an invisible cabin in a non-existent State—it will cost you a handful. Litball continues without me. My first agent went and told the world V. was Vera Nabokov. Yes, I loved her too, but I was a only a boy. A girl’s heart may be fickle, but a boy’s points at a 45 degree angle. Vera popped into one of his seminars at Cornell once, each atom of her face searing into my retinas, etched into a memory I am fumbling at. Vera’s lovely face, so white, no chiaroscuro could ever render her.  Baroque-ken heart. Truth is however, the only pages she existed in were his. My pages, of pulp and paper cuts, were always for you, V.

After the rain falls—when the pavement zits of murky puddles ripple under the constant gust of pre-dusk wind, I take our son out for a stroll down Madison. His tiny fingers, tendrils of our genome, weave through the crevices of my palm like a skinned prayer. Apparitions of city folk bow their heads, chins jutting invisible piano keys in some sad sonata. One time, on an especially cold evening, he points at a toy rocket through a store window. He looks up at me, his breath an oral ghost fading in the air. “Yes,” I said, “that’s where I put your mother. I shot her into the world of words.”

The world of words. The world of blurbs. The world of Pulitzer panelists who don’t finish your novel. The world of obscure online literary journals. The world of folk songs and rhetorical haircuts. The world of one-hit-wonders. The world of this e-tumor called the internet. Of photoshopped images—your face in the crowd, my face in the crowd, some stranger you think is me. A bashed in smile and crooked teeth.

Suzanne, it’s been a while. I hope your songs are getting better; I hope you stop cutting yourself and taking laxatives; I hope VH1 expunges you from the Hall of Famine; I hope the crow’s feet fly off your face until the bird is a black dot in the sky—the end of a long drawn-out sentence.

There are no sentences here, only endings for songs. Come meet your son, soon.

Just don’t ask me how I am.

Just don’t ask me how I am.