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1. Agape Agape (Penguin Classics)
2. The Recognitions (Penguin Classics)
3. Carpenter's Gothic (Classic, 20th-Century,
4. JR (Penguin Twentieth-Century
5. A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's
6. A Frolic of His Own
7. JR
8. The Rush for Second Place: Essays
9. Paper Empire: William Gaddis and
10. William Gaddis, "The Last of Something":
11. Die Fälschung der Welt.
12. Jr.
13. William Gaddis (Bloom's Modern
14. In Recognition of William Gaddis
15. Hints And Guesses: William Gaddis'S
16. William Gaddis (Twayne's United
17. The Ethics of Indeterminacy in
18. A Vision of His Own: The Mind
19. Agape Agape and Other Writings
20. Letzte Instanz.

1. Agape Agape (Penguin Classics)
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 128 Pages (2003-09-30)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$6.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0142437638
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
William Gaddis published four novels during his lifetime, immense and complex books that helped inaugurate a new movement in American letters. Now comes his final work of fiction, a subtle, concentrated culmination of his art and ideas. For more than fifty years Gaddis collected notes for a book about the mechanization of the arts, told by way of a social history of the player piano in America. In the years before his death in 1998, he distilled the whole mass into a fiction, a dramatic monologue by an elderly man with a terminal illness. Continuing Gaddis's career-long reflection on those aspects of corporate technological culture that are uniquely destructive of the arts, Agape Agape is a stunning achievement from one of the indisputable masters of postwar American fiction.Amazon.com Review
William Gaddis's final work, Agape Agape, is an effective distillation of his philosophy and a powerful personal statement regarding the state of modern culture. The book is written in the form of a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness monologue delivered by a dying elderly man, himself attempting to complete his final work, a social history of the player piano in America.Desperate to complete his work before the onset of madness or death and fighting the effects of medication, the frantic narrator offers a meandering discussion of his work, which explores technology's artistically stifling influence. The narrator has isolated a particularly profound example of this in the player piano, an artistic invention that alternately replaced the artist.Technology, the narrator argues, has heightened the value of passivity, entertainment, and mediocrity, leading to the impending "collapse of everything, of meaning, of language, of values, of art, disorder and dislocation wherever you look."The narrator fervently claims that only through artistic courage can we achieve understanding, transcendence, and discover the uniting spirit of creativity, a brotherly "agape" love.

As Joseph Tabbi explains in his informative afterword, Agape Agape is the result of years of research and consideration by Gaddis, and the novella explores technological advancement and the response to this advancement, both actual and hypothetical, by such figures as Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, and Tolstoy.While an impressive work of scholarship, Agape Agape is foremost an emotional decree, Gaddis's final statement of outrage and sadness at our cultural direction and a plea for change.At less than 100 sparsely punctuated pages, the book is an efficient combustion of energy and an affecting depiction of personal and cultural disintegration.At once a condemnation, warning, and affirmation, it reflects Gaddis's apprehensions but also his enduring faith in the power of creation. A worthwhile starting point for newcomers to Gaddis's work, Agape Agape is a memorable end to the career of a gifted thinker. --Ross Doll ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

3-0 out of 5 stars Player Pianos?
Having never read Gaddis, but intrigued by the comparisons to several of my favorite authors (Joyce, Pynchon, etc) I decided to read him.Like many teachers putting forth _Dubliners_ or _A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man_ or _The Crying of Lot 49_ as the simpler, smaller books by a "great" author, I chose the shortest one.This book was written at the end of Gaddis's long life, and is the distillation of a lot of his themes and concerns and ideas that populated his earlier, more celebrated works.Apparently.Maybe I shouldn't have picked this book.It was only OK in my opinion.The stream of consciousness thing has been done before, and at times, I thought I was reading a book written in 1928, not 1998 because of the technique.The thing is, I couldn't really tell you what the book was "about."Its an interior rant about an old dying man who is hung up on the nature of art and technology really, but sometimes it made more sense on the page by page level than the global level.The writing and structure and vocabulary and reputation are enough to make me want to read more of his work, but I think I'll go read some Brits first.

4-0 out of 5 stars A bit of posthumous genius
William Gaddis will never be an American literary icon on the order of Hemingway or Faulkner, it's fair to say.His novels, written in a fractured, stream-of-conscious hybrid of dialogue and interior monologue, are full of obscure allusions, facts and figures, and in true postmodern glee, often defy thematic description.I found "A Frolic of His Own" to be an absolute riot (maybe because I'm a lawyer)--it was too long, for sure, but smart and true as the best satires are.

This interesting little book has a lot to say about the state of Art in the Age of Technology.Unapologetically elitist, the moribund narrator illustrates how the democratization of art (best exemplified, for Gaddis, by the invention of the player piano) has transformed the genius of creation into little more than a spectator sport.Poking fun at the Pulitzers (the only purpose of which, he observes, is to proclaim the recipient fit for bourgeois consumption), the narrator breathes a sigh of relief on behalf of Pulitzer-less Thomas Pynchon, while commiserating with John Kennedy Toole on his posthumous receipt of the prize.Gaddis bewails a world where every four year old with a computer is considered an artist and sounds a note of gratitude (of which self-gratitude is almost certainly a part) for those who toil in the sweat and anonymity of true creation.

For those disgusted by the Hollywood mentality that exalts the mainstream at the expense of the maverick, that assesses quality in the language of capitalism, this sly little book provides a welcome critique, nurturing the inner elitist in us all.

5-0 out of 5 stars Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham
Reminds me of nothing so much as Lucky's inspired tirade in Waiting for Godot in which the ends and odds of Western civilization are stitched up and stuttered nonstop in one fell swoop. Dense and dead funny.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Ruminations
William Gaddis' Agape Agape is a brilliant, philisophical rumination on the nature of contemporary society and its relationship to art and the artist.It's not really a novel, but rather a 100 page diatribe of a dying man trying to get his affairs in order before the end.He is in a bed somewhere, spilling water, bleeding slightly on his notes, his books.He talks to us about everything from the mundane (the blood) to the deeply philisophical (Plato and many, many others).I read this one one sitting in about an hour because it's that compelling and enjoyable.The conversation seamlessly moves from real estate matters to artistic matters.His commentary will make you chuckle, will make you shake your head in agreement.This is an interesting work and if you are looking from a step up from your average novel.Enjoy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant--It's Changed My Mind About Gaddis!
I have seldom if ever revised my opinion of an author based on a posthumous work-until now.I confess to having found the late William Gaddis' other (and in some circles, classic) novels (J.R., Frolic of His Own, The Recognitions, and Carpenter's Gothic) theoretically interesting and probably brilliant, but always far too long, very self-indulgent, difficult for its own sake and almost unreadable-in other words, they bored me, what I could get through of them.
This prejudice of mine is coupled with a general dislike for posthumous works in general-the kind where a Major Author left a work unfinished at death, and which is years after released and edited with an introduction or forward by some noted Scholar: ("This really IS a great book, all of Fitzgerald's/Hemingway's/Duras'/McGowin's major Themes are here," etc., etc.).Well, they very seldom are great works, and just as the act of Revision seems contrived to some (your Kerouac wannabes, perhaps), I, conversely, find the act of posthumous publication to itself be contrived-again, in general.Glenn Gould, the great pianist, once expressed his intense dislike of "live" recordings being released on record labels with the surrounding hoopla, and said he planned to do a "fake" live album, recorded in the studio, complete with mistakes and overdubbed with audience coughing, etc.Sony of course wouldn't go for it, but I've often wanted to write a "fake" posthumous novel, the Final (unfinished) Work of a Great American Novelist-I'll make it about 100 de-contextualized pages, with 200 pages of forwards, introductions, afterwards, and footnotes.Now that Dave Eggars is a Publisher, he should get in touch.
But in the case of Agape Agape, the Afterward is totally superfluous.The book was finished when Gaddis died, and I don't need to have that explained to me, nor do I care what Joseph Tabbi et. al. Think of it in the overall context of Gaddis' other novels or what it started out as or what Gaddis wanted it to achieve.It's 125 pages, and all of a piece, without section or chapter breaks, the perfect length for what is the most cohesive and affecting book the man ever wrote-the free-associations of a dying narrator who's afraid his lifelong goal to write the definitive history of the player piano will never come to fruition.Into this frenetic and breathless narrative, then, is woven...everything.What begins with the narrator's opinions concerning several aspects of the History and Future of Technology becomes a fictional autobiography the likes of which has rarely been achieved, cemented by the character's grasp of mortality and humanity, and by Gaddis' seamless and masterful narrative drive.He is ON.
This is a one or two-sitting book, and the reader will come away from it reeling.It's too brief for me to go into specifics, for the specifics are the book, the book is the plot-but if you've never read Gaddis, START HERE.And if you need to picture a Literary Precedent, think of Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, perhaps, or of the best shorter work by Camus or John Hawkes-but only think.Because this book suceeds where Gaddis' other novels drag in that it also makes you feel. ... Read more

2. The Recognitions (Penguin Classics)
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 976 Pages (1993-05-01)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$13.55
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140187081
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Wyatt Gwyon's desire to forge is not driven by larceny but from love.Exactingly faithful to the spirit and letter of the Flemish masters, he produces uncannily accurate 'originals' - pictures the painters themselves might have envied.In an age of counterfeit emotion and taste, the real and fake have become indistinguishable; yet Gwyon's forgeries reflect a truth that others cannot touch - cannot even recognize. Contemporary life collapses the distinction between the 'real' and the 'virtual' world, and Gaddis' novel pre-empts our common obsessions by almost half a century.This novel tackles the blurring of perceptual boundaries, The Matrix and Bladerunner pale in comparison to this epic novel. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (44)

5-0 out of 5 stars Undeniably genius
The obvious point of reference for William Gaddis' "The Recognitions", a criminally underrated classic that easily ranks as one of the truly great twentieth century novels, is David Foster Wallace.Shortly before his death, Wallace referenced Gaddis' in an interview and acknowledged him as an inspiration, a fact I did not know until after reading this book and wondering, "Was Wallace influnenced by Gaddis?"
The reason I bring this up is that being a big Wallace fan, I find few authors who write with such command of the Engish language- bold ideas, frenzied pace, brilliant insights alongside the basest of emotions, with nary a misstep or misused word.Wallace wrote big- bigger than 99% of the authors out there- and instead of being a forerunner of a whole new movement in literature, Wallace turns out to be emulating an author writing half a century earlier.
"The Recognitions", at one thousand pages plus, is giant in scope yet somehow feels unfinished.The theme running through every plot, subplot, conversation, snippet of thought- is forgery.Gaddis' fills the book with a carousal of characters- art dealers, artists, philosophers, authors, charlatans, zealots- weaving in and out of each others lives, and though their specific roles in life are markedly different, the ideas they promote and means they use to achieve their ends begin to overlap, mimic, mock each other.Conversations between dozens of characters will run for twenty plus pages at a time, names unassigned to the words being spoken, confusion created early, repetition setting in as conversations curtail in on each other, the end result exhilarating, as thrilling as an action novel.Ideas run rampant in the characters, in their words, in their actions, and as Gaddis illustrates over and over again, it is all fake.Or some of it is fake but we don't know which some? Or some of it is fake but not all of the time?Or maybe none of it is?
"The Recognitions" is a giant tapestry, and if you concentrate on a single thread, it may lead you dangling in the air or deadend into another thread.Stand back and consider it all- the dozens of threads that intertwine and run towards, parallel, and away from each other- and you will see one of the most impressive literary accomplishments of this century.
And if it wasn't clear, I really love this book!

2-0 out of 5 stars Slow, Turgid, Misanthropic
Full disclosure: I'm not much for the cult of capital "A" Art.You know, the people who see in art something transcendent, or believe somehow that Art will connect them to the ultimate reality of the universe.I've always see that tendency to come from the application of humanity's innate religious drive to a secular pursuit.And I believe it has as much chance as succeeding as does following a religion.As such, I thought this acclaimed book with a main character that deals with religion and then capital "A" Art would be interesting.

Instead, what I ended up reading was an incredible overwritten, pseudointellectual mishmash of pointless scenes populated by characters created by an obvious misanthrope punctuated by occasional incomprehensibility.

I'm giving it two stars though, because the first 100-150 pages introduce some interesting characters, but the rest left me cold.

If you're going to read this work, I'd recommend reading the first 300 pages.If you find pages 150-300 irritating and barely readable, stop reading because it doesn't get any better.If you're entranced, keep reading cause it's more of the same.

4-0 out of 5 stars Flawed Masterpiece?
Judging from the other reviews, most readers of this novel fall into two camps: fanboys bedazzled by Gaddis's writing -- even when they don't genuinely understand it -- and skeptics who generally give up after x-number of confusing pages and dismiss Gaddis as a pretentious bore.

From where I sit, neither are entirely incorrect. The Recognitions is a monumental achievement -- an acerbic, erudite, surgical dissection of modernity and the American Imperium in all its gaudy, hypocritical, cacophonous glory. It's a terrifying vision of a society adrift in a moral and spiritual vacuum, in which appearance always trumps reality, the ends always justify the means, and deception, superficiality and self-delusion are the only cultural currencies. So far from being "dated" (as one particularly boneheaded reviewer below has it) it reads as if it were written yesterday: a jeremiad against all the self-involved follies and vanities of the West that have only metastasized in the 55 years since Gaddis threw this thunderbolt.

However, the novel also undeniably is pretentious -- chock-a-block with references to obscure early 20th century treatises and tomes you haven't read, and interpolating random bits of foreign languages (Hungarian anyone? Latin? Attic Greek?) that seem more calculated to showing off than to actually conveying meaning. Yes, this is a deliberate strategy on the part of Gaddis -- to create a "canvas" as detail-rich as the Bosch and Van Eyck paintings that obsess the novel's protagonist -- but that doesn't mean it always works. Indeed, it frequently leads to profound tedium, particularly in the scenes involving Wyatt and Basil Valentine. (In this regard, Steven Moore's online "A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions," with its page-by-page annotations, is absolutely invaluable for untangling the web of references and allusions, and rendering sense out of seeming nonsense.)

Too, there's a curious imbalance in the novel. For me, the central figure, Wyatt/Stephen, is the least compelling character in the novel, and the least credible: a tortured artist who speaks only in choppy ellipses and stream-of-consciousness gobbledygook. He's supposed to be a charismatic figure -- the sort who could drive a girl (one in particular, named Esme) over the brink into madness -- but Gaddis never manages to convincingly convey that charisma or the source of Wyatt's psychological conflict. For this reason, the whole plot of Wyatt's temptation and (ambiguous) redemption -- which constitutes a self-conscious retelling of the Faust myth -- seems extremely labored to me. The many subplots (Otto's, Pivner's, Frank's, Stanley's) are all much more enjoyable -- broadly and blackly comic, but also far more true-to-life than Wyatt's tormented musings.

So, a great novel? Yes. But also a flawed one. Some would argue that those flaws are an important part of the book, just as Wyatt's defacing of his final forgery (a literal "de-face-ing," since he mars the face) is an important and necessary part of his art, rendering it the more "authentic." Maybe. But, to me, "clunky" is "clunky," and too much of the novel clunks. I don't regret at all the time and attention demanded by The Recognitions, but, excellent as much of it is, ultimately I don't think it's as great as it might have been with a ruthless editor and a less ostentatious author.

(A note: I am not at all new to Gaddis's sensibility. Years ago I read both A Frolic of His Own and JR (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics), and I still number the latter as one of my all-time favorite novels, and quite possibly the best American novel of the Twentieth Century. If you're going to read just one Gaddis, read J.R.) 3.5 stars.

4-0 out of 5 stars Big Book for Big Issues
Big books can be scary, even for those of us who like to read.A big book requires big time, and it's not always easy to remember at the end what happened at the beginning.Then, too, especially in recent years, the author of a big book sometimes includes a lot of complicated tricks and confusing references and such, just to make it big.And all too often you get to the end of a big book and realize that with all the stylistic experiments and linguistic games and such, the author sort of forgot to tie up all the loose ends, leaving you with more questions than you began with.Who needs it?

Well, of course, most big books don't have those problems, even the recent ones.If you're considering "The Recognitions" and worrying about those issues, you can relax and go ahead.

To be sure, there is a certain amount of literary trickery, and the sheer number of characters makes it hard to keep track of what's happening to who.Nevertheless, it's fairly easy to keep the various plotlines straight.Most of the characters have something to render them recognizable, too, and if you don't understand the obscure references, you don't really need them to understand what's going on.So while it's not easy to read, it's not impossible, either.A better question is, why read it at all?

That's a question to be asked of any book, of course.The difference is that "The Recognitions" seems to ask that question of itself.That's the major theme, in fact - what's the good of any work of art, any system of belief, any life, when sooner or later you always, always find that it's inauthentic?

The central plot, for instance,concerns a young man named Wyatt Gwyon, descendant of generations of Massachusetts clergymen and an artist of talent, who finds himself making a living as an art forger for an unscrupulous dealer.Is this a sin or a way of honoring the masters of the past?

His acquaintances also seek some meaning in life for themselves, and like Wyatt, they generally find it through some pretence.This bothers some of them - others couldn't care less.Either way, whether they try to reconcile their inner and outer lives or just ignore the whole process, they all find themselves surrounded by falsehood.

As for the literary tricks, one of the best things about "The Recognitions" is the way William Gaddis uses them to give us some insight into his characters and themes - they're not just there to show off.My personal favorite joke is the fact that Wyatt is never called by name after the first couple of hundred pages.Like I said, though, that's more than just a joke.Considering that Wyatt spends a good part of his time trying to figure out who he is, the namelessness actually makes sense, and it's more effective to take away his name than it would be if the text just came right out and said "He didn't know who he was anymore" or something obvious like that.

William Gaddis has drawn comparison to certain other writers, like James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon, who have used games and tricks to make serious points.The comparison is fair, as far as it goes.Gaddis had a different group of interests, though - you might say that while Joyce and Pynchon and some others look down through an oppressive world at the individual characters they create, Gaddis looks up from the point of view of his characters and their internal labyrinths toward the world at large.Since most of these characters in their self-delusion are trying to impose their wills on that world, that bottom-up approach tells us a great deal.

This is the first Gaddis novel I've read - I'm told that in some of his later work, the individual characters manage to put one over on the system, but that certainly isn't the case here.To the extent that any of these people find any meaning for themselves in life, it's by inventing individual ways of living, pretty much ignoring all other considerations- incidentally confusing the living daylights out of those around them, who try to fit into the manner of life imposed on them from elsewhere.

So do any of these characters find a genuine way of life in a world full of counterfeits?That, as they say, would be telling.Suffice to say that, since pretty nearly everyone and everything in the world of "The Recognitions" is something other than what they seem, and since what you find under the surface also isn't what it seems ad infinitum, the only way anyone here can find anything genuine is not by avoiding the fakes, but by going through them.

That sounds like the way things go in real life, too - you have to deal with the fakes to get to the real stuff, if there is any such thing.It's a tough road, and as we all know, some people never recognize it, never mind taking it.I'll bet it's easier to recognize that path once you've been through a book like this one, which may indeed make it worth reading close to a thousand pages.

Benshlomo says, Believe it or not, reading good books is good practice for life.

2-0 out of 5 stars Sorry, but it's outdated!
Recognitions is an important book no doubt, but it's so outdated.Read the TIME review of the book in 1955.It's on the money!Gaddis was 33 when he wrote it and in 1953 when I believe the book was written, he slams America for hypocrisy, Madison Avenue sellout (where have we heard that before?), the usual 'truths' that youngpeople believe in until it's time to get a job just like Gaddis did.Read his bio.Just who was selling out?Anyway, try reading it. Maybe you'll like it.But I find that the America of the 50's is better captured in crime novels of the time as is myNYC.
... Read more

3. Carpenter's Gothic (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 272 Pages (1999-03-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$10.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0141182229
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This story of raging comedy and despair centers on the tempestuous marriage of an heiress and a Vietnam veteran. From their "carpenter gothic" rented house, Paul sets himself up as a media consultant for Reverend Ude, an evangelist mounting a grand crusade that conveniently suits a mining combine bidding to take over an ore strike on the site of Ude's African mission. At the still center of the breakneck action--revealed in Gaddis's inimitable virtuoso dialoge--is Paul's wife, Liz, and over it all looms the shadowy figure of McCandless, a geologist from whom Paul and Liz rent their house. As Paul mishandles the situation, his wife takes the geologist to her bed and a fire and aborted assassination occur; Ude issues a call to arms as harrowing as any Jeremiad--and Armageddon comes rapidly closer. Displaying Gaddis's inimitable virtuoso dialogue, and his startling treatments of violence and sexuality, Carpenter's Gothic "shows again that Gaddis is among the first rank of contemporary American writers" (Malcolm Bradbury, The Washington Post Book World).

"An unholy landmark of a novel--an extra turret added on to the ample, ingenious, audacious Gothic mansion Gaddis has been building in American letters" --Cynthia Ozick, The New York Times Book Review

"Everything in this compelling and brilliant vision of America--the packaged sleaze, the incipient violence, the fundamentalist furor, the constricted sexuality--is charged with the force of a volcanic eruption. Carpenter's Gothic will reenergize and give shape to contemporary literature." --Walter Abish ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Talk, talk, it's all talk
Often this is considered the least of Gaddis' novels, the most obvious reason being that it's the shortest, although that isn't the only reason.Still, in his longer novels Gaddis was always able to work his themes to a fever pitch and stretch them out, playing with dialogue and tone over the course of hundreds of pages, giving you in essence a grand symphony.A depressing symphony, also, mind you, dotted with sparks of black humor but it made each book a rather meaty read.Here he attempts to do all that in like a tenth of the space and while that gives the novel a breakneck pace that isn't really matched by anything else he's ever done (Agape, Agape, maybe, but I'll let you know when I get there), things start off quickly and keep moving.Even this is an illusion, while The Recognitions was a tad ponderous at times and was meant to be read slowly, JR comes across as a mad flurry of action, due to all the competing voices charging head-on in cacophony.Here everything just feels compressed, the characters trapped in a bottle, the setting never really leaving the house that gives the novel its name.With its limited setting and fewer characters, it sometimes can feel like JR-lite but the tone is remarkably different.As I mentioned, there are hints of Gaddis' rather dark view of things but most of the time it was leavened by humor or at least some kind of compassion.In this story, you have none of that.The two main characters, Paul and Elizabeth, are taking care of a house owned by a different man, while Paul works with a Reverend and also seems to be suing a bunch of people due to some kind of airplane crash, while Elizabeth goes to different doctors somehow aligned with the case and generally frets about.Which sets up the main problem with the novel, the two characters are mostly unlikable, the novel begins with Paul berating Elizabeth nonstop while asking her to do stuff for him and it really doesn't relent, just about every scene of them together follows that pattern and it does get rather tedious after a while.Elizabeth isn't much better on her own, while Paul's foulmouthed rants have an amusing component to them, Elizabeth just tends to flutter and frit about and not saying anything of real import, although she does gain something resembling a spine toward the end.Paul's schemes are what drive the narrative but it is hard to figure out what the general thrust is underneath all the ranting, in fact the copy on the inner jacket will tell you more about the plot than the story really does and it's not unheard of for a reader to feel simply snowballed under the mountains of dialogue.Fortunately, Gaddis does dialogue well.Really, really well.Real people may not talk like that but he captures the rhythms close enough and the back and forth chatter is like nothing else is literature.The lack of punctuation marks only immerses the dialogue further into the prose, making it all a sort of weird background noise . . . though it can get confusing because he writes more actual prose here than in JR, where the non-dialogue narrative almost seemed like an afterthought.Although the constant talking remains key, the rich language that was in the Recognitions starts to poke through here and there.But it's the chatter that shines, especially toward the latter portion of the book where all the conflicts start to come to a head.When the owner of the house, McCandless shows up and appears to be more connected to matters than he lets on, things start to pick up and the many page conversation between him and Lester where they alternately threaten and manipulate and dance around each other with nothing but words is probably the best thing in the novel and I was sincerely sorry when it ended, so marvelously was it paced.Otherwise, things progress merrily, it will probably take several readings to figure out what is going on but it reads easily enough, even if the plot seems a bit sketchy at times.While Gaddis' technique is as sure as usual, he doesn't seem to have as much of a handle on his themes, ranting about basically everything without much focus.That can be frustrating at times, I'll agree.Still, the book is much more than Gaddis-lite, which is putting things too simply.His command of his technique is as astounding as ever and it's a good a place to introduce yourself to his work as any (Frolic might better, Recognitions is not for the faint of heart due to its length and JR is actually rather atypical), even if you shouldn't stop there.And hey, it even has chapters, of a sort.Sell-out!Just kidding!Difficult, but I think worth the effort involved.

1-0 out of 5 stars a pretentious criminal atrocity
this book was terrible.it is nothing more than a twisted and messed up story that is supposed to have some meaning and substance to it.but it doesn't.it goes nowhere, does nothing.there are merely characters, that do meaningless things, and that's about it.besides the obvious title theme, there really are no useful themes.

it is written in a style that is quite difficult to read, which is fine with me, but afterward you question why you wasted all the effort and concentration in reading when the book wasn't worth it anyway.

the only good plus i can see in this book is if you want to read it, and pretend you like it, just so you can discuss it in a pretentious book group and get with a pretentious girl or boy.other than that it really has no value.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not his best work
It says nothing he didn't say better in JR, which though somewhat less accessible, is a richer, funnier and satisfying novel.The writing is dazzling, though it becomes somewhat monotonous at points in this book.(Get your own ice, Paul.)The problem is the content.At its core, this book is pretty empty. Carpenter's Gothic and, to a lesser extent, JR are like some Wynton Marsalis solos.The artist may be able to hit notes and play riffs no one else can and his tone may be gorgeous, but the music doesn't say anything.Still, worth three stars for the brilliance of the technique.

3-0 out of 5 stars Worth a look
I read it a long time ago, and some of the dialogue has stuck with me, but overall there's an emptiness of vision underlying this work. Whether or not the book satirizes Christianity or fundamentalism is hard to say; if it does, it doesn't try very hard. One character rants against the language of evangelization, but that character turns out to be a venal, self-obsessed murderer. What does that say about his opinions? In fact, one irony is the work may implicate readers who agree with the anti-Christian diatribes ... but I'm not sure. At least the book's short and some of it is memorable.

4-0 out of 5 stars Challenging, but well worth it...
Having heard so much praise for Gaddis' work and having read excerpts from all four of his novels, I decided to give "Carpenter's Gothic" a try.I must say that I was not at all surprised to find that everything I've heard about Gaddis' virtuoso prose and dialogue is absolutely true.The man was an absolutely brilliant writer.His dialogue is the best I've ever read.I also can see why he never really became popular: he's not the easiest writer to read.A book like this has to be read at least two times in order for the reader to catch up on a lot of what is going on.Not that this would be much of a chore.In fact, I think that anyone who has read this book would look forward to a second go-round! ... Read more

4. JR (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 752 Pages (1993-05-01)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$13.49
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Asin: 0140187073
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (21)

3-0 out of 5 stars Better than his other works
This massive 726-page comedy in unattributed dialogue is a thick, tough read. I wouldn't say the story is amazing, but it is entertaining enough to keep reading AFTER the first 150 pages which comprises the story's slow, uneventful, and often boring beginning.

After spending a month going through it, I think that William Gaddis is a great writer of dialogue and a mediocre storyteller with a good sense of humor. The way he captures spoken American English is simply genius. W/r/t his sense of humor, I did laugh out loud at parts, but didn't think him as funny as DFW. And the story. It's there, and unlike other modern/postmodern works, it's got an ending which is always nice (unlike DeLillo's Underworld or Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow), and an entertaining plot (in stark contrast to Joyce's Ulysses and Beckett's trilogy), but due to the sheer abundance of characters, the story has no focus and I never made any connection and identified with any of them (although I was rather fond of Jack Gibbs). JR is also better than his other works I read - A Frolic of His Own (which was frustrating to read at parts because I thought a lot of the scenes were pointless) and Agape Agape (just an old dying man rambling about his work throughout).

Like other modern and postmodern works, the book has everything going against itself to be read by the general public despite winning the National Book Award. Characters and company names abound, story continues without any chapter break as characters' voices come and go, and the business transactions that form the spine of the story are highly complex and difficult to keep track of.

The main difficulties in going through this novel are: 1) figuring out who's talking and what's going on from the dialogue, which fortunately gets easier as you slog through the story and get used to the lilt and locution of the characters; and 2) keeping track of all the people and companies' names and business deals and understanding how they are all related to one another.

Overall, a good comedy with amazing dialogue. It just takes patience to go through it.

3-0 out of 5 stars The Book That's Not For Everyone
Or anyone?JR makes no concessions for readers.It is 726 pages of dialogue, not attributed. To call it a novel is perhaps to misplace the work in a category it does not belong.It is really like listening to an open mike recording conversations without the benefit of an editor (the difference being since this is reading, there can be no passive listening; this work demands hard work).Either Gaddis is a genius or a fraud, depending on who is doing the reading of his work.Perhaps Gaddis is a milestone in American writing that has been passed and we can all take a sigh of relief.

4-0 out of 5 stars Highly Entertaining
Given the small number of reviews for this book I thought I'd throw in my two cents.This really is an interesting read and once you figure out who the main characters are it becomes an easy read too.After about 200-300 pages it really starts to click and then things just roll along.It is funny and cynical and just plain entertaining.It has a unique structure where the reader is bounced from one character or group to another.There will be a conversation and then one of the members leaves or runs into someone and then you follow him/her off to another conversation/episode.It is very creative and well done.It's actually a fairly fast read despite 726 pages with no chapter or section breaks.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great American Novel
This may be THE Great American Novel. Gaddis mashes together monologue, video, broken telephone conversations, radio commercials, bits of an opera (and virtually zero narrative voice) in order to present the story of an 11-year-old boy, hungry for success, whose bold and incredibly lucky market maneuvers create a paper empire in which he controls a mill, a brewery, a Texas university, an advertising agency, a matchbook company, a printing press, a network of radio stations, a woman's magazine, a wallpaper company, an interest in a small African nation, an Indian tribe, and control over most of America's natural resources (oil, gas, minerals, forests). It's the ultimate in American myth, the perfect rags-to-riches story. But it's empty. As the 11-year-old boy is challenged by his one-time teacher (now business representative) to listen -- to really listen -- to the beauty of a musical masterpiece, he hears nothing but empty syllables. It's just a bunch of noise. The American Dream.

5-0 out of 5 stars one of my top 5 favorites
1st, a below reviewer says it's all dialogue, which is almost true but not quite.there are sections of exposition, description, but because of the way it's all written, you could be halfway through one of these sections before realizing that the dialogue stopped and this isn't someone speaking anymore.

that aside, this book is just amazing, and it's oddly accessible once you get going.kind of like shakespeare or milton.you have to get used to the use of the language.but Gaddis's ear for dialogue, especially that of JR, the little kid all the action ("action" not really being the right word) revolves around, is so good, so funny, so good at creating memorable lines and ideas...it just can't be beat.

i could go on and on, but why?just read it.(on this note, this is one of those books that is aided by a reading guide, and there is an excellent one available free [by Steven Moore] at the Gaddis website, williamgaddis.org.) ... Read more

5. A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's "The Recognitions"
by Steven Moore
 Hardcover: 337 Pages (1982-05-01)
list price: US$35.00
Isbn: 0803230729
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6. A Frolic of His Own
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 512 Pages (1995-02-10)
list price: US$31.95 -- used & new: US$1.74
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Asin: 0684800527
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A dazzling fourth novel by the author of The Recognitions, Carpenter's Gothic, and JR uses his considerable powers of observation and satirical sensibilities to take on the American legal system. Reprint. 30,000 first printing.Amazon.com Review
Perhaps William Gaddis' most accessible novel--though a dense andimposing book--A Frolic of His Own is a masterful work that mocks thefolly of a litigious society. The story centers around Oscar Crease, thegrandson of a Confederate soldier who avoided a deadly battle by invoking alegal clause that allowed him to hire a substitute and who later became aSupreme Court judge. Oscar writes a play about his grandfather that goesunproduced yet appears as the storybehind a big-budget Hollywood film.Oscar sues and is tossed into the vortex of litigation. Meanwhile, almost 20other lawsuits of varying frivolity swirl about, adding to this satirical andphilosophical treat, which won the National Book Award for 1994. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (37)

1-0 out of 5 stars "What's that you say...?"
No need to speak those words to the dialog trapped characters of Frolic (anything but!) or any other of the Gaddis transcriptions. Not only do we read what they say..we get the added thrill of reading what they say about what they say.
Gaddis found himself a very nice little gig..he wrote non novels about people with fixations and gimmicks and their quirkiness crawled under the pretentious hide of every New York Book Review writer that picked them up.
The problem..the "fatal flaw.." of Gaddis' stuff (what else is it!!??) is that it fails miserably in doing what every true Classic does..providing the reader with a lens for seeing and entering a world we can't possibly fathom by simply listening to people babble.
If you want to feel the heartbreak and sense the delusion of people under the grip of senseless law read Dicken's Bleak House..if you feel a need to have pointless, self indulgent non conversations inflicted on your psyche you can either read Gaddis or hit a bench at the Greyhound Bus depot and wait for the action.

5-0 out of 5 stars Nature scenes in A Frolic of His Own
I've noticed many instance of reviewers complaining about the nature scenes in this book.It seems that some people feel them to be unrelated to the rest of what is going on in the story.To the contrary, it is simply yet another sublime (though admittedly indirect) method by which Gaddis extolls his central analysis: that despite all of our technology and sophistication, the absurdities and idiocies presented throughout the book are an irreducible part of our human nature.

Gaddis puts it all on the same level - the animals in Oscar's front yard, Oscar's legal entanglements, the scenes of f***ing fleeing and fighting that are constantly shown in Oscar's nature programs...All Gaddis is doing is comparing the differing behaviors of animals in order to draw attention to the debased and fraudulent character of home sapiens...Doing so he seems to say of the litany of idiocies and absurdities detailed in the book: "THIS is OUR nature."

3-0 out of 5 stars Mr. Difficult
Jonathan Franzen called Gaddis "Mr. Difficult" and this moniker certain holds for A Frolic of His Own.Distressingly, this is Mr. Difficult's "easy" novel, but there is still an abundance of challenge for the reader in need of a difficult text to climb.Like a macho mountain climber who refuse to carry oxygen in the thin air of Everest's death zone, we have here un-attributed dialogue, and abundance of dialogue with little narration, intrusions of documents, legal briefs, depositions, court papers, a lack of transition from scene to scene, character to character, time or place or circumstance.In all, this novel has a simple thesis: the world of late-twentieth century America is a bewildering landscape. Literature should reflect this bewilderment.So most of the load-bearing elements of traditional story telling are jettisoned in A Frolic of His Own, and the reader is left to his or her own devices to figure out just what is going on in this book, whether it is a novel in any sense, and whether it is worth the time and effort to read at all.

3-0 out of 5 stars Great Technique Used to Little Effect
This is the first book by Gaddis that I have read.While the plot, characters, and technique are all promising in themselves, the book's whole is less than the sum of its parts.

This is the result of Gaddis's decision to apply a post-modernist literary technique to a narrative that doesn't benefit from it.As many other reviewers have noted, the bulk of the book is written as pure dialogue, without quotations and without attribution.While this creates some problems in the beginning, it becomes surprisingly easy to follow.The rest of the book is made up of excerpts from texts, mainly a play, legal briefs, and court documents, with a very few brief stretches of interior monologue or description.

The problems with this technique are two.First, it is monotonous.Writers generally vary the pacing and tone of their writing for dramatic effect.Gaddis can't do that.Second, the technique flattens out the narrative:no part of the text is given more importance than any other.The end result is that the reading the book feels like taking a drive over a flat highway in a car stuck in third gear, and, at almost six hundred pages, it's a very long drive.

Gaddis's choice is unfortunate, because the substance of the book, including a long-simmering battle over the rights to a play and movie about the American Civil War, an accident in which a driver runs himself over, and a running family feud, could have made for an entertaining book.

3-0 out of 5 stars phew! I need a vacation!
I forced myself to finish this book. Several areas of alliteration were fascinating & masterful.Funny, yes, but it was like walking through three feet of mud in high heels.This is not a book for those expecting short-term reward, but wickedly satirical on many levels.Will I read Gaddis again?-hmmmmmmmmm maybe I'll just stick pins in my eyes...... ... Read more

7. JR
by William Gaddis
 Paperback: Pages (1971)

Asin: B001ATC78I
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8. The Rush for Second Place: Essays and Occasional Writings
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 160 Pages (2002-10)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.00
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Asin: 0142002380
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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William Gaddis published only four novels during his lifetime, but with those works he earned himself a reputation as one of America's greatest novelists. Less well known is Gaddis's body of excellent critical writings. Here is a wide range of his original essays, some published for the first time. From "'Stop Player. Joke No. 4,'" Gaddis's first national publication and the basis for his projected history of the player piano, to the title essay about missed opportunities in America during the past fifty years, to "Old Foes with New Faces," an examination of the relationship between the writer and the problem of religion-this diverse collection displays the power of an autonomous literary intelligence in an age increasingly dominated by political and religious conservatism. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars Okay just as an indication of what's bouncing around in
Gaddis's head, but as essays these are incredibly ineffective.Take the longest piece in this collection - The Rush for Second Place: it pretty much starts out with the conviction that American culture is largely mediocre (revolutionary thought!) and then just lists a whole bunch of things that Gaddis considers stupid and ridiculous.Well, I agree that there's a lot about this country that's stupid and ridiculous, but the last thing I need is a list: I'm not asking for solutions, just an argument - a point - something.An essay: TRY to accomplish something.No one else needs another sputtering catalogue of rage.

The only thing a list is useful for, of course, is exposing you to something (a book, a person) that you may not have heard of before.And the most wonderful discovery that I got out of this book was John Holt and his books.Read him if you haven't already.

As an admirer of Gaddis's fiction, though, which is full of fascinating ideas, this collection was disappointing and even a little dismaying.The early essays contain interesting germs of topics, such as a short piece of writing on the player piano, whose ramifications aren't really developed.Gaddis apparently considered the player piano as a sort of symbol for a culture that wants art without effort, easy mechanized entertainment for the masses - but that's just my incompetent gloss, and I wish that he'd made the effort to put together an argument himself.

And the later work, as I said earlier, is of the scattershot rant variety - even the interesting comparison of Erewhon with the Republican congress of the 90s jumps around and has obviously dated rather badly.

The reason I say this is a little dismaying is that - if an author writing essays has such trouble expressing himself in a coherent fashion - it starts to reflect on his fiction as well.I've read A Frolic of His Own and Carpenter's Gothic - and have stalled out recently, although I hope to start again, on The Recognitions and JR - and although I still find them hilarious satires, I'm starting to doubt the penetration of the thought behind the comedy.Gaddis's imagination is visionary, but I'm starting to feel that - like Dickens - his mind is pretty commonplace.The standard liberal line on politics, for the most part, and moaning about the stupidity of mass culture: maybe he's right, but how dreary it is to be right in such a boring and disorganized fashion.

5-0 out of 5 stars Finally, the Collected Uncollected Works...
It's good finally to see William Gaddis's "ocassional" writings collected into one volume. For years, the only thing available was the super-rare and thus ridiculously expensive pirate edition, "The Uncollected Works of William Gaddis" published by the so-called Black Moon Press, whoever and wherever they were or weren't. While that underground classic might have had the drop on this legit book, "The Rush For Second Place" is more complete and up to date. Good stuff! ... Read more

9. Paper Empire: William Gaddis and the World System
Paperback: 328 Pages (2007-02-28)
list price: US$32.95 -- used & new: US$29.65
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Asin: 0817354069
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10. William Gaddis, "The Last of Something": Critical Essays
by Crystal Alberts
Paperback: 216 Pages (2009-10-14)
list price: US$45.00 -- used & new: US$45.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 078644309X
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For many years novelist William Gaddis, despite having won two National Book Critics Circle Awards and a MacArthur Foundation's "genius award," suffered from commercial and critical neglect. However, Gaddis has more recently experienced a resurgence in his popularity among both groups and is now considered one of the strongest American novelists. This collection of essays explores the interrelation between Gaddis's writing and the culture that helped to engender it. The essays cover such topics as technique, genre, religion, art, economics, colonialism and the role played by Gaddis's own travels through Europe and North Africa. ... Read more

11. Die Fälschung der Welt.
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 1240 Pages (2000-11-01)

Isbn: 3442448786
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12. Jr.
by William Gaddis
Paperback: Pages (2001-09-01)

Isbn: 3442450020
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13. William Gaddis (Bloom's Modern Critical Views)
 Hardcover: 289 Pages (2003-09)
list price: US$45.00 -- used & new: US$5.99
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Asin: 0791076644
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This title, William Gaddis, part of Chelsea House Publishers’ Modern Critical Views series, examines the major works of William Gaddis through full-length critical essays by expert literary critics. In addition, this title features a short biography on William Gaddis, a chronology of the author’s life, and an introductory essay written by Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale University. ... Read more

14. In Recognition of William Gaddis
 Hardcover: 209 Pages (1984-05)
list price: US$4.98 -- used & new: US$93.58
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Asin: 0815623062
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15. Hints And Guesses: William Gaddis'S Fiction Of Longing
by Christopher J. Knight
 Hardcover: 320 Pages (1997-12-15)
list price: US$55.00 -- used & new: US$54.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0299153002
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
The author of four truly important novelsThe Recognitions in 1955, J R in 1975, Carpenters Gothic in 1985, and A Frolic of His Own in 1995William Gaddis is considered by many literary scholars to be one of the most outstanding novelists of the twentieth century, to be spoken of in the same breath as James Joyce, Robert Musil, and Thomas Pynchon.Hints and Guesses: William Gaddiss Fiction of Longing is the first scholarly work to discuss all four Gaddis novels. While not dismissing the inclination of many scholars to view Gaddiss fiction as postmodern, Christopher Knight moves critical response in another direction, toward a discussion of Gaddiss significance as a satirist and social critic. Knight investigates Gaddiss predominant thematic interests, including those of contemporary aesthetics, Flemish painting, forgery, corporate America, Third World politics, and the U.S. legal system. What Knight finds is an author not only acutely sensitive to post-war social realities but also one whose critique carries with it an implied utopian dimension.This is impressive work on one of the four or five major contemporary novelists and on the cultural conditions under which he writes, and it will attract many readers interested in contemporary American literature and culture.Patrick ODonnell, author of Echo Chambers: Figuring Voice in Modern Narrative and editor of MFS: Modern Fiction Studies

... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars amazing
This book covers the works of Gaddis, exclu8ding Agape Agape, with incredible depth and sweep.A book certain to increase one's appreciation of one of the greatest of authors.those interested in the aesthetic elements in all of Gaddis work will truly benefit.Knight discusses the role of the artist, Flemish painting, and Abstract Expressionism of America in Greenwich Village in the 50s with tremendous facility.He also reads J R in a very Platonic way, namely, in light of the role of the examined life and the question as to how one should, but couches it in consideration of the postwar capitalist nation of America.Excellent, Excellent. ... Read more

16. William Gaddis (Twayne's United States Authors Series)
by Steven Moore
 Hardcover: 176 Pages (1989-05)
list price: US$22.95
Isbn: 080577534X
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17. The Ethics of Indeterminacy in the Novels of William Gaddis
by Gregory Comnes
 Hardcover: 200 Pages (1994-01)
list price: US$59.95 -- used & new: US$35.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0813012511
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In this discussion of the ethical dimension of Gaddis's novels, Comnes maintains that Gaddis writes "epistemological" novels, narratives whose form provides readers with the means to understand how a postmodern ethics is possible. ... Read more

18. A Vision of His Own: The Mind and Art of William Gaddis
by Peter Wolfe
 Hardcover: 312 Pages (1996-11)
list price: US$45.00
Isbn: 0838636942
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19. Agape Agape and Other Writings
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 272 Pages (2004-03-05)
list price: US$16.50 -- used & new: US$7.08
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1903809843
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Agapc Agape continues Gaddis' career-long reflection via the form of the novel on those aspects of corporate culture that are uniquely destructive of the arts. The unnamed narrator of William Gaddis's last novel lies dying in bed, as its author did, gaping in wonder and amazement at our lost capacity for sacred passion. ... Read more

20. Letzte Instanz.
by William Gaddis
Paperback: 720 Pages (1998-04-01)
-- used & new: US$13.81
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 3499222914
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