Reading: Pynchon on Household: Reworking the Traditional Spy Novel

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Pynchon on Household: Reworking the Traditional Spy Novel

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John L. Simons

The Colorado College
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Abstract

A possible influence on the creation of the Victorian explorer Hugh Godolphin, "F.R.G.S.," who appears in V., may be found in a character with the same unusual surname in Geoffrey Household's spy-thriller, Fellow Passenger. Of minimal literary merit, and far less exciting than other Household classics of the thriller genre, Fellow Passenger is a boring book by a notoriously uneven writer. Yet besides the character named Godolphin, it contains the seeds of a number of complex themes which subsequently flourish in the far richer imagination of Thomas Pynchon, who read Household as a teenager. I want to explore the relationships between V. and Household's book in order to demonstrate how Pynchon transforms the materials from a lowly potboiler into a serious work of art, and I want to focus finally on the metamorphosis of the Godolphin we see as a fatuous romantic escapist in Fellow Passenger, to the prophet of the twentieth century's Impulse toward destruction and doom we find in V. But first it will be necessary to give a brief summary of Household's novel, since it is likely to be far less familiar to readers than V.
How to Cite: Simons, J.L., (1985). Pynchon on Household: Reworking the Traditional Spy Novel. Pynchon Notes. (16), pp.83–88. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/pn.379
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Published on 20 Mar 1985.
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