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
centuryperhaps 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
Carpenters Gothic (1985) takes place over a months time
in a Victorian house in a small Hudson River Valley town. Carpenters
Gothic presents its authors most characteristic themes and techniques
with flair and economy.
An unholy landmark of a novelan 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
Wurtzels 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 EWs 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 wasnt to be Gaddis first work on the
matteran 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 Moores A Readers
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 authors 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 Sherrys William Gaddis memoir
William Gaddis website