{Free Best} The RecognitionsAuthor William Gaddis – 91videos.co

The Book Jonathan Franzen Dubbed The Ur Text Of Postwar Fiction And The First Great Cultural Critique, Which, Even If Heller And Pynchon Hadn T Read It While Composing Catch And V Managed To Anticipate The Spirit Of Both The Recognitions Is A Masterwork About Art And Forgery, And The Increasingly Thin Line Between The Counterfeit And The Fake Gaddis Anticipates By Almost Half A Century The Crisis Of Reality That We Currently Face, Where The Real And The Virtual Are Combining In Alarming Ways, And The Sources Of Legitimacy And Power Are Often Obscure To Us


10 thoughts on “The Recognitions

  1. says:

    See the face on the book cover That is my face now as I finish this book That was my face every step of the way.I heard somewhere while reading this that Gaddis is praised for this work in that he made it the ultimate challenge for the reader Yay Let s make reading hard sarcasmYou know how you might read a book with 5 storylines that will change each chapter It might be a bit confusing, but at least chapter breaks give you the chance to regroup This book frequently mixes many storylines, changing paragraph to paragraph with no break it is up to you to figure out which one is going on To add to this, there are no quotation marks for dialogue good luck figuring out who is talking.In response to one of my updates while reading this, someone posted an article about this book I am too exhausted from this book right now to find the article and directly quote it, but if you Google Why are large, painful books considered classics and you will find it The gist of it is that people tend to rate these books highly because they are rating their accomplishment of finishing a chunky tome and not necessarily the quality of said tome I can definitely see that being the case with The Recognitions.Another thing that I read was that the book was not well received at first, but then it started getting accolades later on because of its complexity and difficulty to read I am not sure why that is a good thing, but it was enough for it to become a staple on many must read before you die lists.Summary I am glad this is over I only recommend it if you like difficult and painful reading experiences or so you can check another book off a list.


  2. says:

    This book has me in its grip.Reading The Recognitions is like wandering in a labyrinth, and around each corner there s a new revelation 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 wayuntil he lets go of your handand pushes you into the darkness saying, dilige et quod vis fac You must cling to those words, because that s the only thread this Ariadne offers except for the follow up text message he sends btw thngs fal aprt We begin our recognitionsat the beginning The title It s a reference to a text mistakenly attributed to Pope Clement I One of the characters, Basil Valentine, later explains, The what The Recognitions No, it s Clement of Rome Mostly talk, talk, talk The young man s deepest concern is for the immortality of his soul, he goes to Egypt to find the magicians and learn their secrets It s been referred to as the first Christian novel What Yes, it s really the beginning of the whole Faust legend What can drive anyone to write novel That s almost an outline of Gaddis s book too.There s an apocryphal account that Clement was martyred, thrown into the sea with an anchor tied around his neck The Recognitions revisits this in various ways with the reoccurring image of that tale about the sky being a sea, the celestial sea, and a man coming down a rope to undo an anchor that s gotten caught on a tombstone.This novel is an exercise in recognitions within the text, the characters, ourselves Gaddis intended that we recognize and understand these references and allusions, and apply their meaning to the overall story He has paid us a high compliment, and respects us as thinking readers who are willing to work with him,What writing is all about is what happens on the page between the reader and the page What I want is a collaboration, really, with the reader on the page where the reader is also making an effort, is putting something of himself into it in the way of understanding, in the way of helping to construct the fiction that I am giving him William Gaddis, Albany, April 4, 1990The effort is worth it, for this book is a delight But never mind it stands on its own even if we don t get all the references As Jonathan Franzen says about it, Peel away the erudition, and you have The Catcher in the Rye a grim winter sojourn in a seedy Manhattan, a quest for authenticity in a phony modern world There s help with the erudition it s been enthusiastically annotatedGaddis has a style of writing that I easily respond to His themes are ones I want to read and think about Eliot and Dostoyevski are the most significant names here none of Gaddis s reviewers described The Recognitions as The Waste Land rewritten by Dostoyevski with additional dialogue by Ronald Firbank , but that would be a accurate description than the Ulysses parallel so many of them harped upon Not only do Gaddis s novels contain dozens of whole lines lifted bodily from Eliot, but The Recognitions can be read as an epic sermon using The Waste Land as its text The novel employs the same techniques of reference, allusion, collage, multiple perspective, and contrasting voices the same kinds of fire and water imagery drawn from religion and myth and both call for the same kinds of artistic, moral, and religious sensibilities Life proved terrible enough by the 1950s to produce in The Recognitions the most Russian novel in American literature Gaddis s love for nineteenth century Russian literature in general crops up in his novels, his letters, and in his few lectures, where references are made to the major works of Dostoyevski, Tolstoy especially the plays , Gogol, Turgenev, Gorky, Goncharov, and Chekhov Gaddis shares with these authors not only their metaphysical concerns and often bizarre sense of humor, but their nationalistic impulses as well William Gaddis by Steven MooreThe first few pages of The Recognitions are like a separate novel, pared to its essentials Call it The Spanish Affair It s an account of the ship Purdue Victory , Camilla, Spain, and Reverend Gwyon It ends with They never forgave him for not bringing the body home These pages sit in my memory like whole other books do The rest of the novel can be seen as the sequel The story continues with the son Wyatt We first meet him as a small disgruntled person , four years old, shocking his stern great Aunt May by exclaiming You re the by Goddest rabbit I ever damn saw I wanted to hug that child right there I love this unhappy mirror version of Christopher Robin IN WHICH WYATT EMPTIES THE POT ON WHICH HE MEDITATED FOR AN HOUR OR SO EACH MORNING INTO A FLOOR REGISTER.The old Aunt May who raises him is a hard woman, yet oh, she breaks one s heart too, when she made things, even her baking, she kept the blinds closed in the butler s pantry when she frosted a cake, nobody ever saw anything of hers until it was done The father, Reverend Gwyon, had the look of a man who was waiting for something which had happened long before , buries himself in old obscured religious writingsbut the book most often taken from its place was Obras Completas de S Juan de la Cruz, a volume large enough to hold a bottle of schnapps in the cavity cut ruthlessly out of the Dark Night of the Soul.Later he falls under Mithra s spell.Wyatt grows up warped by this upbringing.He becomes the man who seems to believe that, where there is God, do not stay where there is no God run away as fast as you can He planned to enter the ministry, but early on had found the Christian system suspect.There s a long cast of characters that drift in and out and we lose sight of Wyatt for long stretches Names are changed Identities are mistaken Life and art are so entangled that their boundaries are not clear We constantly overhear fragments of conversations, catch glimpses of the characters as they hurry by The frame of The Recognitions is forgery in culture, religion, art, relationships, sex, business, money Its subject is an examination of meaning what is real what is love what is God can we ever really know who we are The personage Wyatt was in part based on the real life infamous art forger Han van Meegeren His paintings are at best competent, and without mystery or depth See if you agree from this sample.And take a quiz Vermeer or Meegeren Meegeren made clumsy technical mistakes that should have alarmed the experts Copying masterpieces is now an industry in Southern China, the world s leading center for mass produced works of art One village of artists exports about five million paintings every year most of them copies of famous masterpieces The fastest workers can paint up to 30 paintings a day Millions of masterpieces churned out like cheap garments said in the voice of an angry Dr McCoy.Wyatt, I think, was a better painter than all these, starting with his copy of Bosch s table painting He carried its themes in his head too, the ever watching eye of God and The Seven Deadly Sins.The copy of this painting underscores one of the themes of The Recognitions, the theme of forgery, and it is asking what is original Is it even possible to be original That romantic disease, originality, all around we see originality of incompetent idiots, they could draw nothing, paint nothing, just so the mess they make is originalEven two hundred years ago who wanted to be original, to be original was to admit that you could not do a thing the right way, so you could only do it your own way When you paint you do not try to be original, only you think about your work, how to make it better, so you copy masters, only masters, for with each copy of a copy the form degeneratesyou do not invent shapes, you know them, atiswendig wissen Sie, by heart And to carry the question further, has mankind, that master forger, outdone the creator Each one of us is merely the latest link in the chain of human experience Everything we know, believe, have, is founded on what has been passed down from the previous generations Religion, culture, music, science, art Nursery rhymes Jokes What claim to originality do we really have Everything is a collage built from previous works, a blatant example being The WasteLand yes, and The Recognitions too So, we can search out the allusions, and the bits and pieces directly copied from other writers Our understanding is deeper, the experience is richer of course But the new work stands on its own Bosch s painting is also used to introduce the theme of existential meaning and purpose Its watchful eye of God raises a question does anything mean anything at all, if it is not looked at by God Wyatt says, Thisthesethe art historians and the critics talking about every object andeverything having its own form and density and its own character in Flemish paintings, but is that all there is to it Do you know why everything does Because they found God everywhere There was nothing God did not watch over, nothing, and so thisand so in the painting every detail reflectsGod s concern with the most insignificant objects in life, with everything, because God did not relax for an instant then, and neither could the painter then Do you get the perspective in this he demanded, thrusting the rumpled reproduction before them There isn t any There isn t any single perspective, like the camera eye, the one we all look through now and call it realism, thereI take five or six or tenthe Flemish painter took twenty perspectives if he wished, and even in a small painting you can t include it all in your single vision, your one miserable pair of eyes, like you can a photograph, like you can painting when itLike everything today is conscious of being looked at, looked at by something else but not by God, and that s the only way anything can have its own form and its own character, andand shape and smell, being looked at by God.The cynic Basil Valentine replies Yes, I remember your little talk, your insane upside down apology for these pictures, every figure and every object with its own presence, its own consciousness because it was being looked at by God Do you know what it was What it really was that everything was so afraid, so uncertain God saw it, that it insisted its vanity on His eyes Fear, fear, pessimism and fear and depression everywhere, the way it is today, that s why your pictures are so cluttered with detail, this terror of emptiness, this absolute terror of space Because maybe God isn t watching Maybe he doesn t see Oh, this pious cult of the Middle Ages Being looked at by God Is there a moment of faith in any of their work, in one centimeter of canvas or is it vanity and fear, the same decadence that surrounds us now A profound mistrust in God, and they need every idea out where they can see it, where they can get their hands on it Yourdetail, he commenced to falter a little, your Bouts, was there ever a worse bourgeois than your Dierick Bouts and his damned details Talk to me of separate consciousness, being looked at by God, and then swear by all that s ugly image error


  3. says:

    Images surround us cavorting broadcast in the minds of others, we wear the motley tailored by their bad digestions, the shame and failure, plague pandemics and private indecencies, unpaid bills, and animal ecstasies remembered in hospital beds, our worst deeds and best intentions will not stay still, scolding, mocking, or merely chattering they assail each other, shocked at recognition. Shocked, surprised and mesmerized by these Recognitions Sometimes reading of a book happens without any noticeable event while other times, a single sentence affords the brilliance of a memorable experience The perceptible sameness of things stimulates an unalterable change, a connection emerges out of nowhere and the voice of a stranger becomes familiar and captivating since it seems to carry the virtues and vices of the whole wide universe within it This all happened for me after reading Gaddis s tour de force and I can vouch for the same simply because There are words Words which are in perfect harmony with each other and words which constantly try to find a visible shore for themselves amidst the sea of inadmissible emotions Everything from the lucid description of a private space to the reckless telling of bared thoughts is done so masterfully here that one can t help but wonder at the images that are born out of the revelation of retrospective truth and concealment of destined lies In between, I found poetry too.There are colors Colors of the patient sky and impatient homes Colors of Flemish paintings and forged wonders Colors of innovative minds and frustrated hearts Colors of a colorful history and colorless present And a quest A quest for identifying real and fake behind the several layers of these colors that emphasize the purity of a blank canvass and the misery of a disquieted soul I became acquainted with many new shades whose existence was unknown to me There is music In this Flamenco music there is this same arrogance of suffering, listen The strength of it s what s so overpowering, the self sufficiency that s so delicate and tender without an instant of sentimentality With infinite pity but refusing pity, it s a precision of suffering. I listened.There is nature A customary meeting that takes place between sun and moon to greet a new dawn and dusk is an essential and my most favorite part of this book I have never read any writer who embraced nature so intimately and unifies it effortlessly with the emotional upheavals experienced by mankind The lust of summer gone, the sun made its visits shorter and uncertain, appearing to the city with that discomfited reserve, that sense of duty of the lover who no longer loves. Wherever Gaddis took me, he offered the sublime company of warm rays and bright moonlight and during the instances of foggy days I relished the unusual beauty of a silent landscape I walked.There is noise People meet everywhere here At a random caf , at causeless parties, on busy streets, in desolate apartments and in distant lands They always have so much to say to each other and there is so much which is left unsaid Chaos prevails, which overwhelms at times but otherwise these voices convey the most profound, entertaining and sarcastic elements that present human psychology both as fascinating and a pitiful spectacle The trick is to find a comfortable sitting position that will give you the best view possible We ve had plenty of experiences to write home about already, said the woman with the ring at the long table where lunch had just commenced We even got held up by a highwayman, her husband confirmed It was on a train You still call it a highwayman anyway, her husband said patiently, smiling his cheery smile And he even talked English It was broken English And what do you think he told us That we re just as much to blame, because we re there, that the victim abets the violence just by being there, he said, and he even made a quotation to prove it From Dante he told us He took all our money, at gun point. I laughed.There is meditation The Recognitions screamed challenging from every angle It is The challenge lies not in following the thoughts of countless characters or placing the source of various cultural religious references but rather not bothering too much about the same This book is mainly made up of numerous moments, each bearing a significant thread to a central message There are things which will remain incomprehensible and elusive due to different reasons for different readers, so going with the flow worked pretty well for me With a little concentration, a little acceptance and a little surrender, it was all akin to a sort of meditation I was at peace There is everything Including a plot which I didn t describe and several names which I didn t take, the beauty which is inexplicable and ugliness that is inevitable, a madness which is the sanest and sanity which is fatal this book certainly have everything to give a reader small but substantial rewards which slowly and steadily culminates into a nonpareil experience.Do recognize these Recognitions What greater comfort does time afford, than the objects of terror re encountered, and their fraudulence exposed in the flash of reason Triumph as though it were any cleaner, or happier, or bare of disappointment, than the deadening shock of re encounter with the object of love.


  4. says:

    This book clearly influenced Pynchon and DFW and I would imagine Cormac McCarthy as well, but it is pretty damn unreadable Looking behind The Recognitions, many level that criticism at Ulysses Well, Ulysses does require some work, but the difference is that Stephen Daedalus as well as the Blooms are fantastic deeply moving and well drawn characters and we WANT to see them succeed In The Recognitions, there is a plethora of characters, but none of which I could have than a shred of sympathy for Otto is too pathetic, Wyatt is too broken, Recktail disappears before the endand the characters around the have amusing characteristics like the guy measuring the cracks in the ceiling, but I was like, so what As for comparing it to the next of post moderns, I think that Pynchon tells a interesting story, that DFW draws interesting characters and McCarthy doesn t overload his novels with 1000s of irrelevant characters.The book is written as a triptych where, for me, the first part starts clean and becomes incoherent, the second part is incoherent and the 3rd parts starts coherent and makes a tiny bit of sense at the end This generates quite a lot of stress to me as a reader.The term recognition is used a lot in part 1 and then disappears which left me a bit rudderless.I think this book is interesting only in the historical part it played in influencing other writers, but as a standalone piece of art, it does not hold much appeal.


  5. says:

    100 Words in Search of PrecisionThe purpose of both Religion and Alchemy is to realise Perfection.Christianity places an obstacle in the path Original Sin We are born with an Inherent Vice Nobody will give us assurance.Our need for meaning and happiness is so great that we fall victim to fraud and pretence.Gaddis suggests we must love and we must be active, in order to be happy.We need to construct an undivided Self, a Whole, not a Soul.There is only the Self that Lives, therefore the Life that is Lived, the Life that is Loved, the Life that is Contemplated.Review My Review is here Out of the Marina Haiku We are awakened, Lips parted, ready to sailIn hope and new ships Apologies to T.S Eliot for Hai jacking his poem Marina Fake You Haiku Are you real or fake How would I recognise youIf I saw your face Inherent Vice Haiku I remember youAs the Inherent Vice Guy,Voicing great AdVice.Recognition Haiku I crave for you theRecognition you deserve,Even though you re dead.Reading Progress The quotations in my Reading Progress are parts of the text that stood out in my quest for significance and meaning in the novel.A Few of My Favourite ThingsAt the link below are some passages fashioned out of indigo that appealed to me for their economy, simplicity and or beauty Glossary of AbstractionsAs I made my progress through the novel, I decided to make a Glossary of Key Words, almost all of which were Abstractions.You can find the first section here s quite intuitive and incomplete.I did it before I got a pdf copy of the novel that I could search.One day, when I have the time, I ll have a crack at the 81 references to recognition.Annotations There is an invaluable reading and thinking resource here Reading Experience I ve written about my experience of reading the novel here


  6. says:

    I found a great article onLITERARY STOCKHOLM SYNDROMEby Mark O Connell which uses The Recognitions as its main example here is the bit I liked, but the whole article is worth a read the greatness of a novel in the mind of its readers is often alloyed with those readers sense of their own greatness as readers for having conquered it I don t think William Gaddis s The Recognitions, for instance, is nearly as fantastic a novel as people often claim it is But it is one of the most memorable and monumental experiences of my reading life And these are the reasons why because the thing was just so long because I had such a hard time with it and because I eventually finished it I read it as part of an academic reading group devoted to long and difficult American novels, and I m not sure I would have got to the end of it otherwise Reading a novel of punishing difficulty and length is a version of climbing Everest for people who prefer not to leave the house And people who climb Everest don t howl with exhilaration at the summit because the mountain was a good or a well made or an interesting mountain per se, but because they re overawed at themselves for having done such a fantastically difficult thing I m willing to concede that they may not howl with exhilaration at all, what with the tiredness, the lack of oxygen and very possibly the frostbite I ll admit to being on shaky ground here, as I ve never met anyone who s climbed Everest, nor am I likely to if I continue not going out of the house And there is, connected with this phenomenon, what I think of as Long Novel Stockholm syndrome My own first experience of it or at least my first conscious experience of it was, again, with The Recognitions With any novel of that difficulty and length 976 pages in my prestigiously scuffed and battered Penguin edition , the reader s aggregate experience is bound to be composed of a mixture of frustrations and pleasures But what I found with Gaddis s gigantic exploration of fraudulence and creativity was that, though they were greatly outnumbered by the frustrations, the pleasures seemed to register much firmly If I were fully honest with myself, I would have had to admit that I was finding the novel gruelingly, unsparingly tedious But I wasn t prepared to be fully honest with myself Because every couple of hundred pages or so, Gaddis would take pity on me and throw me a bone in the form of an engaging, genuinely compelling set piece Like the wonderful episode in which one of the characters, under the impression that he is being given a gift of 5,000 by his long lost father whom he has arranged to meet at a hotel, is in fact mistakenly being given a suitcase full of counterfeit cash by a failed confidence man And then Gaddis would roll up his sleeves again and get back to the real business of boring me insensible with endless pages of direct dialogue bluster about art, theology and the shallowness of post war American culture.I kept at it, doughtily ploughing my way through this seemingly inexhaustible stuff, holding out for another interlude of clemency from an author I knew was capable of entertaining and provoking me At some point towards the end of the book it occurred to me that what I was experiencing could be looked at as a kind of literary variant of the Stockholm syndrome phenomenon, whereby hostages experience a perverse devotion to their captors, interpreting any abstention from violence and cruelty, however brief or arbitrary, as acts of kindness and even love Psychologically, this is understood as a defense mechanism in which the victim fabricates a good side of the aggressor in order to avoid confronting the overwhelming terror of his or her situation Perhaps I m stretching the bonds of credulity by implicitly comparing William Gaddis to a FARC guerilla commander, but I m convinced there s something that happens when we get into a captive situation with a long and difficult book that is roughly analogous to the Stockholm syndrome scenario For a start, the book s very length lays out for a certain kind of reader, at least its own special form of imperative part challenge, part command The thousand pager is something you measure yourself against, something you psyche yourself up for and tell yourself you re going to endure and or conquer And this does, I think, amount to a kind of captivity once you ve got to Everest base camp, you really don t want to pack up your stuff and turn back I think it s this principle that explains, for example, the fact that I ve read Gravity s Rainbow but gave up halfway through The Crying of Lot 49, when the latter could be used as a handy little bookmark for the former When you combine this admittedly self imposed captivity with a novel s formidable reputation for greatness, you ve got a perfect set of conditions for the literary Stockholm syndrome to kick in.In order for a very long novel to get away with long, cruel sessions of boredom torture, it has to commit, every so often, an act of kindness such as the counterfeit cash set piece in The Recognitions This is why Ulysses is so deeply loved by so many readers as well it should be while Finnegans Wake has been read almost exclusively by Joyce scholars of whom I m tempted to think as the Patty Hearsts of literature After the grueling ordeal of the Scylla and Charybdis episode, in which Stephen stands around in the National Library for dozens of pages boring everyone to damn near literal tears with his theories about the provenance of Hamlet, we are given the unrestrained pleasure of the Wandering Rocks episode Ulysses might treat us like crap for seemingly interminable stretches of time, but it extends just enough in the way of writerly benevolence to keep us onside And this kindness is the key to Stockholm syndrome You don t know when it s going to come, or what form it s going to take, but you get enough of it to keep you from despising your captor, or mounting a brave escape attempt by flinging the wretched thing across the room.


  7. says:

    Probably the best part of the The Recognitions is the very beginning The novel seems destined to unravel as an absolute masterpiece after the evocative opening in Spain and small town New England, followed by a quick stay in Paris before descending in the Dantean sense into New York City for the majority of the book But then it begins to meander while taking on a new agenda, one less of allusion heavy storytelling than of society satire sans commentary Gaddis lets large swaths of the book unfold in dialogue, with varying results in story telling clarity and appeal This change in focus isn t necessarily a bad thing, but it outstays its welcome so that its initial power commences to slowly dissipate, over a few hundred pages in the days just before Christmas 1949, along with any claims to sardonic subtlety Things pick back up when the major characters head out of New York to Europe and South America, but ultimately the book either needed to say or stay shorter to achieve the level of impact and greatness to which its author aspired Regardless, there s a lot to love the discussions of art, of old masters of the 15th and 16th century Flemish variety, is particularly fascinating and nuanced Big money art forgery theft is one of those topics like religion, sex, and pirates that s interesting just becausejust because it is And when Gaddis is on with his dark humor, he is on and is able to provoke plenty of wry smiles by cleverly deriding the religious, the faux intellectual, and the materialistic His writing style is cold but extravagant flowery, but in a German sort of way Many sentences, especially those at the beginning and the end of chapters, are quirky and knotted, requiring a few minutes to unwind and comprehend something that I generally, masochistically enjoy Further, I m very sympathetic to Gaddis overarching point about falsity, about the counterfeit nature of the world from which it s nearly impossible to escape into a life of integrity fueled deliberateness, particularly given the excessive materialism advertising bullshitting that goes on Very sympathetic to this In fact, I love the theme But it becomes repetitive and occasionally over obvious some of the absurd dialogue, which can be very funny, often devolves into a game of point and laugh at the idiot that eventually makes you and the author feel like the only genuine, intelligent, and well meaning people in the world I.e you get your ego stroked, but well past the moment of climax until it becomes uncomfortable and even painful You are conditioned to see fakers, forgers, and counterfeiters everywhere and you will but you begin to realize that the book doesn t have much else to say And though it does take us on an interesting journey to another time and other places, very little is suggested for avoiding the ever present trappings of a bullshit life.Most of the large cast of characters exist to be mocked by Gaddis via their own unsubtle dialogue, and while this provides a significant portion of the book s humor which, unfortunately, can disappear for hundreds of pages at time , it gets tiresome Gaddis was clearly influenced by Proust s aims to document and expose certain social classes of his time, and he attempts something similar to Proust s handling of the Faubourg Saint Germain with New York s post war Village art scenesters Multiple long parties pervade the book s middle section, including one short by Proust standards that nears 100 pages, and they consist mostly of dialogue designed to bring scorn upon the pseudo intellectual and the bourgeois The ethical incuriousness, the intellectual vacancy, and the self serving idiocy are soon fully apparent And then remain apparent Still Over and over Again And while this kind of thing can work in the right hands Proust s , Gaddis writing talents, while impressive, aren t able to arouse and maintain the same level of interest in the characters and their petty lives We re left with a scathing and prescient indictment of a social class and movement, but one that doesn t translate into the most compelling fiction Thankfully some of the novel s most memorable and inspiring characters come out of this quirky social group, including my personal favorites Stanley, the painfully na ve and devout Catholic who s working on an ambitious organ piece and Anselm, the conflicted, crawling and acne riddled wild card The criticisms mentioned so far have been relatively minor the real problems exist with the protagonists Recently I ve run into the dilemma of reviewing books that impressed me while leaving little room to fall in love Or, accurately, too much room a remoteness from the major characters and a lack of palpable humanity or believable human insight After spending hundreds of pages with Hal Incandenza from Infinite Jest or Tyrone Slothrop from Gravity s Rainbow, I can t say that I got to know them or believe in them as real people with truly human concerns and motivations I didn t love, hate, like, dislike, or care much about them I can now add Wyatt Gwyon and even the recognizably human Otto from The Recognitions to this dubious list of protagonists from sprawling 20th century white man epics Wyatt, like Slothrop after him, is an unpredictable semi human, someone to marvel at rather than learn from, always maintaining a safe distance from the reader with his extraordinary talent and bizarrely antisocial behavior The failure to connect meaningfully with the protagonists in these novels is paradoxical given the time spent with them, page by page A 200 page book with big type, wide margins, and healthy spacing can make me cry, but The Recognitions s most prominent player feels as remote and inhuman as Keanu Reeves in ______ That doesn t seem quite right I m not looking for visceral thrills here, but I m also not reading fiction just to learn things about things I m trying to gain exposure to those with a gift for prying open humanity to look into some small part of its multifaceted and contradictory glory, those who can maybe lead me toward piecing things together about me, others that I m too stupid, lazy, or unaware to figure out on my own Unfortunately The Recognitions joins my growing shelf of impressive and impressively un emotive books Which isn t to say that this book or the two mentioned above don t have many rewarding or exciting aspects It rarely felt like a chore to read, and I probably hold longer books to a higher standard, if for no other reason than that they require a greater investment The fact that this book is good in so many ways serves to increase my disappointment with the characterization Wyatt, the protagonist, spends most of the book balancing on the edge of sanity while spewing hyper erudite musings on ancient religions and painting details in a mostly disconnected, stuttering fashion His stream of consciousness often feels so divorced from sanity that it s complete gibberish to anyone without a serious background in ancient religions, alchemy, and other esoterica i.e pretty much everyone Without the knowledge to contextualize Wyatt s or his father s mutterings, these often read like foreign languages which, I should point out, are used quite liberally throughout the text Gaddis certainly doesn t wear his knowledge or sources lightly, and a cynical person could say this untethered recondite regurgitation may have been employed to mask laziness or limited understanding on the part of the author Additionally, and I don t say this lightly, Gaddis use of language often leans toward the pretentious George Eliot if I remember correctly, one of Gaddis literary heroes could have been speaking about Gaddis himself when she writes teasingly in Middlemarch Things never began with Mr Borthrop Trumbull they always commenced Without fail, Gaddis substitutes commence for start or begin , and it creates a somewhat strange, if memorable, reading experience One reason why some of the characters failed to work for me is that they seem to exist primarily to carry out the literary, medieval, magical, and religious allusions in strikingly literal terms e.g sex with a bull, self castration, Mithraism church service, crucifixion, animal sacrifice to please plead with God , which can feel overdone and distinctly inhuman Sure, you could argue that these are the areas where the book bridges realism and modernism with postmodernism, part of what makes this novel so unique I m not sure that I d characterize this book mostly pre modern in feel as such a bridge, and regardless, this approach doesn t work While Gaddis derides a novelist overheard in Rome toward the end of the book who claims that his novel is written, I just have to add the motivation, I think that his own approach the exact opposite is equally problematic He started out attempting to rewrite Faust within the modern age, and much of that story still exists in the text, but in addition, his characters frequently behave in ways that only make sense in the context of the sources that Gaddis weaves into the story This is backwards When Wyatt steals the gold bull from Valentine, this should have been in service of the plot of The Recognitions It isn t really, and confusion only subsides with a little allusive sleuthing the gold bull is a symbol of creative force, breaking the egg to give birth to the earth , and you realize later that this theft coincides with the end of Wyatt s amazing forgery work So his creative force is taken out of the service of Brown and Valentine, perhaps to be recommenced elsewhere Clever, but the action itself is simply bizarre and explained away as a sequela of Wyatt s temporary insanity This is the manner in which the plot often unfolds, with characters in service of the novel s sources rather than the other way around Gaddis began with the motivation and forgot that living, breathing characters were just as, if not , important It just occurred to me that there s probably a reason why this book is little known and little read, even by cult epic standards Gravity s Rainbow and Ulysses are difficult and Infinite Jest is certainly longer, but each of these books enjoys popularity than The Recognitions So while I think it s a good book, its place or lack thereof in 20th century literature 55 years later is probably justified and unlikely to change significantly in the future I wouldn t try to talk anyone out of reading this, but I d suggest you try many of the other books you re supposed to read from this century first As the The Recognitions itself suggests if you think that you may have stumbled upon a rarefied, out of the way masterpiece, a scenario that appears just too good to be true well yes.


  8. says:

    I ve had The Recognitions on my horizon for some time What really spurred me on to read it was a fellow Goodreader Bonnie, whose review of this book is magnificent Sadly Bonnie died last year and I still miss her wit, wisdom and perspicacity she survives in her reviews and I would recommend you read her review of this.This is not a book that you can pick up and casually read it demands work of the reader However erudite or well read you are you will not get all the references because they are so varied There are sites available which provide annotated notes so you can follow the references and I would recommend one of these as you can get out of the whole experience Gaddis quotes Shakespeare a good deal there is also a lot of T S Eliot, especially the Four Quartets and The Wasteland On reflection it is difficult to list things that are not included As there is a religious theme running through the book knowledge of the Early Christian Fathers and varieties of theology not to mention the cult of Mithras is a necessity hence the need for a guide Gaddis also makes reference to a great deal of early twentieth century popular American culture songs and popular novels Goethe s Faust is a backdrop and starting point and the relationship between Wyatt and Recktall Brown is fascinating The Faust legend goes back to Clementine literature, supposedly written by an early Pope called Clement Part of this literature is the Clementine Recognitions hence the title and here is found the story of Faustus There are myriads of other references and it is a complex and enthralling work The story itself is fairly simple Wyatt means to follow his father into the Christian ministry, but takes to art and forgery for a dealer called Recktall Brown He becomes disillusioned, his father becomes attracted to Mithras and goes mad and there is a supporting cast of many interesting characters who revolve around Wyatt and his doings Most of the story is set in New York around Christmas As stories go it is ok and would rattle along nicely in a 200 page novel There is humour the suit of armour, counterfeit money forgery and what is real figures a lot and there is tragedy all the necessary ingredients The minor characters are excellent Otto in particular, Agnes Deigh the play on words of course has meaning Anselm is fascinating and there is a self inflicted Abelard moment in a public toilet So far I ve managed to avoid saying what I thought of it The Recognitions is undoubtedly a great novel and it was fun and challenging to read I loved the trails that Gaddis leaves and following links and it is undoubtedly a literary masterpiece, worthy of its place in all the lists The but you are sensing is that although I thoroughly enjoyed reading it I didn t love it It didn t invoke the passion that my favourite novels have, great though it is But do read it for yourself and make your own mind up.


  9. says:

    Overlong Probably Grandiose Almost certainly Brilliant Most definitely This swollen, acerbic cult classic bursts with such wild imagination, vivid characterization and profound eloquence that I couldn t help but love it Its many characters swirl in and out of each other s lives throughout the nearly thousand page text, their paths and conversations overlapping like a most rambunctious Altman ensemble film though with Gaddis s relentless and sometimes hallucinatory skewering of organized religion and the bourgeoisie, it might seem closer to a Bu uel satire.

    The novel is a literary triptych, divided into three distinct segments that focus on various forms of art and forgery, and the perpetually blurred line between reality and illusion not to mention the poisonous relationship between art and capitalism The art world is not the only subject to be impaled upon Gaddis s eviscerating pen the realms of business, politics, and religion also get their fair share of often well deserved scorn and cynicism The book s second and largest segment, set mostly in a feverish, forbidding vision of New York City, hinges together the smaller outer segments which mirror each other in many ways Within this framework the reader enters a social whirlwind containing sinister art dealers, eccentric writers, struggling musicians, corrupt clergymen, con artists, counterfeiters, advertising agents, hitmen, WASPs, bohemians, transvestites, desperate housewives, and so forth, as they talk, travel, eavesdrop, cheat, steal, murder and deceive their ways through their pointless days Gaddis captures a culture of people too self absorbed to perceive any sort of higher truth, and too emotionally atrophied to form meaningful connections with others While the obsessive artists yearn to transcend modern humanity with their works, everyone else sinks deeper into a fog of fraud and miscommunication The transatlantic voyage that many of the characters take in Part III dispels this fog for some, but thickens it for others, as the novel builds toward its tragic yet strangely triumphant conclusion.

    The Recognitions is remarkably dense and erudite Gaddis has a striking way of intertwining historical, artistic, literary, theological and mythological arcana and symbolism with his descriptions, crafting multilayered allusions that resonate throughout the text and across centuries of human thought and creation When he succeeds at this, it is stunning When it seems a little strained, well, it s still educational Readers flustered by his range of esoteric knowledge can still find much to admire elsewhere his sardonic sense of humor will appeal to a certain audience, and his often breathtaking writing skills will appeal to anyone who loves language So, whether or not this fiery novel is truly the missing link between literary modernism and postmodernism, it simply must be experienced on its own terms even when it threatens to collapse under the weight of its own obese ambitions.


  10. says:

    Gaddis s first novel is a big, ambitious thing, a juggernaut, overwhelming, a planetary body s worth of kinetic energy packed into its 956 pages Planetary is a descriptor I come back to again and again while thinking about this book it not only reflects the geographic scope of the novel, which unfolds across oceans and continents though for the greater part we do not leave the microcosmic nocturama of New York City , but also the attempt to put a world s sum of knowledge and history into one work, to recreate the world of accumulated human experience within this massive triptych s unity Unity is another word appropriate for The Recognitions, for as multifaceted and hydra headed and sprawling as the novel appears, the book is affixed to a structure as deliberate as a map of the stars for any particular season warp The Recognitions back in on itself, make of it a mobius strip, and I believe one would find the beginning and ending of the novel conversing with each other, events unfolding in parallel, phrases and images resurfacing at precise moments, which of course adds depth and resonance to that all too perfect title As you sail your way across the churning ocean of this book, you will have your moments of recognition, not only within the reflexive texture of the text, whose component parts speak to and among each other, but your own personal world, the world outside, will begin to engage a conversation with the novel For there is something mysteriously breathing about this book, and descending into it or rising out of it is akin to what it must be like to penetrate the atmosphere of a planet and fall into the rich air of earth, for those who have spent a stint on a space station Or, apropos of the novel, like the emergence from the abyss of the sea into the fecund air and bright blue cloud ripped sunlight sailors on submarines must experience when returning home a world retrieved brought from the depths into the air as if fished for Going into or out of the novel, from its world into your own or vice versa Ascent and descent Emergence and recognition.Of course, everything is achieved through language Gaddis s use of language in The Recognitions, the style of The Recognitions, its mythologizing and allusion laden style, is where the American heir to Joyce comparison is validated Gaddis appears especially like the Joyce of Ulysses in this context, but we must delimit and narrow this comparison, because the similarity in the appropriation and layering of mythical, historical, and religious language and imagery into the text, and a certain kind of writing around scenes , where important narrative points are told obliquely, is where the similarity ends Gaddis is not playing the parodist of styles that Joyce is in Ulysses, Gaddis is not interested in interior dialogue, stream of consciousness, in fact he remains distinctly exterior to his characters, eliding dialogue with ellipses and fragmented sentences, leaving much to be completed by the reader, assumed, read into there is no interior representation of Gaddis s characters, only their actions are shown and their broken voices remade into mosaic If one had to compare the Gaddis of The Recognitions with Joyce, it would be, I think, the Joyce of A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man There is the same obsessive infiltration and exploration of Catholic ritual, that ritual extended into the secular world, there is the same brooding over the spirit and the Ideal as represented in religious texts and contrasted with their representation and use in secular artworks, there is the exploration of the suffering caused by seeking perfection and coming into contact with beauty, the suffering of the artist and the conflict of attempting the spiritual within the material world The allusion heavy, mythologized language in The Recognitions serves to eliminate centuries, to collapse the intellectual history of humanity, so that into these moments in the months surrounding Christmas 1949 in New York City and the world at large, the eternal can flow through the gestures of these characters It gives a seemingly limitless depth to the reading experience, as allusion and reference bloom into recognition, as image and word create resonance that echoes beyond the walls of the specific place of 1949 America Gaddis, like Joyce, universalizes the mundane, very effectively, through precise reference And while The Recognitions is most certainly a postmodern comedy, a scathing satire and a polemical cultural critique of the shallow products of The Age of Publicity , it shares a great deal thematically, and in its tone, its prose hues, with the Russian Christian morality epics of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy The spiritual struggle at the heart of the book, the manner of characterization, the moral dilemmas it presents, even the descriptions of New York City as a frozen winterscape, recall vividly moments out of Crime and Punishment or The Brothers Karamazov, even to some extent the social satire of Anna Karenina The same kind of weary, exhausted late Christian conflict, searching representations of eternity for something to validate the finite, flawed nature of human life, and coming away empty handed and with no answer wetting the lips, pervades.And so The Recognitions is about art and art forgery, about authenticity and the impossibility of originality, about the crisis of the individual in a universe at best indifferent and at worst openly hostile to dignified living It is a brilliant, necessary cultural critique that emerged from mid 20th century America, dripping with that thick black blood sangre negro de mi coraz n that courses coldly through the mechanized American heart, that seems now to ring true than ever especially in the party scenes composed of the overlapping babbling of voices ultimately testifying to nothing but the vanity of the speakers, a prophecy of the social media age if ever there was one , a satire of the narcissism and shallow preening of contemporary s, which have since only progressed further into fragmentation and alienation, an excoriation of the money driven society, of blind faith in technology, market forces, media, the myth of progress and the vulgarization and commodification of personality, religion, art, conversation, relationships, information It is howlingly funny and at the same time bleakly pessimistic It reaches to find meaning in the higher pursuits of man, but collides only with layer upon layer of fraud It finds the reek of money at the heart of everything It is an epic of a fallen, sunken world, a world submerged, where everyone is already drowned and trying to claw their way out of personal purgatories and into the light of a sham sun in the sky that might as well be the fires of hell in the underworld It is two mirrors turned to each other and the retreat of the face reflected into the winnowing abyss, but all the reflections have something to sell, and are thus validated as real, here in this chimeric world It pursues the pursuit of redemption and atonement As much as it is about Art and Artifice it is about Death, as much as a painting or a book is dead as soon as it is completed, and feigns eternity, and feigns timelessness, as do all of our higher aspirations.The dedication that opens the book, to Gaddis s daughter Sarah, is from TS Eliot s poem Marina It is a thing of great beauty itself, and any reader of The Recognitions will find in it echoes of that text, those texts communicating, so why not, in the spirit of appropriation, reproduce it here in full, if for no other reason than to beautify my own work with someone else s labor.Marina Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga What seas what shore what grey rocks and what islandsWhat water lapping the bowAnd scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fogWhat images returnO my daughter.Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaningDeathThose who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaningDeathThose who sit in the sty of contentment, meaningDeathThose who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaningDeathAre become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind,A breath of pine, and the woodsong fogBy this grace dissolved in placeWhat is this face, less clear and clearerThe pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger Given or lent distant than stars and nearer than the eyeWhispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feetUnder sleep, where all the waters meet.Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.I made this, I have forgottenAnd remember.The rigging weak and the canvas rottenBetween one June and another September.Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.This form, this face, this lifeLiving to live in a world of time beyond me let meResign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbersAnd woodthrush calling through the fogMy daughter.