like bass again:
SOMETIMES a novel is more of a physical than a mental challenge.
or harrison smith, president of the influential saturday review (his
syndicated review appeared in various newspapers but not in the sr
itself where the review, even worse, was by maxwell geismar):
His story is not difficult to penetrate. But aside from his obvious
that is, perhaps gaddis might seem to be a reactionary & a fascist!
dislike of the complexities and crassness of the modern world, it
may be interpreted in more than one way. Would Gaddis prefer the
harshness and brutality of medieval Spain, or the bloody and ruth-
less tyranny of Rome under Tiberius, to life in a 20th-century
democracy? His novel seems to give an affirmative answer.
the stupidest of all the paragraphs the critics wrote about the recog-
nitions, well, one of the stupidest
the book happens to give a
definite negative answer to smiths pussyfooting question
spend more time reading the books he reviews, & less hiring scum to
write typical saturday review articles about whether, perhaps, thomas
wolfe drove his editor to his death & whether, perhaps, ulysses is a
hoax boss smith, go fire yourself!
a quote from the recognitions (p9-10):
The Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de la Otra Vez had been
did you read those pages, boss smith?
do they show a preference
finished in the fourteenth century by an order since extinguished.
Its sense of guilt was so great, and measures of atonement so
stringent, that those who came through alive were a source of
embarrassment to lax groups of religious who coddled themselves
with occasional food and sleep. When the great monastery was
finished, with turreted walls, parapets, crenelations, machicolations,
bartizans, a harrowing variety of domes and spires in staggering
Romanesque, Byzantine effulgence, and Gothic run riot in mul-
lioned windows, window tracings, and an immense rose window
whose foliations were so elaborate that it was never furnished with
glass, the brothers were brought forth and tried for heresy. Homoi-
ousian, or Homoousian, that was the question. It had been settled
one thousand years before when, at Nicæa, the fate of the Christian
church hung on a dipthong: Homoousian, meaning of one sub-
stance. The brothers in faraway Estremadura had missed the
Nicæan Creed, busy out of doors as they were, or up to their eyes
in cold water, and they had never heard of Arius. They chose Homoi-
ousian, of like substance, as a happier word than its tubular alterna-
tive (no one gave them a chance at Heteroousian), and were forth-
with put into quiet dungeons which proved such havens of self-
indulgence, unfurnished with any means of vexing the natural
processes, that they died of very shame, unable even to summon
such pornographic phantasms as had kept Saint Anthony rattling in
the desert (for to tell the truth none of these excellent fellows knew
for certain what a woman looked like, and each could, without
divinely inspired effort, banish that image enhanced by centuries of
currency among them, in which She watched All with inflamed eyes
fixed in the substantial antennae on Her chest). Their citadel passed
from one group to another, until accommodating Franciscans
accepted it to store their humble accumulation of generations of
charity. These moved in, encumbered by pearl-encrusted robes,
crowns too heavy for the human brow with the weight of precious
stones, and white linen for the table service.
They had used the place well. Here, Brother Ambrosio had been
put under an iron pot (he was still there) for refusing to go out and
beg for his brethren. There was the spot where Abbot Shekinah (a
convert) had set up his remarkable still. There was the cell where
Fr. Eulalio, a thriving lunatic of eighty-six who was castigating
himself for unchristian pride at having all the vowels in his name,
and greatly revered for his continuous weeping, went blind in an
ecstasy of such howling proportions that his canonization was
assured. He was surnamed Epiclantos, 'weeping so much,' and the
quicklime he had been rubbing into his eyes was put back into the
garden where it belonged. And there, in the granary, was the place
where an abbot, a bishop, and a bumblebee...but these are
miracles of such wondrous proportions that they must be kept,
guarded from ears so wanting in grace that disbelief blooms into
for "the harshness and brutality of medieval Spain," as you so pompously
dont they show something much worse, a refusal to think &
write in the terms of your conventional, 1-dimensional mode of con-
& your "bloody and ruthless tyranny" of tiberian rome,
dont you ever get tired of your own stale prose?
try a refresher
course, take a 1st glance at p512-3 ("Among Rome's earlier and more
cheerfully dealt contributions to the decline of civilization"...) or
pp245, 256, 386-7:
We live in Rome, he says, turning his face to the room again,
(p386, basil valentine speaking
of course we dont live in rome but
Caligula's Rome, with a new circus of vulgar bestialized suffering
in the newspapers every morning.
in a "20th-century democracy"
but if a country with a theoreti-
decent system of government cant live decently, isnt it time to
stop judging novels, faute de mieux, by their conforming
or not to
crude political slogans?
& valentine has the bad taste, instead of
demanding the extension of socialsecurity benefits, to speak of the
"masses, the fetid masses"
would adlai stevenson say a thing like
that? would jack kennedy?
did you know, boss smith, the recog-
nitions callously, undemocratically refuses to take a stand on atom-
bomb tests, civil rights, public housing?
gaddis didnt write one
sentence that would be fit to appear in a saturday review editorial.
why pull your puncheshes worse that a fascist, hes an artist!