This will be the first in what may prove to be several installments on this tome by William Gaddis. Yes, it’s 954 pages (Penguin edition). Yes, it’s astounding. I urge you to put aside all else and read this novel.
Another author’s first rule on writing is to ‘Never open a book with weather.’ While it seems there is no place for surgical instructions in creation (especially commandments beginning with Never–three of the ten do), Mr. Gaddis (as so many before him) uses our friend the sun to great effect.
As Wyatt, the protagonist of the novel, stands before the train that will take him away from his widowed father, Reverend Gwyon, the holy man hands his son his dead mother’s two Byzantine hoops of gold. Estranged, they can’t say anything to each other. Gaddis ends the sequence like this:
The sun showed their motionless shadows on the rough wood platform. Then the sun was obscured by a cloud, and the shadows disappeared. When the sun came out again the shadows were gone. p. 60
With Wyatt now living in Paris, Gaddis begins an exemplary paragraph of philological calisthenics (and a brief tour of Munich architecture) with this (the “configuration” is the white Sacré-Coeur Basilica–located on the highest point in the city):
Still, a dull day in the fall, a day which had lost track of the sun and the importunate rendition of minutes and hours the sun dictates, and that configuration of Montmartre stood out in preternatural whiteness, the ceremonial specter of a peak, an abrupt Alp in the wrong direction. p. 68
Finally, as Wyatt now lives married in New York City, Gaddis depicts the city’s change of season:
The lust of summer gone, the sun made its visits shorter and more uncertain, appearing to the city with that discomfited reserve, that sense of duty of the lover who no longer loves. p. 100
Rare TV interview with Gaddis by Malcolm Bradbury (maybe the only one):
The TV interview is 30 minutes. The full one hour interview is on streaming audio here.