the critics fail to know the characters in the recognitions      who're
described mostly in terms of what they do not what they are      most
critics mentioning wyatt describe him mainly or only as a painter who
forges old masters (blurb):

Gwyon's mixed-up son, Wyatt, who paints a pseudo-Flemish master-
piece (chitty 9/9/62)
but the points not that wyatt forges art but what forging does to him (&
its more than "forging")

wyatt is not the "chief symbol of despair" or "the overriding symbol of
fraudulence" (bloom, bradley) or "rather like Kafka's 'K'" (highet) or
"doomed and damned" (north) or "turns to forging old masters to earn
a living" (simak) or "mad"/"demented" (stocking, u s quarterly book
)       he doesnt cease "to have a personality" "a third of the way
through" (coldwell)

burnette's "Wyatt is an unsympathetic character" is worth quoting.
by black magic time presents wyatt as a typical young artist:

  On the follow-the-hero level, the action of The Recognitions may
seem simple. Wyatt Gwyon is the shy son of a New England
preacher. His mother has died during a trip to Spain, and he is
brought up under the gimlet eye and Puritan maxims of a crabby
maiden aunt. In Paris, he holes up in a studio and paints, but he
gets panned by the critics. Wyatt is soon back in a Greenwich
Village flat with a draftsman's job and a possessive wife just out of
analysis.1 He sheds his wife, and sells himself into esthetic and
moral bondage forging "undiscovered" Flemish masterpieces for a
millionaire dealer in expensive fakes. This work drives him to the
fringes of sanity and murder. Fleeing the U.S., he makes an
obscurely redemptive pilgrimage to his mother's grave in Spain.
(note the reductions to the classify-&-generalize level: "shy son"
"crabby maiden aunt" "holes up in a studio" "Greenwich Village flat" (it
isnt) "possessive wife" etc)       berger's the only critic to connect wyatt
with "less emphasis on self-consciousness"

critics on other characters are usually brief & uninspired, or blurb-
inspired      "an American musician" hardly describes stanley,
nor should he be classed (with wyatt) among the "forgers" "phonies" &
"hypocrites" (parke)       gwyon's no "Puritan parent" (powell), & "won-
derful religious dad" wont do either (coleman 9/11/62)      esme gets
very little comment (because shes not mentioned in the blurb?)      bet-
ter no comment than rolo's:

an artist's model with a face of Madonna-like purity and the mind of
an imbecilic child—a child who has discovered that heroin is more
comforting than thumb-sucking
or livingston on aunt may:
Nowhere in the novel is there a man or woman (with the possible
exception of the aunt) who draws from the past religious history
which Mr. Gaddis so eloquently describes enough of the positive to
live a good, Christian life.
(she & mr pivner being the "only semihonest characters" ie the only
squares)       rugoff finds the use of primary characters in depth and
caricatures an "exasperating mélange" "of shrewd and of merely
grotesque characterization"2      bloom: the "characters are frag-
mented thoughts, disembodied voices" "they can't be regarded as
persons"       powell calls them "desperately indistinguishable from
each other"—shes exactly wrong as usual       & the library of congress
the narrator's contempt for his characters keeps him outside their
imaginations, so that some are no more than names.
an outstanding feature of the recognitions is how sharp & easily dis-
tinguishable the minor characters are       some appear often, some a
few times but sharply, & shading off further a few are merely named or
appear so briefly you have little idea who they are, as often happens in
real life       these cause a few dull lines but theyre not the ones the
library of congress man means & their use has nothing to do with

the critics did an especially lousy job on the characters      mostly
seeming to be writing about some other book      & the characters are
usually what distinguish a great novel from an ordinary one

1to put it mildly! (the recognitions 80) (Back)

2if its different it must be "merely" (Back)