Index Preface to Revised Edition Fifteen years have passed since the first edition of this book was published University of Nebraska Press, , and during those years I have been gathering materials for what I hoped would be a second edition. Gaddis himself wrote me a long letter clarifying many points, though his remarks, he said, were "not exhaustive. For this edition, I have focused solely on the annotations. Gone are the introduction and appendices to the first edition, and the plot synopsis has been broken up and scattered to introduce each chapter.
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Authors who subscribe to the "Status model" embrace fiction as the springboard for "a discourse of genius and art-historical importance" freed from the demands of the marketplace or the requirements of mass consumption. Yet even Franzen acknowledges the toll exacted by this particular masterpiece. He declares that The Recognitions is "the most difficult book I ever voluntarily read in its entirety," adding that he completed the task "as a kind of penance.
So how did this Joyce story get started? Well, I suspect this goes back to reviewers who judged the novel on its jacket blurb. Joyce scholar Stuart Gilbert offered praise for The Recognitions on the back cover of the first edition, and for those who, contrary to the wise adage, judge books by their back cover, this served as proof positive of influence.
Yet anyone who reads even a few pages into The Recognitions will see that we are dealing with a writer with a very different style and temperament from James Joyce. Instead the prose is choppy and interrupted, almost the antithesis of Ulysses. Sentences are sometimes cut-off even before the verb appears. Long stretches of dialogue are presented with few or no contextual clues. One of the great challenges in reading Gaddis, especially in his second novel JR , is trying to figure out who is saying what.
Where Joyce aims to probe the inner workings of the consciousness behind the speaker, Gaddis deliberately leaves us guessing. Time and again, characters in The Recognitions, do strange things that are simply left unexplained. If Joyce wants to draw us inside the psyche, Gaddis is determined to keep us locked out, to turn the mind into a metaphysical mystery, all the grander for its impenetrability. But the story itself is far from impenetrable.
In The Recognitions, Gaddis presents a conventional narrative, at least on the surface level. The kinds of guessing games a reader of Joyce must play in figuring out the basic elements of the plot are not required in this book.
We may wonder why painter Wyatt Gwyon makes such unusual career choices, abandoning his own works while turning his considerable talents to forgery. Or why his father, a minister, decides to preach about Mithraism rather than Christianity. Motivation is constantly a speculative exercise in this novel, but the basic storyline unfolds with the utmost clarity.
But if the motivation of these strange actors is puzzling, the reader will soon start noticing patterns in their behavior. The characters in this book are clearly plagued with what the aforementioned Mr. Bloom once aptly described as "the anxiety of influence. Gaddis in his book on the subject, but he could very well have turned to The Recognitions as the preeminent case study of what this anxiety looks like in modern life.
Salinger , of both the need for originality and its ultimate impossibility. The Recognitions is a great novel, but not without its bumps in the road. Gaddis has trouble maintaining a consistency of tone, probably due to the massive scope of the book and the many years he spent writing it. His magnum opus starts out as a serious novel of ideas, permeated by a tragic grandeur almost Dostoevskian in its intensity.
But by the time Gaddis reaches the finish line, he has turned The Recognitions into a dark comedy, more akin to Evelyn Waugh or even Martin Amis. I often felt, while reading The Recognitions, as though there were two different novels at work in these pages, both fighting for control of the book. Eventually the comic novel wins out, but this reader sometimes mourned the passing of the other novel within, that stirring chronicle of anguish and soul-searching that disappears from view around page The main character, as noted, is an art forger.
But almost everyone else in The Recognitions is practicing some other type of forgery. Sometimes this forgery is illegal, as in the case of counterfeiter Frank Sinisterra, who takes enormous pride in his phony twenty dollar bills and decides to tackle an even more ambitious con job, namely recreating an Egyptian mummy from a stolen corpse, some linen and a few items from a local supply store. My favorite example: Mr. But in most cases, the forgery is simply a matter-of-fact attribute of day-to-day life.
People hear clever quips at cocktail parties and later pass them off as their own. They adopt dogmas unthinkingly, and not always religious ones —some of the most cherished doctrines come from advertising, a recurring target for Gaddis in this novel. Or they mimic the mannerisms and fashions that, they hope, will give them a dash and panache they could never earn, they fear, on their own merits.
Yes, Gaddis was correct in his one-word summary of The Recognitions. This whole book is about forgery. And when he is not making that point in the plot, Gaddis emphasizes it in symbolic form. There must be hundreds of signs and symbols of inauthenticity in this book. Indeed, I have never read a novel in which the author put so much effort into inserting symbolic representations of his main theme.
If you pay attention you will find them everywhere in this novel—in pieces of furniture, in objects on a coffee table, in seemingly random fragments of overheard conversations, and above all in the masterpieces of art and culture. Everything in The Recognitions is a palimpsest, from the painting on the museum wall to the inner working of the soul. And this is why The Recognitions is a wickedly up-to-date novel, despite its arrival on the scene more than a half-century ago. We live in a cut-and-paste society that has turned forgery into something as simple as a retweet or a copied Wikipedia entry.
If Mr. The only thing missing is that pesky anxiety of influence. But should we? Maybe the copy-and-pasters could learn something from William Gaddis—who in this regard reminds me not of James Joyce, but of Robert Musil, whose sadly under-appreciated novel The Man Without Qualities , provides a comparable indictment of the soul in search for an original self in the midst of a society that has abandoned that all-too-subtle pursuit in favor of other, less angst-provoking pastimes.
Gaddis was on to something. And, again, he said it best in his letter to Oppenheimer. He alerted us to "the integrity of the intimate, the detailed…the evils of superficiality and the terrors of fatigue. But what we see here perhaps hits too close to home, and casts a harsh light on the compromises or forgeries many of us fall back on as easy expedients. Ted Gioia writes on literature, music and popular culture. His most recent book Published on September 20, a website devoted to radical, unconventional and experimental fiction with a particular focus on the rise of modernism and its aftermath.
[PDF] The Recognitions Book by William Gaddis Free Download (976 pages)
Shelves: favourite-books This book has me in its grip. One feels a little lost at times, but there are familiar sights. Can we trust our guide? Gaddis gives you the sense he knows the way The title.
The Recognitions a. Toronto: George J. McLeod, c. New York: Avon Bard Books , New York: Penguin, July h. London: Penguin, January i.
Plot[ edit ] The story loosely follows the life of Wyatt Gwyon, son of a Calvinist minister from rural New England ; his mother dies in Spain. He plans to follow his father into the ministry. Gwyon leaves New England and travels to Europe to study painting. Discouraged by a corrupt critic and frustrated with his career, he moves to New York City. He meets Recktall Brown, a capitalistic collector and dealer of art, who makes a Faustian deal with him. Gwyon is to produce paintings in the style of 15th-century Flemish and Dutch masters such as Bosch, Hugo van der Goes , and Hans Memling and forge their signatures.
He continued in private school until the eighth grade, after which he returned to Long Island to receive his diploma at Farmingdale High School in He entered Harvard in where he was a member of the Harvard Lampoon where he eventually served as President , but was asked to leave in due to an altercation with police. His first novel, The Recognitions, appeared in A lengthy, complex, and allusive work, it had to wait to find its audience. Newspaper reviewers considered it overly intellectual, overwritten, and perhaps on the principle of omne ignotum per obscaenum "all that is unknown appears obscene" , filthy.