In recognition of Gaddis’ works:

The Recognitions (1955) is an immense work filled with literary, historical, mythological and religious allusions. The novel follows more than 50 characters over a 30-year period as their paths cross in New York, New England, Paris, Italy and Spain. While the novel did not gain much popular or critical attention at first (it was generally regarded as long and difficult), it gradually attained an almost “cult” following as well as critical respect. It was rediscovered years later as having a unique and primary place in contemporary literature.

“A novel of stunning power, 956 pages of linguistic pyrotechnics and multi-lingual erudition unmatched by any American writer in this century—perhaps in any century.”

—Richard Toney, San Francisco Review of Books

JR (1975), at 726 pages, is a huge satire of corporate America and its obsession with money. JR is an account of the corporate exploits of an 11-year-old boy who amasses, through cunning and deceit, an enormous financial empire. The novel is composed almost entirely of dialogue that reads like a transcription of actual conversations, with ungrammatical, incomplete sentences and constant interruptions by other characters. JR won the National Book Award for best fiction of the year.

“No other novel I know of catches up so much of contemporary reality, or renders it so exactly, and with such telling detail...Behind the wild comedy, the frantic pace, the precise satire, the rigorous art, there is the somber mood of something that for want of a better word we might just as well call tragedy.”

—George Stade, The New York Times Book Review

Carpenter’s Gothic (1985) takes place over a month’s time in a Victorian house in a small Hudson River Valley town. Carpenter’s Gothic presents its author’s most characteristic themes and techniques with flair and economy.

“An unholy landmark of a novel—an extra turret added on to the ample, ingenious, audacious Gothic mansion William Gaddis has slowly been building in American letters.”

—Cynthia Ozick, The New York Times Book Review

A Frolic of His Own (1994) was rated “One of the Worst Novels of 1994” by Entertainment Weekley. EW placed the book alongside Bret Easton Ellis’ The Informers and Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation with the judges (Erica K. Cardozo and Ken Tucker) claiming “William Gaddis’ overblown novel is an unworthy successor to good Gaddis works like JR and The Recognitions. One suspects a case of a novelist succumbing to his hype.” Not everyone agreed with EW’s assessment of the novel, however: It won Gaddis his second National Book Award.

Agapë Agape: The Secret History of the Player Piano. Gaddis was working on a nonfiction history of the player piano at the time of his death. This wasn’t to be Gaddis’ first work on the matter—an early essay on player pianos entitled “Stop Player. Joke No. 4” was published in the July 1951 issue of The Atlantic Monthly and later reprinted in Steven Moore’s A Reader’s Guide to William Gaddis [sic]. Player pianos were also featured in The Recognitions and, more prominently, in JR. Agapë Agape will be published posthumously. In the author’s own words: “I see the player piano as the grandfather of the computer, the ancestor of the entire nightmare we live in, the birth of the binary world where there is no option other than yes or no and where there is no refuge.”

John Sherry’s William Gaddis memoir
William Gaddis website