“Saul Steinberg, the artist, said one of the major problems for the creative person is to avoid boredom. . . . If I’m bored, the reader is bored. There are writers that we know—we needn’t name them—I don’t understand why they don’t die of boredom at the typewriter. And they sell millions of copies.” William Gaddis in conversation with Malcolm Bradbury, on the occasion of the publication of Carpenter’s Gothic.
Dalkey Archive, publisher of new editions of both The Recognitions and J R, is doing their 10 books for $65/20 books for $120 winter sale right now. Be not bored.
25 now, 25 to follow, with many thanks
1) In The Odyssey, there’s Penelope’s more intimate test of this stranger who claims to be her husband — after he’s gotten through the messy, public business of slaughtering all her suitors down in the castle hall.
2) Of course Penelope has enacted some significant gestures of love herself, during the course of her man’s wanderings, most especially the way she’s undone, every night, the shroud she’s been weaving every day, the funeral shroud for the former king, while meantime promising the suitors: just as soon as the shroud’s done…
3) But now this fellow claims to be the once and future king, and he’s proven pretty impressive, plus their son Telemachus accepts the story, the boy’s helped to cut all the pretenders to ribbons, and now the stranger stands in the bedroom, and so it’s time she too sprang a test on him. Continue reading
Dalkey Archive Press has just reissused two of the most important texts of the past sixty years–William Gaddis’s The Recognitions and JR. Introductions are by William H. Gass and Rick Moody.
Welcome, dear failures, to the penultimate #AuthorFail…super-hero edition.
My Schnide-y sense is tingling, and it says this column will soon go the way of the dodo. Until then, let us revel in our ineptitude.
The Shadow. The Spider. G-8. I thought of these pulp heroes on seeing the first Burton Batman movie, and as I regularly walked to work in 1989-1990 I wondered if an audience, keen on the revamped Batman, would be interested in the Spider once more. The violent stories about him often contained traces of masochism and sadomasochism, as well as insane opponents. (He could be a bit mad also.) The 1970s paperbacks of those three figures were around the house when I was growing up, and later I read Phillip José Farmer’s ‘biography’ of Doc Savage. These memories combined with the re-visioning of Batman to give me the idea for an adventure story primarily set in India and Tibet that would link G-8 (mad from his war battles) and his twin half-brothers, who eventually would become the Shadow and the Spider. The pre-story explained a bit of what they’d done in WWI, what happened to them in the 1920s, and how two of them emerged, 45s blazing, on the side of justice (though not always the law) in the 1930s. (G-8 didn’t get out of the 1920s alive.) In 1993 I finished writing Pulpseed, and sent it off. Continue reading
If you’ve been keeping up (or, like me, struggling to keep up) with the Big Other Book Club thus far, you’ve at least dipped into Tom McCarthy’s C and a Mary Caponegro story or two. And in so doing, you’ve experienced some delectable, rich, intricately-knotted sentences. McCarthy’s writing felt mechanical at times to me, or rather it erased the line between the mechanical and the so-called organic in amazing ways, making the mechanistic seem gorgeous. From Carrefax near the opening: Continue reading
The Seven Deadly Sins - Hieronymus Bosch (oil on wood panels) - one of the copies Wyatt makes
It took nearly five months but I managed to read all the words in William Gaddis’s The Recognitions. In honor of Old Masters use of triptych (Wyatt, the main character forges old Flemish paintings), this is the third in a series about reading the novel. The first concerning descriptions of the sun and the second concerning his use of dialogue.
Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.
My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.
He was very clear about certain instructions:
- always use Granny Smith apples;
- always use ice-cold water;
- touch the dough as little as possible.
Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).
When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.
(First post on The Recognitions)
In the middle of this wonderful book, many characters are running around trying to one up most everyone else–most significantly the character Recktall Brown (yes, Recktall Brown) has the forger Wyatt making false masterpieces of 500 year old Flemish Art. But Otto, the failed and flailing playwright, in love with a willowy heroin addict Esme, takes on more of a pivotal role in the middle of the book.
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. Continue reading
You have to read fifteen hundred books in order to write one.
Flaubert put it.
People who more immediately think of Mersault as a character in Camus rather than as a dry white Burgundy.
Not until a year after his burial at Sag Harbor did someone notice that the title of The Recognitions was misspelled on the back of William Gaddis’ headstone.
An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks almost as much as you do.
Said Dylan Thomas.
He was the only person caught in the collapse, and afterward, most of his work was recovered too, and it is still spoken of, when it is noted, with high regard, though seldom played.
— William Gaddis, the last line of The Recognitions