William Gaddis

July 26, 2008 § Leave a comment

I find this. at

The Gaddis Annotations – The Recognitions – index


addis’s first novel published when he was 32 and more than 40 years on it is at the very heart of his enviable literary reputation.  It has now come to be seen as a Janus-faced text that looks back in its complexity to the great Modernists of the inter-war years such as Joyce and Faulkner and forward to the post-war American writers such as Barth, Coover, Pynchon, De Lillo and Gass in its taste for black humor, literary play and absurdity.  It has established itself as a unique and influential novel, a pivotal work that makes connections between Modernism and what has come to be called Postmodernism, both as a literary style and as a philosophical position.

Gaddis’s first novel takes the form of a quest.  In a carefully wrought and densely-woven series of plots involving upwards of fifty characters across three continents, we follow the adventures of Wyatt Gwyon, son of a clergyman who rejects the ministry in favor of the call of the artist.  His quest is to make sense of contemporary reality, to find significance and some form of order in the world.  Through the pursuit of art he hopes to find truth. His initial “failure” as an artist leads him not to copy but to paint in the style of the past masters, those who had found in their own time and in their own style the kind of order and beauty for which Wyatt is looking. His talent for forgery is exploited by a group of unscrupulous art critics and businessmen who hope to profit by passing his works off as original old masters. As the novel develops, these art forgeries become a profound metaphor for all kinds of other frauds, counterfeits and fakery: the aesthetic, scientific, religious, sexual and personal.  Towards the end, Wyatt wrenches something authentic from what Eliot called “the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” The nature of his revelation, however is highly ambiguous and is hedged about by images of madness and hallucination, which disturbs simple distinctions between real and authentic, between faiths and fakes.
A strikingly original novel,
it gains a number of its effects from the dense web of literary allusions it employs, drawing upon the religious texts of American Calvinism and European Catholicism and to a wide range of literary and philosophical writings in the western tradition from Aristotle to Goethe and TS Eliot.  Ostensibly, the novel charts Wyatt’s career as he negotiates the snares of the fallen modern world, but on a further level we see how he is identified with a whole series of literary figures, from Orpheus to Faust. While the novel is an immensely rewarding read at the level of realism, it gains in depth and resonance when the reader can see the allusions at work and the parallels being drawn.

from William Gaddis:  Life & Work  by Peter Dempsey
(to complete essay)

led to by reading Mark Taylor’s Confidence Games: money and markets in a world without redemption.

The shift from industrial capital, through the Nixon getting off the gold standard, Volker’s focus on interest rates, and the Reagan de-regulation – and defeat of the airline controllers union, set up a new situation which plays out under Clinton, and decays under Bush. I remember in ’99 it was clear to some of us that the economy was going to come undone and sting the next president. the economic failure was hidden by the trade tower collapse and the resulting re-nationalization of politics, a shift that is again fading fast, and a street smart Obama may be able to ride this wave of disintegration in a fruitful way.

GardenWorld is implicated here.

how do we get from The Great Chainof being to current complexity, the shif from structure to intersicies?


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You are currently reading William Gaddis at Reflections on GardenWorld Politics Douglass Carmichael.


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