|Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr, was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family on Long Island, one of three children. His father was an industrial surveyor. He graduated from high school in 1953 at the age of 16, second in his class, and went to Cornell University on scholarship as an engineering physics major. After two years, he left Cornell to serve in the Navy, returning to Cornell in the fall of 1957, when he changed his major to English. His first novel, V, was published in 1963, and won the William Faulkner Foundation Award for best first novel of the year. (When questioned in an interview about the novel's alleged difficulty, Pynchon asked, "Why shouldn't things be difficult?") Pynchon is considered one of the giants of American fiction, and is famous for, among other things, being reclusive and unwilling to give interviews.