the length cliche
  —Reading it? Christ no, what do you think I am? I just been
having trouble sleeping, so my analyst told me to get a book and
count the letters, so I just went in and asked them for the thickest
book in the place and they sold me this damned thing, he muttered
looking at the book with intimate dislike. —I'm up to a hundred and
thirty-six thousand three hundred and something and I haven't even
made fifty pages yet. (the recognitions 936-7      the book the stubby
poet has is the recognitions itself)

a great but lengthy writer like Thomas Mann (berger      my italics)

a damaging confession!       the length cliches irrational—reading 1
long books no harder than reading 5 short ones      & its conformist—
not too long not too short, they wont attack you for a book of average

theres statistical evidence that readers of trashy superbestsellers
prefer a nice long one they can get their teeth into 1      the critics
disagree because all that length, it hits them right in the hack!      they
dont get paid enough extra for long books & like the whores they are
they resent it

a novel over 300p can have been published (tolstoy, dostoyevsky,
joyce) but it cant now be published—too much work for the critic.
he has to hover over the same book too long, he might fall in

hear them whine, bellow, and scream:

inordinate length. (berger)

forbidding length (o'hearn)

almost interminable (morse)

interminable conversations (wagenknecht)

self-indulgent verbosity, deadly unfunny repetitiveness, and endless
portentous gasping conversations (swados)

he could have, and should have, used the occasion to make some
apology, however indirect, to all the reviewers who are forced to
read his seemingly interminable tale. (hill)

a sort of monstrous annotation, a dropsical expansion of such
scenes and moods as make up "The Waste Land." (rugoff)

  AND SO WE dove in and floundered around through this literary
Sargasso Sea until somehow we dragged ourselves on shore 956
pages later, completely pooped and the sole survivor. (bass)

  When I complained recently to the people at the Western Review
that I was tired of trying to consider half a dozen novels all at once,
in a mass review, they must have decided to punish me. They asked
if I would like to do a single novel, all by itself. I consented. Then
they sent me The Recognitions. (hartman)

we are swollen and unrecognizable with the effort of trying to
swallow so much. (fremantle)

at times an exasperating novel. This is not due alone to the tre-
mendous volume of wordage (simak)

exasperating in its profligacy of diction (bloom)

maddeningly drawn out and unresolved (burnette)

To claim they give you 956 pages of novel in return for your money
is like offering you a giant headache in return for your aspirin.

the critics appeal to procrustes:
the physical labor of turning 900 pages when 300 would have been
sufficient. (klein)

As a whole, the novel would profit considerably from a severe blue-
penciling. (burnette)

not true       i have never read a novel that needed cutting—its a myth!
an abridged war and peace is no improvement      i wish the recogni-
was twice as long, because after 7 yrs ive used it up      itd be
worse if cut, perhaps crippled      thats what they want
If Mr. Gaddis had wielded his shears with the same freedom that
he wielded his pen, he might have produced a highly readable
work. (dixon)
"wielded his shears" is offensive jargon, criticstyle      if the writer wont
cut, then let the parasites do it:
It is a pity that, in his first novel, he did not have stronger editorial
guidance than is apparent in the book—for he can write very well—
even though most of the time he just lets his pen run on. (kirkus)
yes, the editors, the middlemen, the spoilers!      they cant create
themselves, itd be cruel to keep them from meddling with the crea-
taions of others:
  —But this book about religion, said a sub-editor, standing aside
for the tall man in the black Homburg to pass. —It's Buddhism.
  —But it's by a Jew, said the other, standing aside.
  —Well, I've told him if he'll change his hero from a Jew to a homo-
sexual, we might accept it.
  —But that's the way it was in the first place.
(the recognitions 356-7)       no editor is competent to rewrite "his"
authors' books, much less unwrite them
Gaddis writes with ease and vigor about a Greenwich Village
gathering, but repeats this sequence many times. (kirkus)
5 short novels are better than 1 long one3 but 1 long party scene is
better than 5 short ones      the unexamined contradiction shows cliche
thinking       same contradiction in bass & burnette—in burnette, not by

                  from frances burnette,
                  baltimore sun 3/13/55
                  from virginia kirkus service

(1st sentence): THE RECOGNI-
TIONS" is another long and rather
dreary saga of modern man in
search of a soul, written around
the theme of forgery—spiritual and
emotional as well as material.
(1st phrase): The overlong (946
pages) and rather pretentious first
novel concerns itself with the im-
passe of the modern intellectual
(from the recognitions blurb):
The pattern of forgery, emo-
tional and spiritual as well as
Unfortunately, into its 956 pages
the author has apparently tried to
cram everything he knows, which
is quite a lot, including mythology
and ancient religious lore, paint-
ing, especially the early Flemish
school, music and languages. The
book is generously sprinkled with
Italian, French and Hungarian.
  The result is undisciplined and
He knows many odd facts about
ancient religions—and he injects
them all. He is familiar with many
languages, and there are pas-
sages in Spanish, Italian, French,
German, Latin and even Hungari-

complete lack of discipline

pretentious first novel

a broad canvas stretching from a
small New England town to Rome,
Paris, Madrid, a Central American
outpost and New York city, partic-
ularly Greenwich Village where
most of the action (that is, talk)
takes place.
The scene is Spain, Rome and
Paris in Europe, New York City
(mainly Greenwich Village) and a
New England town in the United
States, and at moments an un-
named Central American Repub-

the son of a New England minister
who gradually converts himself
from Christianity to sun worship.
his father, a New England minister
who converts himself to Mithra-
ism—sun worship.

  Although the book is highlighted
by some brilliant writing, as in the
biting description of a Greenwich
Village cocktail party, 4 its effec-
tiveness is dulled by too frequent
repetition. Several such gather-
ings are described.
Gaddis writes with ease and vigor
about a Greenwich Village gather-
ing, but repeats this sequence
many times.

(last sentence): As a whole, the
novel would profit considerably
from a severe blue-penciling.
(last sentence): It is a pity that, in
his first novel, he did not have
stronger editorial guidance than
is apparent in the book—for he
can write very well—even though
most of the time he just lets his
pen run on.

FIRE burnette for plagiarism

after paying his debt to editors the writer owes readers too      he
should play back to them what they already think & are, ie write com-

  The average reader, who, Mr. Gaddis says, lacks intelligence,
talent and sensitivity, will shun this appallingly enormous and
enormously appalling catalog of intellectual and phony intellectual
horrors, thereby disproving or proving Mr. Gaddis' statement, (lay-
revanche!      critics       "ambitiously"      love to identify with the
average reader, who like them cant create anything of value      & as
the history of bestsellers shows prefers not to read anything of value
a catharsis for the writer rather than the reader. (rugoff)

Has an author the right to inflict this catharsis on us? The answer
to that is in the enormity of the deed and the price. (laycock)

has he? ask aristotle       an author has the right to write as he god-
damn pleases      fuck the average reader!

(the recognitions never was overpriced      $7.50—now $2.75—for a
novel 5 times as long as average)

& the writer owes it to the reader to surrender his privacy:

WILLIAM GADDIS, about whom his publishers are otherwise reti-
cent, is 33 years old. (jackson)

I do not feel that I know him from this book (hartman)

tough!      & one more debt      in the recognitions (243) valentine is
speaking to wyatt about recktall brown:
—Earlier, you know, he mentioned to me the idea of a novel factory,
a sort of assembly line of writers, each one with his own especial
little job. Mass production, he said, and tailored to the public taste.
But not so absurd, Basil Valentine said sitting forward suddenly.
  —Yes, I...I know. I know.
  —When I laughed...but it's not so funny in his hands, you know.
Just recently he started this business of submitting novels to a
public opinion board, a cross-section of readers who give their
opinions, and the author makes changes accordingly. Best sellers,
of course.
  —Yes, good God, imagine if...submitting paintings to them, to a
cross section? You'd better take out...This color...These lines,
critics whod shudder at such an idea, shudder with delight to think
how some conceited genius will have to learn, after a few books flop,
to write like they do:
such readers as he may be fortunate enough to have (hicks)

And if, please God, this book is not a "success," he may meet up
with some human beings whom he can use as characters. Then
perhaps he will really write. (hill)

1john f harvey, the content characteristics of best-selling novels (unpublished
library sch phd dissertation, u of chicago 1949) (Back)

2this analogy requires careful thought, which it will not repay (Back)

3if prousts novel had been issued in 1 volume instead of 7, how the critics would
have howled! (Back)

4there is no greenwich village cocktail party in the recognitions (Back)