In a footnote to "Fast Learner: The Typescript of Pynchon's V. at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin," Luc Herman and John Krafft note that the letters Corlies (Cork) Smith graciously provided them for their study of the transformation of the typescript of V. (1963) into the published novel "may be identical to those published in an unauthorized limited edition under the title Of a Fond Ghoul in 1990."1 Sounding more confident in "From the Ground Up: The Evolution of the South-West Africa Chapter in Pynchon's V.," they write, "Originals of the Smith-Pynchon letters were apparently stolen from the offices of Harper & Row, and an unauthorized facsimile edition was published in 1990 under the title Of a Fond Ghoul (a phrase Pynchon proposes in the correspondence as one possible title for his novel). Smith later received photocopies of the letters in the mail."2 Herman and Krafft were essentially correct in their assumption about the letters they have. Smith received a copy of the extant correspondence between him and Pynchon as it appears in Of a Fond Ghoul,3 but he did not get the book's entire contents.

Of a Fond Ghoul contains forty unnumbered pages, including those that are blank.4 The first two reproduce pages from two Seattle phonebooks with different addresses and numbers for Pynchon, the second page of which also has a black-and-white photocopy-quality image of Giorgio de Chirico's The Enigma of the Hour (c. 1912),5 a painting Pynchon proposed using for the novel's dust jacket, across the middle, covering several names and numbers. The title page comes next, and on the fourth page from the back, there is a stamp stating which number out of the fifty copies printed one has in hand and the fact that the book is being distributed by the Blown Litter Press after its December 1990 release, the date being given here instead of on a copyright page, which has been left out for obvious reasons. In between, there is the correspondence, which takes up twenty-six pages that are occasionally interrupted by blank ones, followed by two additional items, internal Lippincott memos that are missing from the Smith-Pynchon material obtained by Herman and Krafft. One was written on July 10, 1961 and the other on September 4, 1963.6

The first of these memos has "PYNCHON in your absence" — a phrase as appropriate to Pynchon's whereabouts, as we will see, as it was to the person whom the memo addresses — centered above the text like a title and was probably written to Smith. Smith was in Cleveland at an American Library Association convention, which took place between July 9 and July 15 in 1961, and met Patricia Mahool, a friend of Pynchon's from college who had "typed most of Tom's manuscript."7 They discussed the typescript, and he told her a good title might be The Yo-Yo World of Benny Profane. Pynchon must have learned about that conversation in July, disapproved of the suggested title, and told Candida Donadio, who must have informed Smith.8

The memo-writer informs Smith, or whoever the unnamed recipient of the memo was, that Donadio was delighted to hear that the novel would be published and goes on to say that she will get in touch with Pynchon and tell him the news, though there was some question about where he was living. Donadio had "heard nothing [from him] in months" but apparently gave Lippincott two addresses at which he might be found: 4754 22d St., N.E., Seattle 5 and 4709½ 9th St., N.E., Seattle 5. The first corresponds to the address in the page from the Seattle phonebook reprinted on the first page of Of a Fond Ghoul, and the second to the one on the second page, which is also the address used by Pynchon after August 1961 when he was writing to Smith as well as Faith and Kirkpatrick Sale, at least until he left Seattle in October or November of 1962 after finishing his review of V.'s galleys.9

Pynchon, it would seem, moved to the second address between Donadio's last contact with him and when he sent her the typescript, which was delivered to Lippincott via Donadio's office.10 The second address may have been the return address on the package Donadio had received, probably in the middle of June and apparently without a small personalized note.11 Because of the lack of contact between the two, Donadio appears to have been uncertain if she had Pynchon's address or someone else's and perhaps thought that he was using the new one to pick up mail, as he had likely done with the two at which Smith wrote to Pynchon prior to August 1961.12 That, in any case, must have been the thinking at Lippincott, for the memo-writer notes, before passing on the addresses, Donadio "[g]ave me what seems to be a firm address." Those at Lippincott remained uncertain: the memo states that any correspondence should be sent to both addresses, with original material going to the first and copies to the second.

What is more interesting, given what we know about the transformation of the untitled typescript Lippincott received into V., is that Lippincott was willing to publish the book virtually unchanged, having told Donadio that "any suggestions we would have would probably be in the form of questions, and stressed that our enthusiasm would not be tempered in the least if he chose neither to answer nor make changes in response to those questions." This latter remark suggests that Pynchon had acquired a reputation at Lippincott for being unwilling to discuss his work — perhaps because he would say nothing, not even to Donadio, according to Smith,13 about the novel when Lippincott signed the contract with him in January 1960 and would also not discuss it when he met Smith in Seattle later in 196014 — and thus wouldn't be willing to suffer through the usual exchange between writer and editor.

The inability to pin down an exact address at which to write to Pynchon must certainly have added to Lippincott's impression of him, and hence the wariness about approaching him with requests to make changes to his work. Smith, however, did not read Pynchon as unapproachable, noting in his first letter about the typescript that "it needs some work" and promising specifics shortly. Pynchon, in turn, belied his reputation and showed he did not see the impression that he had been making. Indeed, he revealed, when replying to Smith at the end of the month, that he had been waiting for advice, remarking that he agreed with Smith about the typescript's need of work and noting, "I am not (I hope) a 'temperamental author' and I am not about to buck at any suggestions."15

The rest of the first memo concerns business, specifically paying the monies Pynchon was owed on the advance, that is, the $1,000 that he was to get upon his delivery, and Lippincott's acceptance, of the novel.16 That money could not be paid until some concerns over legal issues had been resolved. Donadio had been working for Herb Jaffe Associates in January 1960, when the contract had been signed and Pynchon had been paid $500, but by the time V. reached Lippincott, Herb Jaffe had sold his agency to Ashley-Steiner. The contract, it was at least believed, had not been automatically transferred to the latter agency, and in order for any payment to be made, the memo says, Jaffe as well as Pynchon would need to sign a "paper" transferring the contract to Ashley-Steiner, where Donadio must have remained for a while before moving to Russell & Volkening.17 That issue was quickly settled, probably without Pynchon's participation,18 for a hand-written addendum dated July 17 underneath the body of the text reveals the check had been mailed, likely to Donadio.

The second memo was written about two years later, and while it lacks some of the interest of the first, given that Pynchon is not part of the discussion, it provides a small bit of information about V.'s publishing history. At the beginning of September 1963, about two months after the fourth and last printing of the hardcover edition, Lippincott played with the idea of publishing its own paperback edition the following spring, when the Bantam paperback was, in fact, published. The contract it had, not with Bantam, but with The Modern Library, would cause problems.19 Both contracts allowed Lippincott to publish such an edition, though the one with Bantam stipulated that any Lippincott editions had to cost at least $2.25, while the one with the Modern Library said they would have to cost at least $5.00, a provision Lippincott wanted modified, hoping to put to market a paperback for $2.45. The memo, unsigned, asks the recipient, whose name also does not appear anywhere, to get in touch with Random House, who owned the Modern Library imprint, and attempt to get the necessary permission. The effort proved, a handwritten addendum dated September 24 reveals, unsuccessful. This failure made very little difference to readers in the mid-sixties, though it may have affected readers' experience of the novel since, particularly over the last twenty-five years, for while Bantam and Jonathan Cape, the British publisher, correct errata in the Lippincott hardcover, Harper Perennial has used the first American edition as its copy text, reproducing the errors that were missed during the copy editing of V. as well as introducing new errors when resetting the text in 1999 and 2005.20