47 pages 1 hour read

Thomas Pynchon


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1963

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Symbols & Motifs

Keep Cool But Care

Throughout V., the characters struggle to form meaningful connections; social alienation makes their lives lack purpose or meaning. The jazz musician McClintic Sphere uses the phrase “Keep Cool But Care” as a motif, reminding himself not to fall into the same morass of nihilism as the Whole Sick Crew, who chastise one another for dropping the veil of detached irony, performing coolness at all times. By repeating his words of balance, McClintic stays on the Crew’s periphery.

McClintic’s mantra provides an insightful diagnosis of his society—and offers a solution. There is no magical cure for alienation. Rather, the mantra preaches the importance of connection—to work, to those around him, to art. Just as the Crew’s endless parade of parties cements that pattern of behavior, McClintic’s repetition of this phrase forms a habit that brings meaning to his life—purposeful hard work, unlike the circular and pointless effort of someone like Stencil, is necessary to happy.

Most people who hear McClintic’s mantra do not follow his suggestion. The only exception is Paola. When she meets him, she is estranged from her husband Pappy Hod, and she is working as a prostitute to earn enough money to remain in America.