The Failure of William Gaddis


#OccupyGaddis begins today.  Time to pull that neglected Penguin Classics edition of J R off the shelf, or pick up the handsome new edition from Dalkey Archive, or, if you’re lucky enough, gently reread your first edition (jacket pictured). However you must, join us for LARB’s summer reading challenge of J R, winner of the 1976 National Book Award. Follow #OccupyGaddis, and read regular musings here at the LARBlog, from #OccupyGaddis creator and host, Lee Konstantinou.

In a New York Times review of Carpenter’s Gothic (1985), Cynthia Ozick described William Gaddis as “famous for not being famous enough.”

Indeed, more than twenty-five years since Ozick wrote her review, Gaddis may still be our most important unread novelist. He’s widely considered a master of American fiction (he won two National Book Awards and a MacArthur “Genius Grant”), is frequently namechecked as a foundational postmodernist writer, but is rarely discussed at length. Even literary scholars, those lovers of the abstruse and the difficult, hardly talk about him. A 2007 edited collection on Gaddis, Paper Empire: William Gaddis and the World System, has only been cited a few times since its publication, and the number of hits Gaddis’s name brings up on the MLA International Database is an order of magnitude lower than what one finds when searching for his peers, like Thomas Pynchon.

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Not sure about the hashtag title on this one, but I think I am going to do this. Loved The Recognitions and couldn’t make it through A Frolic of His Own (though I still think about the dog trapped in the public art sculpture as one of the funniest/most weirdly perfect explorations of art’s place in society). That the guy who wrote The Recognitions then spent decades in advertising and technical writing is heartbreaking, and the feeling I got from Frolic was that that experience might have tipped him all the way into bitterness — where Recognitions still had this thread of idealism running through it. Will be interesting to see how JR feels in that respect.

(Source: lareviewofbooks)

  1. mulberryroad reblogged this from lareviewofbooks
  2. chpinterns reblogged this from lareviewofbooks
  3. grantcuster reblogged this from lareviewofbooks and added:
    Not sure about the hashtag title on this one, but I think I am going to do this. Loved The Recognitions and couldn’t...
  4. talesofpassingtime reblogged this from lareviewofbooks and added:
    My only issue with #occupygaddis is that The Recognitions is a far better novel than JR.
  5. greenapplebooks reblogged this from lareviewofbooks and added:
    Need a BIG summer book?
  6. lareviewofbooks posted this