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June 11, 2012 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Remember Infinite Summer? New challenge: Join Lee Konstantinou and the LA Review of Books in reading Gaddis’s classic 1975 novel J R this summer. They're calling it #OccupyGaddis.

They're going at the same pace as Infinite Summer (75 pages/week).

More Gaddis:
The Gaddis Annotations

A 1986 interview with Gaddis from the Paris Review. Another interview at the Dalkey Archive Press.

Video of an Malcolm Bradbury interviewing Gaddis.

Original NY Times review of J R (subscription required).

Previously: Fire the Bastards
posted by skilar (20 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perfect!
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:59 PM on June 11, 2012


Previously.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:39 PM on June 11, 2012


Oh, dear. Is "Occupy" the new meme-of-the-minute?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:50 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I had anything approaching free time this summer, I would so read along with this. J R is one of my favorite novels ever, and certainly my favorite post-WWII American novel. Difficult, yes, but a more apt, hilarious and sad description of the problems and degradations of American you won't find.
posted by heurtebise at 4:54 PM on June 11, 2012


Damn, but I just started Infinite Proust. I wonder if I can do both. Infinite all the things.
posted by naju at 4:55 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Franzen on Gaddis and "difficult" fiction, from The New Yorker.
posted by grobstein at 4:57 PM on June 11, 2012


Crap beat to the punch by the "previously" comment link =P Sorry
posted by grobstein at 4:58 PM on June 11, 2012


Perfect timing. Bought 'The Recognitions' and 'JR' in the new editions from Dalkey Archive Press (go Dalkey!), finished The Recognitions about a month ago, and now I'm primed to read the second one. Recognitions was a really good novel, very poetic. I wouldn't say it was overly difficult, but it required a high degree of concentration - it's the kind of book where if your attention wanders you find yourself instantly lost - and Gaddis made a ton of allusions and references to things I would never have caught if it weren't for the Gaddis Annotations (incredible resource). Definitely worth reading, and I think if you can avoid getting psyched out, not overwhelming. Looking forward to JR.
posted by facetious at 4:59 PM on June 11, 2012


If I had anything approaching free time this summer, I would so read along with this. J R is one of my favorite novels ever, and certainly my favorite post-WWII American novel. Difficult, yes, but a more apt, hilarious and sad description of the problems and degradations of American you won't find.

Thanks for the good word on it! I've never read this book, nor had it recommended to me, so I'd love to hear whether I should try to jump into this particular fad, or if I should just focus on the other novels I've been meaning to read lately.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:17 PM on June 11, 2012


As if you could stop after just 75 pages.

Gaddis and twitter, though - kinda freakishly mystifying, even premonitory: "(...)try to educate them did they buy those 'Educator' piano rolls teach them to play with their hands no, went right on discovering their unsuspected talent playing with their feet (...)" Agapē Agape
posted by rudster at 5:19 PM on June 11, 2012


That Franzen article is terrible. J R is fantastic, easily Gaddis's best – I think it's the best American novel of the second half of the twentieth century. One of those books that you finish and immediately want to start reading again because it's so good. If I had the free time this summer, I'd read it again.

And while I don't know what I think about tacking "occupy" onto everything, it is an apposite book for the present moment. There aren't a lot of novels that think about American capitalism and what it does to people quite as deeply. Gaddis did an op-ed for the NYTimes (you might need a Times login for that) in 1987 in the voice of J. R. Van Sant, the title character of the novel; (some of) the players have changed, but the game's the same:
Okay look Mr. Chairman that's just what I'm coming to. Like you start off with all these here schoolteachers? I mean right at the start they were always getting paid worse than anybody. So you create this second-class profession you get second-class people, so now you get all these pupils which can't hardly read so they have these here remedial reading programs. See if these teachers got it right in the first place then all these remedial teachers would be out of work which that's what we call this ripple effect, where each new job creates like three more new ones. That's how it works. I mean this last five years of this Administration the economy has generated 13.5 million new jobs, so. . . .
or again:
So that's where you need these cheap inflation dollars so everybody can pay everybody back, right? See we had this neat idea of this here trickle down theory only it didn't work out so good, I mean it all like got stuck at the top where 15 years ago this richest 1 percent of the nation held 27 percent of the wealth now they've got almost 36 percent, I mean it mostly like trickled up. And see where the Administration's goal was to end inflation it worked so good that this sudden massive collapse of it brought these terrific budget deficits so like now we're this world's biggest debtor nation where if these here Japanese weren't like buying $60 billion in Treasury bonds a year we couldn't hardly pay the gas bill, right?
The Times seems to have edited out all the "goddamned"s out, which is a shame.
posted by with hidden noise at 5:23 PM on June 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, should you have most of a work week free, there's an unabridged audio book available in iTunes.
posted by with hidden noise at 5:25 PM on June 11, 2012


Just in time for the Dallas reboot!
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:35 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perfect timing. Bought 'The Recognitions' and 'JR' in the new editions from Dalkey Archive Press (go Dalkey!), finished The Recognitions about a month ago, and now I'm primed to read the second one.
Be prepared for JR to be very different from The Recognitions. It's where Gaddis first picked up his "nothing but unattributed speech" style. Both books are fantastic. Man, that guy had an ear for speech.
posted by dfan at 5:58 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there a way to follow this (like an RSS feed or e-mail notifications) without being on twitter or tumblr? I see 8 zillion ways to share this, but not follow options. The book sounds interesting. (And like a perversely good way to put off reading my next two book club books which for some reason I am currently determined not to read even though they sound good probably just because I feel obligated to.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:15 PM on June 11, 2012


When do we see "Peak Gaddis"?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:52 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, awesome. I've started on JR a couple of times without much success getting through it. Loved The Recognitions, though.

Also, I wrote a little mobile web app that displays the annotation information from The Gaddis Annotations in a more friendly way than the '97 style table based design of the original. The link is in my profile.
posted by ndfine at 7:12 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it OK to think of J R as a celebration of American capitalism? A celebration in the Roman style, with the occasional orgy and the occasional drunk puking in the corner, but a celebration nevertheless? I mean, J R does not reveal American capitalism to be soulless; it reveals it to be a sixth-grader, with a sixth-grader's soul, a sixth-grader's curiosity and a sixth-grader's continual surprise with the world and all that's in it.

It's also a very, very funny book.

By all means listen to the unabridged audio version if you've already read the novel; Nick Sullivan is a genius and He does the police in different voices, if you know what I mean.
posted by chavenet at 7:58 AM on June 12, 2012


I hope this does better than Dracula.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:15 AM on June 12, 2012


If anyone wants to chat about this as they go, I'm going to give it a try! Would love to follow any of you on twitter if you're reading it and commenting there - or if you're posting about your experience elsewhere.
posted by latkes at 6:59 PM on June 14, 2012


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