as religion sickens the catholic church transforms itself increasingly
into a secular moral-political party
thus the jesuit hill mounts a full-
scale attack on gaddis "obscenity" but writes only 1 veiled reference
What erudition the book containsand it lays claim to much
(no virginia, he does not welcome the novelist who at last quotes
seems to be largely reducible to the Golden Bough and a college
course in comparative religion. Mr. Gaddis shows all the young
cynic's naïveté in his willingness to believe any explanation of a
phenomenon provided that the account be not traditional; if it
should have an element of the disreputable, so much the better.
church fathers & stresses our catholic ancestral world
historys too disgraceful to bring out in the light
better to leave it in
yet religions a main theme of the recognitions
it contains no un-
usual amount of "obscenity" but much more than usual of blasphemy
(ie much more than zero!)
as some of anselms remarks:
If you think the Church wouldn't do an about-face on contracep-
(184, 531, 531, 533, 534)
after which anselm joins a monastery.
tives if it owned a block of stock in Akron rubber! And how much
real estate do you think they own in this whorehouse of a world?
I meant to tell you how glad I am about your play, Stanley said
to Otto. I am, honestly.
Thank you, I...I know you are, Otto said, and put a hand to his
shoulder. You're really good, aren't you Stanley.
I wish I were. I wish everyone was.
There'd be a lot of crazy priests out of work. Work! Hahaha...
Do you know who I envy? I envy Tourette. He had a disease
named after him, a very God-damned rare one.
Are you drunk? If you're not why don't you shut up.
When you have Tourette's disease you go around repeating
dirty words all the time. Coprolalia. Everybody below Fourteenth
Street has coprolalia.
I envy Doctor Hodgkin. Anselm was cleaning his teeth thought-
fully with a folded match cover.He had a disease named after
What kind of disease?
Hodgkin's disease, for Christ sake.
You know who I envy? Anselm broke in on them impatiently.
I envy Christ, he had a disease named after him. Hahaha, hey
others in the book are religious antireligious or both
How's your writing?
(180, 714-5, 909, 917)
gaddis narrative is never religiose: the rela-
Movie magazines, simply all sex, Herschel answered, making an
effort,the most obvious perversions. I'm writing a whole series
now on movie stars and God. They're all exactly the same. They all
believe that Something is carrying us on Somewhere, and they
simply reek with the most exquisite sincerity.
The hole in the roof had, of course, been repaired; and the
interior done over in taupe and white. The gilded organ pipes had
disappeared; and so had all of the harsh angles of woodwork;
instead, eyes and voices were lifted to smooth turns and flexures
in taupe, and two bullet-shaped chromium lights trained on the
pulpit, whence the President of the United States was exhorted
with benedictions for the first time since the assassination of
James A. Garfield. The oaken boards, where hymn and verse had
been posted during services, were no longer necessary, for pro-
grams were now printed up every Sunday, detailing not only the
service but other church activities. The programs sometimes ran to
three or four pages, not counting the front which bore a "nice"
(slightly Gothicized) likeness of the church itself.
Sturdy brass basins had taken the place of the wicker baskets for
the offertory (not, in this illuminated Protestant world, of course, the
tendering of bread and wine for Divine approval before their con-
secration; but here, according to custom that equally exquisite and
perhaps more realistically inspired moment of communion, when
"Dick" received the brimming basins from the ushers, and solemnly
held them up somewhere over his head in a gesture of intercourse
of the most intimate dimensions imaginable to those who had con-
At the table to his left, an American Protestant minister in rimless
glasses tasted Cinzano for the first time, made a wry face, and said,
it's just part of this big job we're all pulling together in. Do you
know this new word, Caprew...? It's made up of the first two
letters of Catholic, Protestant, and...
The Pope himself (who had spent part of today blessing drivers at a
motor-scooter festival, whom he praised for their "courage and
agility") had, on another inspired occasion, received "silent and
eloquent" messages from the "agitated sun," and witnessed "the
life of the sun under the hand of Mary."
tion of religious & antireligious is complex
in the 20thcentury world
of the recognitions few love & those who do are not loved in return.
the religious experiences are likewise incomplete, marred
& faith are defined by exclusion not by example
but the critics think in stereotypes
theyre religiose, believe in strict
separation of church & life
their chief dogma, religion is to be
Respectedneither mocked nor taken seriously
they know only 1
sort of religious novel: waugh-greene, the reformed cynic giving his
readers a sermon because theyre still young & frisky
its o sancta
simplicitas when gaddis subtleties collide with critics crude expecta-
tions product: a maze of misinterpretations
north says the recognitions makes all religion counterfeit, is evil, scur-
rilous, profane, a sneering, snarling foul-mouthed attack on protestant-
ism & catholicism:
If I were so naive as to believe in the devil I would say that young
& o'hearn: "negative, rebellious preoccupation with religious themes"
Mr. Gaddis had willingly sold his soul to achieve this Faustian first
"jejune blasphemies" (but "not necessarily...irreligious")
Throughout the novel, there is a passionate preoccupation with
or "Mr. Gaddis' novel, shrouded in mysticism" (mcalister)
"a religious fanatic" (fremantle) or anselm "in whom religious mania
assumes the form of theatrical blasphemy" (rolo)
is joining a
monastery "mania" is trying to live a christian life "fanaticism" is
occupation with religion preoccupation?
as an atheist i can only
envy the power of the religiose to destroy religion
then theres sleightofhand so "religion" means only "christianity":
he finds everyone corroded through the decline of love and the
so gwyon's "mad" because mithraist (stocking) and mithraism is "pagan
absence of Christian faith. (time)
better a makebelieve xian than a real pagan!
& gwyons last sermon, which is mithraist & doesnt mention xianity
"is the very embodiment of all anti-Christian mythology" (hartman)
since all religion is xian the recognitions must be medievalmad a la
anglocatholic ts eliot:
Like ["The Waste Land"], it views the Middle Ages and the early
(see recognitions p9-10 quoted above, p22-3)
days of the church as a time of spiritual, philosophic and even
esthetic purity and our age as a cesspool of depraved and impotent
the book must be catholic antiprotestant of later date:
the book's central conflict: Zwinglianism and Transubstantiation,
guess again! then it must be protestant, hussite:
most exactly, or materialism vs. spirituality, reality vs. idealism, or
bad vs. good. (mccarthy)
Quite naturally, Mr. Gaddis suggests that the only cure lies in a
pretty stupid, huh?
in babylon i never dreamed the voters of dallas
return to the faith and love embodied in Christ and the church.
Regrettably enough, however, he pictures religion as only a mockery
today, either so dogmatic and demanding that it drives Gwyon's
preacher-father to Mithra-worship and gin and his son to insanity, or
so hypocritical and commercial that its churches become merely a
curiosity for tourists and its art forms simply a source of revenue for
imitators and manufacturers.
One can only suspect that the recurring mention of the religious
reformer, John Huss, emerges as Mr. Gaddis' plea for a human
being in this day and age willing to stand up for his beliefs, willing
even to be burned at the stake for what he cherishes. And because
there is no such man among the people of "The Recognitions" one
is apt to hope that the author, in real life, may find and bring to light
in a further novel this more positive individual who does existin
the grass roots, if not the fleshpots, of America. (livingston, dallas
texas were so eager to burn at the stake for jesus stake
1which makes for some surprising
transformations of the reallife source i
lived in the greenwich village milieu of the recognitions in the early
50s & dont
recall the subject of religion getting an hour a year
2transubstantiation: bread & wine
are bread & wine in accident, but christ in
zwinglian: bread & wine are b&w in accident & substance, christ
only by contemplation of faith