Traces of Blood and the Matter of a Paraclete's Coming: The Menstrual Economy of Pynchon's V.



The 1990 printing of the Perennial Library edition of Pynchon's V. features on its cover the depiction of a woman in a cardinal's gown, her turned face hidden by windswept black hair. She holds the gown up over her knees, revealing her legs almost to the full extent of her thighs. The crimson fabric of her garment gathers and creases in suggestive folds across the top and down the sides of her legs. The folds of the red gown form a dark, oval recess out of which her legs emerge: her lower body becomes a magnified image of her vagina. A shadowy V-shape separates the tops of her thighs. The woman is neither black nor white, but somewhere in between. Brown or racially mixed, she is perhaps a composite representation of all the women from different cultures in the novel. In the upper left-hand corner of the cover is the book's title: V. Together with this enigmatic letter or initial, the painting that adorns the book's cover inaugurates the quest for who or what V. is. In the middle of the second chapter, when Herbert Stencil recites the haunting passage from his dead father's journal, this mystery takes center stage: '''There is more behind and inside V. than any of us had suspected. Not who, but what: what is she. God grant that I may never be called upon to write the answer, either here or in any official report'" (53). The search is on. Like Oedipa's Tristero in The Crying of Lot 49 and Siothrop's Rocket in Gravity's Rainbow, Stencil's V. both beckons and evades the questor, imparting the possibility of a realm of meaning that is simultaneously sacred and dangerous, or sacred because dangerous.


How to Cite: Medora, D. (1999) “Traces of Blood and the Matter of a Paraclete's Coming: The Menstrual Economy of Pynchon's V.”, Pynchon Notes.(0). doi: