and now, its boner time|
errors of fact, not of judgment
almost ½ the reviewers made 1 or
more mr highet: the recognitions
was published in 1955, not 1954.
mr hartman & kirkus service: it has 956 pages, not 965 or 946
demarest: it cost $7.50 hardcover, not $5.00
mr north: it was pub-
lished by Harcourt, Bracenot Harcourt, Bruce
mr yeiser: a chapter
appeared in New World Writing, not New Writing
livingston & north:
characters in it are named Feasley, Feddle, Valentinenot Feasly,
mr o'hearn: the book is called The Recognitions,
not The Perceptions
mr dolbier: it was written by William Gaddis,
not William Gibson
of course these are all printers errors
blunders will happen, especially when you hate your work
3d paragraph of the 1st page of the recognitions says, aunt may is the
reverend gwyon's aunt, not wyatt's (boner made by corrington, living-
ston, smith, snyder, stevens, time, & wharton)
some skim the 1st
page, some the last
the book ends in fenestrula, not rome (laycock).
wyatt is not, at the end of the book, in a spanish monastery (corring-
nor does gwyon become "more pagan than Christian" there
(smith) wyatts childhood illness in not "recurrent"
"recent corpse" (simak) that sinisterra forges a mummy from is of the
little cross-eyed girl, murdered some 40 years before
to be sure,
this is "recent" compared to a genuine mummy
even these not-too-unnatural boners are not the kind you might make
after 1 reasonably attentive reading (tho they may seem similar in
content), but are the result of slipshod reading
FIRE dawn powell of the ny post
shes the champion careless slob.
(1) heracles is a barbary ape, not a barbados ape
(2) wyatt (not
someone else as powell implies) uses fresh hens eggs to make
tempera, not the "griffin egg" (a coconut)
(3) re sinisterra smuggling
his "hand-made mummy over the Spanish border as his mother"he
takes it from "san zwingli" to madrid
both places are in spain (4)
he hasnt yet made the corpse into a mummy when he takes it to
he could hardly pass off an egyptian mummy as his mother.
(5) esme takes heroin, but is not a "dope-pusher"
(6) it is herschel
who was described as a "latent heterosexual," not the blond boy
quoted in powells nexttolast para
(7) her last 2 quotes are not "At a
New York party" and "some place else" but both at the same ny party
frances burnette: "Greenwich Village where most of the action (that is,
talk) takes place"
about 140 pp in the recognitions are in green-
wich village, or 15%1
as the boners get worse its no longer a
question of inaccuracy, carelessness
its again that the critics dont
do the job theyre paid for, they dont read the whole book with even a
minimum of attention
of course most of the recognitions reviewers
are mediocre untalented people
even doing their best they couldnt
produce an interesting review of a great novel on publication date.
they cant tell a great novel from an ordinary one, or they prefer the
ordinary but they dont even try to do a good job
they fake it, &
the result is amateurish and
incompetentthe 2 words that describe
the review racket
take ellington white's boner about the goat
he says when wyatt is
sick as a child, gwyon
sacrifices a goat in whose blood he then bathes Wyatt with the
its the notetaking trick!
browsing thru p41-54, white noted that
result that, miraculously, Wyatt survives
gwyon was reading a passage in frazer that mentions the sacrifice of a
he forgot to read the next 2 pp where a barbary ape is
(p51) wyatts shoulders are blood-spotted from his
fathers hands, but he is not "bathed in blood" & its not a ritual action.
There are many secondary and subsidiary characters...a
imagine berger scurrying down p489, taking a quick note on the 1st
counterfeiter of dollar bills
half of a sentence:
That was two hundred and fifty one-dollar bills,
& not even reading the rest of the sentence:
bleached to print the twenties on.
sinisterra would be offended, as a craftsman,
at being called a counterfeiter of dollar bills, that is, an amateur.
where was berger for all the other pages where the counterfeit twen-
ties are mentioned over & over & over
this berger who made such a
condescending big deal about he "ought to read this book again"did
he read it even once?
in any real sense of the word?
FIRE the bastard!
another of bergers subsidiary characters:
a man who either is or pretends to be Ernest Hemingway.
cautious like a critic!
but if berger had paid the least attention to
the Big Unshaven Man in the recognitions how could he have
imagined the B.U.M. to be even conceivably the real ernest heming-
Is that really Ernest Hemingway over there? someone said as
(the recognitions p306 307-8 309 310 525 525 632 641 749)
they entered.Where?Over there a the bar, that big guy, he
needs a shave, see? he's thanking that man for a drink, see him?
There was a yelp from the end of the bar; and a few, who sus-
pected it of being inhuman, turned to see a dachshund on a tight
leash recover its hind end from a cuspidor. The Big Unshaven Man
stepped aside.I'm God-damned sorry, he said.Oh, said the boy
on the other end of the leash,Mister Hemingway, could I buy you
a drink? You are Ernest Hemingway aren't you?
My friends call me Ernie,
said the Big Unshaven Man, and turn-
ing to the bar,a double martini, boy.
The beard at Otto's table said,Is that hemingway? Ed Feasley
looked over at the Big Unshaven Man, who had just said,No
queer in history ever produced great art. Feasley looked vague, but
said,There's something familiar about him.
Otto and Ed Feasley, with Esme between them, moved toward the
door. The Big Unshaven Man turned away when Feasley passed.
Of course I know him. A damn fine painter, Mr. Memling, he was
saying, as he took a quart flask out of his pocket.Would you mind
filling this up with martinis? Yes, what you read about me is true, I
like to have some with me. Sure, I'll look at your novel any time, he
finished, as the boy handed a ten-dollar bill across the bar.
I sure as Chrahst know him from somewhere, Feasley said.
That's because he's Ernest Hemingway, said a voice nearby.
Say, is that really Ernest Hemingway behind me?
What if it is, what would that make you?
He, I...I'd like to meet him, I think he's a great writer.
Mister Hemingway? My name is George...
Glad to see you, George, said the Big Unshaven Man.What
are we drinking?
Damn fine music, Mozart, said the Big Unshaven Man. He had
just finished making a whole pitcher of martinis [from the hostess's
liquor at a cocktail party], which he poured into a large pocket flask.
I tell you true.
Hemingway? Well he said he's staying at the Ritz, but I say the
Ritz was torn down simply years ago...
And down the bar, the Big Unshaven Man was offered a job writing
the lonely-hearts column for a newspaper in Buffalo.
hemingway was a lousy writer, but he never came on like that!
stevens hadnt read the long sections on the deighs, or how could he
Mrs. Deigh, the literary agent who resembled, from behind, an
the literary agent being agnes deigh & the stack of sofa cushions, her
uneven stack of sofa cushions
mother its the notetaking trickstevens built his review from the
blurb & hardly glanced at the book
FIRE edward a bloom for forgetting to read large chunks of the book &
not faking up his notes right:
The chief symbol of despair is Wyatt Gwyon, who has been reared
wyatt isnt a symbol of despair
only a stupid man with a mind full of
in the image of sin imposed by a New England Calvinistic aunt. His
father, a Protestant minister, is secretly attracted to the ritual of a
kind of Primitive Catholicism.
inflexible cliches could think so
now bloom could make this kind of
"judgment boner" even if he read the book every page
tive Catholicism" tho, ive got the goods on him
theres many pages
on the reverend gwyons mithraism in the recognitionssome of the
crucial scenes hinge on iteven the most stupid reader couldnt help
learning that mithraism is not christian
re mithra, bloom isnt a
stupid reader hes a nonreader
he skipped all the passages except
&, by bad luck, he picked the wrong one, where aunt may
makes the same mistake he does:
she appeared one morning in the study door poised
bloom made exactly the same kind of notetaking slip twice.
rigid, dangling forth a pamphlet between forefinger and opposable
thumb.tell me how this got among my things? As though there
might have been movement in the air, the pamphlet fluttered open,
quaking its suspended title: Breve Guida della Basilica di San
Clemente. In his chair, Gwyon startled, to reach for it, but stayed
held at bay by her unpliant arm, and unyielding eyes which had
fixed the distance between them. With a single shudder he freed
his own eyes from hers and fixed them on the pamphlet, to realize
that it was indeed not being offered in return but rather in evidence:
not an instant of her stringent apparition suggested surrender.
Another souvenir from Spain! she accused, a page headed in bold
face La Basilica Sotterranea Dedicata alla memoria di S Clemente
Papa e Martire fled under her thumb.Pictures of Spanish idols,...
fragments of Byzantine fresco captioned Nostra Signora col Gesù
Bambino almost caught her attention,Catholic images...Another
page fell over from the hand quivering at her arm's length, and
bringing her foot a step past the sill she held it out that space
closer to him; nothing moved. But the sill's sharp creak underfoot
penetrated, a signal for her to hurl it at him, or down; for him to leap
and snatch it. But nothing moved until she retired recovering her
advance, and spoke with bitter calm, looking square at the thing,
A nice...place of worship! The illustration pinioned by her gaze
was captioned Il Tempio di Mitra.2
Look at it! a dirty little under-
ground cave, no place to kneel or even sit down, unless you could
call this broken stone bench a pew? She got her breath when he
interposed,But...And the altar! look at it, look at the picture
on it, a man...god? and it looks like a bull!
Yes, a pagan temple, they've excavated and found the basilica
of Saint Clement was built right over a temple where worshipers
Pagan indeed! And I suppose you couldn't resist setting foot
inside yourself? Did you? Again she paused, getting breath she
appeared to prepare requital for his answer, admission or denial,
and when he withdrew mumbling onlySet foot inside myself...?
she snapped immediately,At least I have finally had the satisfac-
tion of hearing you call the Roman Catholic Church pagan! She
filled her grievous gaze a moment longer with the picture, and
finishing with Now that we all know what the inside of a Catholic
church looks like,...she was gone, holding the abhorrent memento
at arm's length, her eyes alert upon it, as though it might take life
Mr. Pivner is a narcotics addict.
on 34 pages of the recognitions that bloom skipped, mr pivner appears
he owns a hypodermic needle, but hes not a narcotics addict,
hes a diabetic
bloom couldnt have read one section about pivner
without realizing this
& again, the 1 passage he did read, he got
rushing thru p521 he jotted down a quick false note from
I could sue you for false arrest, Mr. Pivner said when he got into
FIRE anne fremantle of commonweal for building her review on a
the lobby, with a policeman,if that would do any good. Do you
know what you've done?
Behind him the policeman talked with the tall bellboy, who said,
Well Jesus, I thought he was drunk. The guy with him was. The
policeman said,We got him down to the station house and found
a needle on him. We thought he was a junkie. He's real pissed-off.
fremantle uses the "sophisticated but sincere" variety of
she wears a wry flippant mask, its supposed to hide a
depth shes too civilized to more than hint at
the result is insuf-
But when Mr. Gaddis tries too hard, as in several of the Yirrupean
where? to h-ll?
how easy these modern religious get to believe
scenes, he fails by overreaching.
But that which we must go without is, above all, our own false
image of ourselves, that false face of perfection which leads us, like
methane, along the primrose path you know where.
their own sacré words are profane!
fremantles styles a 2order
counterfeit, at heart she is flippant, superficial, cant stand honesty or
depth, has to snipe
heres the condescending "x, very x" trick:
Mr. Gaddis is angry, very angry with the world as he finds it
according to this cheap trick the "angry, very angry" target isnt really
angry only pretending
the cheap trickster is supposed to be the
fremantles main points are religious example:
Wyatt's father, a minister of a First Congregational Church in New
can such things be? impossible!
personally my credo is, the
England, who buries his wife in Spain, turns to Mithraism. Indeed,
the author seems to accord Mithraism a respect he refuses to its
successor.(ie, to christianity)
christians succeeded in murdering all the mithraists & that proves
xianity is the true religion and the religion of love
It is not possible to come to a Christian conclusion, as Mr. Gaddis
but does gaddis come to a christian conclusion?
& if so, what is it?
does, without starting from a Christian premise: and that premise
must be, alas, the Fall, and that we are all Jacob, and must learn to
live with our falsely furry faces and fingers, and like it; and accept
the Redemption that we are only given because (and when) we
admit that we do everything badly. (fremantle)
her cliche assumption is that the concluding parts of a book must be
conclusive, represent what the writer really thinks
but this is only
true of writers who have to fake an end because their book never had
the recognitions has an antiending, eg the main charac-
ter walks away on p900 & is not seen again
the last page, where an
artist is killed by the completion of his work, sounds one of the main
(nonchristian) themes of the bookbut so does every other page
per fremantles orthodox view
expressed in a style more suitable for
an uncle wiggily story
a christian conclusion must be based on
mans imperfectibility, original sin
she must believe that gaddis
christian conclusion either agrees with hers
or more likely she
thinks gaddis thinks we can & should stop sinning & become perfect.
shes wrong either way
the "last word," for what its worth is in the
last scene where wyatt appears, especially his speech on p896 (the
last quote from him in issue #10)
he says he wont try to become
perfect but will "live it through"
in fremantles terms, he says that
deliberate sin is correct action (& leads to redemption?)
to fremantles church this is an antichristian conclusion
but thats only ½ the joke
her christian conclusion misjudgment is
built on a scene at p900 of the recognitions which she calls the "final
what farcial blunder!especially for such a
"knowing" critic based on a stupid, careless misreading
The final conversion scene, where in a mirror, the face of one
an impressive list!
how politely & kindly she accuses him of pla-
"having, or about to have, or at the very least valiantly fighting off, a
religious experience" is seen, suffers from its echo, or hint, or
possible recollection, of similar paragraphs in Marius the Epicurean,
Henry James, Lytton Strachey and "The Journey of the Magi."
onlyit isnt a conversion scene at all
its a joke ludy,
a phony writer of religious inspiration stuff, is visiting a spanish
monastery to get "material":
He was a comfortable man of middle age, dressed in an expensive
later ludys terrified in a scene where wyatt holds a bird in
suit of Irish thorn-proof, the last two buttons of the vest undone, or
rather, never done up at all, in token of the casual assurance he
afforded himself as a novelist successful enough to be referred to
by his publishers as distinguished. At this moment he wore an
expression of intent vacancy, his face that of a man having, or
about to have, or at the very least sincerely trying to provoke, a
religious experience: so it appeared to him, at any rate, when he
passed the mirror and confirmed it.
He stood now, staring down at a boy poised on the balustrade of
the church porch below, a boy big enough for the Boy Scouts, con-
stricting his person to see how long a stream he could send out
into the muddy plaza, where a sow and three pigs were passing in a
dignified procession of domesticity. The distinguished novelist
stared, to see, he was bound to admit to himself afterward, if the
stream would reach, when a bird flew up against the glass square
before his face, and continued to flutter there as he staggered back
and almost lost his balance on the bricks of the floor. He recovered,
returned the length of his room, and sat down on the bed. Notes for
the magazine piece he'd begun lay on the table beside him. He saw
them there and looked away. The moment of religious experience
was gone again. The boy directing his stream from the very porch
of the church had upset it; the bird had dispatched it. The distin-
guished novelist clasped his hands between his knees, and
wondered if it were a mealtime.
his hand & ludy thinks wyatts going to kill it
& now in the "final
ludy gets back to his room & finds a bird in it
and though he tried frantically to chase it toward the front, toward
the 2 parallel passages express one of gaddis themes, of substance &
the windows and out, it fluttered the more frantically from one
picture to the other, and back across the room and back, as he
passed the mirror himself in both directions, where he might have
glimpsed the face of a man having, or about to have, or at the very
least valiantly fighting off, a religious experience.
that those who live by vanity may receive from accident
the unwelcome gift of becoming what they pretend to be
ludy, distressed by the accident of the bird being in his room,
takes on an expression like the one he faked when not distressed
1when do i get my honorary litt d?
2Italian for The Temple of Mithra
3cheap trick because it tries to cut
angerall feelingdown to size