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Novel by Thomas Pynchon, published in 1963.

Benny Profane, a schlemiel as sailor and human being, recently discharged from the U.S.S. Scaffold, after wandering around the East Coast of the U.S. looking for a way of life, joins Zeitzuss's Alligator Patrol, a quasi-military organization whose business is to hunt through the sewers of New York City for the blind, albino alligators that roam there, having been flushed down toilets when they grew too large to be children's pets. Also traveling through this underground world but in a purposeful way is Herbert Stencil, trying to trace the secret of a 19th-century manuscript dealing with one V., a mysterious woman involved in anarchic plots and international spying. By turns she is associated with Victoria Wren, an expatriate British aristocrat and “self-proclaimed citizen of the world,” with Vera Meroving, a German woman possessed of an artificial eye in which is implanted a clock, and with other esoteric figures to be conceived variously as Venus, Virgin, and Void. The quest for V. involves Stencil in investigations of remote and exotic regions and curious historical lore as well as encounters with many odd characters, including Benny Profane, whose path he crosses more than once. The ceaseless pursuit of his mysterious woman takes Stencil, as it took his father before him, through a maze of complex puzzles whose relationships are both labyrinthine and phantasmagoric.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937) American novelist

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