[PDF] ✓ The Letters of William Gaddis By William Gaddis – Dolove.info
Good to get a glimpse into the author s life, with a few interesting bits It s incredible to think of the span of years he lived and in which he wrote letters, and it made me think of the fact that soon we won t have these resources when studying the next generation of writers, as well as of the fact that it provided so much practice for them to write and tell events of thier lives. As a long time fan of William Gaddis 1922 1998 , I was eager to read these letters, and they don t disappoint.Gaddis wrote two influential and important comic novels I mean, hilarious , The Recognitions 1955 and J R 1975 , that are also much than comic They are humane, inventive, they embrace high, low and middle sorts of humour, they are dynamos of energy, and they put in the shade many other novels, then and now Gaddis also wrote the novels Carpenter s Gothic 1985 and a Frolic of His Own 1995 , the novella Agap Agape 2002 , and a collection of short pieces, The Rush for Second Place 2002.In the letters we can follow the route leading up to each book, as well as see the artistic, business and personal struggles Gaddis went through.The letters are well edited with succinct notes by the well read Gaddis scholar Steven Moore, with an Afterword by Gaddis daughter Sarah Indispensable for anyone who likes Gaddis or is just coming to him.For a longer review of the book, go to Now Recognized As One Of The Giants Of Postwar American Fiction, William Gaddis Shunned The Spotlight During His Life, Which Makes This Collection Of His Letters A Revelation Beginning In When Gaddis Was At Boarding School And Ending In September , A Few Months Before His Death, These Letters Function As A Kind Of Autobiography, And Are All The Valuable Because Gaddis Was Not An Autobiographical Writer Here We See Him Forging His First Novel The Recognitions While Living In Mexico, Fighting In A Revolution In Costa Rica, And Working In Spain, France, And North Africa Over The Next Twenty Years He Struggles To Find Time To Write The National Book Award Winning J R Amid The Complications Of Work And Family Deals With Divorce And Disillusionment Before Reviving His Career With Carpenter S Gothic Then Teaches Himself Enough About The Law To Indite A Frolic Of His Own , Which Earned Him Another NBA Returning To A Topic He First Wrote About In The S, He Finishes His Last Novel Agape Agape As He Lay Dying 40 20 30 80 . Most of the letters here felt quite unimportant and trivial However, Gaddis s warm, unpretentious personality bled through the pages, and it raised my estimation of THE RECOGNITIONS I was afraid, while reading that 956 page monster, that Gaddis was a rather bitter unlikeable fellow, but these letters showed that the bitter, world weary tone of THE RECOGNITIONS was entirely controlled, the man himself was witty, interesting, and humorous.It was interesting to read his correspondence with Don DeLillo and Steven Moore There s great stuff in here, but I think a great deal of it could have been cut. William Gaddis, acclaimed author of The Recognitions and J R often wrote letters in the same obscure, circuitous, challenging prose style of his novels, especially so in his later years They re marked by a curtness and by run on sentences which side step grammar and punctuation With the exception of the loving letters to his daughter, Sarah, they re not at all conversational and to me displayed little warmth This includes letters to those he considered friends or those in the publishing business to whom he needed to be polite This doesn t mean he didn t intend warmth or politeness, only that the letters carry the same choppy style of the novels and read as if they re offhand They begin slowly For many pages the only correspondent of the young Gaddis was his mother as he traveled Central America, Spain, France, and North Africa But those letters are filled with the eager thinking of an intelligent young man traveling for experience and using what he learned in the novel he was already writing, The Recognitions, one day to be considered among the most influential of the 20th century However, other than some frustrations displayed in the few letters written to his wives and the obvious love shown in those to his daughter, and an Afterword by her, there s little here to give a sense of what the man was really like.Rightly, I think, Gaddis refused to offer explanation or meaning of his novels to critics or academics who requested it He thought readers and writers interested in his work should interpret for themselves and that each interpretation would have some validity Bur he does occasionally write a revealing comment about a novel which you want to remember And the abundant footnotes accompanying each letter contain many insights about the novels For me these are the nuggets of the collection. I m a Gaddis junkie but didn t anticipate hoovering this one up as I did I had thought I might pick at it over a long period, maybe on the toilet or in dribs and drabs at bedtime But I read every word of it over the course of about a week and enjoyed it a great deal Plenty of it is routine, perhaps even outright boring, as a young Gaddis writes his mother dozens of letters to briefly report his location and ask for books or money, but there s plenty besides that, and even seeing the progression as Gaddis grows and struggles and publishes and struggles some is fascinating Writers of great books have always seemed in a way untouchable to me, erudite, talented beyond the grasp of mere mortals, maybe even almost vatic As a sometime scribbler, I ve read work by the likes of Gaddis and felt simultaneous despair I could never do what he s done and inspiration I should try , but in the end I ve always come around to feeling like it must be somehow easier for such among the elect as Gaddis than it has felt for me Reading his frustrations and false starts shows me that he is human and that putting out work like his is a task of staggering difficulty which I knew, of course, but that, in fits of laziness, it s easy to forget Reading the letters makes me feel, well, yes, still as if Gaddis is light years beyond me in intelligence and talent and work ethic, and, no, I could not do what he did in writing his great books but maybe it s not as far out of my reach as it s easy to roll over and feel So then there is a kind of hope in these pages for the sometime scribbler.I especially enjoyed letters from the time during which he was writing J R my favorite of his books by a mile , and a few letters to his children are tender and lovely.Probably this would be a snooze for anybody not already pretty well wrapped up in Gaddis. Actually currently dipping and diving throughout, but this is a first rate treatment and editing job of WG s letters by WG expert Steve Moore see his guide to The Recognitions truly indispensable.I m reading this mainly to see how WG handled the dark time he went through after his brilliant novel The Recognitions was savaged by the ignorati of his day, a bunch of Christ killers who didn t even read the book before reviewing it see Jack Green s Fire the Bastards The result WG had a hell of a time getting R released in paperback, or in the UK, or translated into French It should ve been a bestseller and immediately lauded as the masterpiece that it is WG was thus forced into 9 to 5 corporate writing servitude which I ID with big time to feed his family, and had to take the next twenty years to produce his second novel, JR, another masterpiece, but not up to the great heights of the R.Just imagine literary apocrypha has it that at the R s publication WG quietly thought and I think truly without hubris that he wouldn t have been surprised if he d been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature because he knew his book was that damn good And then it was mercilessly skewered by ignorant literary insider fops who didn t understand it or bother to read it, forcing his exile to corporate writing instead of justly reaping the rewards of his work with enough compensation to write freely.His much later recognition hardly makes up for the injustice But perhaps see the opening of WG s A Frolic of His Own for the answer to this injustice Justice You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law Too true. Face facts, folks I m not likely to get a review done of this Seriously, this is a goes without saying kind of book for readers of Gaddis s novels, and you ALL are that kind of readers so you ll find yourselves one day reading through this rather quite engaging collection of Letters which reads much like a Gaddis scribed epistolary novel.So, here s The Letters of William Gaddis, reviewed by Michael Dirda, 01 May 2013, Washington Post thoughts to follow eventually Still, eventually eventually yet but you might think of this volume as Gaddis s sixth novel Meanwhile some , Joseph Tabbi is working on a biography of Gaddis Here s a little piece from him, Nobody Grew but the Business from the Gaddis Archive Mysterious Skin The Realia of William Gaddis April 22, 2013, by Matthew Erickson, The Paris Reviewhttp www.theparisreview.org blog 20Something about a zebra skin.How Gaddis got himself his J R inscribed in US Law from The Millions A Frolic of My Own Meeting William Gaddis by James Cappio18 March 2013http www.themillions.com 2013 03 a But I had already decided that a case called Carl Marks v USSR was too good to pass up The clincher was my coming across the Russian Imperial Bonds passage in J R, which I was reading on my commute to the Judge s White Plains courthouse I worked surreptitiously, finally presenting the Judge with a 68 page fait accompli that used the Bast quote as a headnote After he signed off on the opinion, I sent it to Mr Gaddis Why go to all that effort and not tell him I never expected his response the first letter reproduced in the book January 10, 1988 , inviting me to lunch and telling me of his novel in the form of a network of lawsuits of every variety the book that would become A Frolic of His Own.New York Observer review of the Gaddis letters hinted, this collection does have something of the biographical novel in letters to it But, I will point out the way NOT to talk about Gaddis DO NOT use the name Franzen except in the manner taught us by MJ, which is the sense of Franzen was wrong Disgusting that that name will for some time to come be attached to the name Gaddis From the review Broken into sections named for the novel Gaddis was working on during the given time period, and generously footnoted, the book is a treasure trove for Gaddis wonks and superfans What it is or should be for the rest of us, however, is less clear Let me again be clear This book IS NOT for the rest of you Read the novels if you are not a wonk or superfan But that goes without saying in the case of any novelist and their letters or their bio or their journals Not EVERYthing need be marketable to non wonks.A note from The New York Observer regarding the Gaddis memorial from 1999 I have to say a couple of things before getting serious here First, although it might not be entirely accurate, I still say Gaddis when someone asks me who my favorite author is and I still say The Recognitions when they ask about my favorite novel Of course I need to re read his stuff in order to check if this is true Second, if you re editing someone s letters, I would caution you not to say in your introduction, things like it can be assumed all irregularities are in the originals , bold facing all originals, and to clarify why you re bold facing these words to catch the eye of readers and reviewers and preempt complaints that this book was poorly proofread If you absolutely insist on such a hubristic statement, I would recommend that you proofread your book again because, duh, this book is filled with typos, both within the letters even if Gaddis thanks Erika Goldman for sening him a book, it s hardly unreasonable to correct it to sending, nor is it outrageous of the reader to expect hot to be corrected to not when necessary etc and in the notes to them Mary McCarthy is many things, but a crirtic is not one of them I haven t read Elkin s The Magic Kingdom , but I m certain it does not feature an eight year old geriatric and most memorably of all, Mary mother of God is not a goddess, and naming her such suggests either than Stephen Moore is i an idiot or ii an adolescent who can t really give up on religion, and so feels the need to guy Christianity by making it sound ridiculous than its best thinkers admit that it already sounds credo quia absurdam Moore is surely neither of these, and the silliness of letting that claim slip by does him, and Gaddis, a disservice Now, to important matters In The Recognitions, Gaddis has his character ask what people want from the man that they can t get from the work and his letters are certainly nowhere near as interesting as his novels At worst they are replacement level writers letters, all complaints about money, publishers, business etc., with little of Gaddis the novelist s brilliance But they do, at best, tell you something about the composition of the books what Gaddis was reading, what he was trying to do at various points He describes The Recognitions as an attempt to write a new myth, which I find interesting for literary historical reasons compare McCarthy s The Road , and also notes his own desire to truly believe in a myth of some kind The most interesting thing about this book, though, is the way the letters let us see Gaddis s intellectual development as a callow youth, he s viscerally disgusted by a socialist professor as time passes he becomes highly critical of the U.S and free enterprise, without feeling that the latter is inherently flawed, but does start to mock anti communism ultimately he concludes that, on the evidence of his own work, perhaps capitalism just is inherently flawed More distressingly, for me at least, is a different development At 38, Gaddis wrote that, although forgery is inescapable in a finite world, what is vital is the faith that the absolute does exist, or that the attempt to grasp God perfection is all we have to justify this finite condition At 51, he has become disgusted by Catholicism, but also feels that JR is a secular version of The Recognitions At 59 1981 he is writing letters about how his work is not purely negative, and the struggling artist is himself a kind of triumph At 70 1992 he responds to Gregory Comnes, a postmodern theorist, that although he sees himself cited in a postmodern context he cower s in the notion of a traditional novelist but is starting to be apologetic about the fact In an extraordinary letter to the Iowa Review 1993 , he rejects the idea of himself as an experimental novelist, due to the mass of rubbish being produced under that moniker insists that he has always believed that I knew exactly what I was doing But after all of this, a lifetime of fighting the good fight against philistinism and fashionable nonsense, the postmodernists finally got to him in 1994 he writes to Comnes about how much he loves aporia indeterminacy chaos etc, and in a letter to Updike, of all people, he approves Comnes claim that his Gaddis s work is a vision of an essentially indeterminate landscape, a postmodern world with no absolutes I ll take Gaddis s early interpretation of his work as a striving after some absolute, even if that absolute is out of reach over his later interpretation, in which it s just pomo theory in novel form If it turns out that it is just the latter, he ll cease to be my favorite novelist I think I m safe.