"We live in a comic time. And the worse it gets the more comic we are.”
April 9, 2022 2:26 PM   Subscribe

William Gaddis: Below Deck On The Ship of Fools (Pt. 1; Pt. 2) posted by chavenet (13 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
'Nearly everything in the United States...was made within the last 100 years, and done so by whoever promised that they could do it for the cheapest.' resonated with me.
posted by MtDewd at 3:11 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


My uncle is a Gaddis stan and whenever I read anything about him I'm convinced I would like his books too. But I've picked up JR twice and both times I got about 200 pages in, really enjoyed those pages, had to stop, and had a hard time getting back into it. I think it's the kind of book I need to read in a long, focused reading jag, and with young kids I just don't have that kind of time. Annnnd I guess the vibe I get from Gaddis is that if I'd let my small children get in the way of Experiencing Art he would prefer not to have me as a reader anyway.

One of these days, Gaddis.
posted by potrzebie at 3:12 PM on April 9 [8 favorites]


Try the audio book of JR, it's great.
posted by Lorin at 4:36 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


"we're comic.
We're all comics.
We live in a comic time.
And the worse it gets
the more comic we are."

-William Gaddis
posted by clavdivs at 5:05 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


i did take up the challenge of The Recognitions and it took a few re-launches but i loved it. the concepts struck home as someone at that time working on the authenticity of my own artistic ambitions, while also navigating the 'business' of art. sometime after i finished the book, i read that Mr Pynchon was somewhat inspired by the Greenwich Village party scenes for his novel V.

good essay on Gaddis, thanks - had not heard of Agape Agape and checked out the first page or so - holy crap that's one heck of a howling narrative that i will now set up as a new challenge to read!
posted by Mr.Pointy at 7:32 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Part 2 has:
>This person read 1600 pages of book, covering the NYRB reissues of The Recognitions and J R, and walked away saying “lol this is boring.” What’s worse is that they dragged the endlessly brilliant Joy Williams (who might have the coolest author photo in the world) into the whole thing, citing her introduction to J R as proof that Gaddis “has appealed to at least one female sensibility in the 45 years since the book’s publication,” which is just the Infinite Jest critique—“only self-important white guys could possibly enjoy this,”—being leveled at a new target, now that pendulum has begun to swing back the other direction on Wallace.

I'm going to swing some privilege here: I'm tediously default and educated and can see so many flaws in the system -- but thank your fucking stars I'm not determined to try to "well actually" explain them.

I get that, for some people, Gaddis and Wallace are revelatory and exciting. For me, I don't need them for the same reason I don't try to write didactic missives: I have Terry Pratchett. Even then, I don't need to make you read Terry; either you get it or you don't.

I'd prefer you to enjoy art and use it to make sense of your world. As for art being a watermark or "you need to be this serious to speak about this topic" -- strong nope. At best Gaddis is warning us but I've grown up native to the world he describes. Setting up a canon is not intersectional, and younger generations have moved on to build communities of intersection that have fluidity rather than rigid structure.

>Art was supposed to be a way for people to document themselves, to say “I was here, and this is what the world was like.”
He'd love Instagram, TikTok and an NFT. I think he's worked so much adjacent to art that he's missed that the stuff that's fêted, that finds a place in the history books, has always had rich patrons.
posted by k3ninho at 1:24 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


Love Gaddis. J.R. Is wonderful.
posted by thivaia at 4:32 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]


There's a lovely typo in Part 2 where the Book Brat author refers to Grisham's Law when he means Gresham's Law, but is probably thinking about John Grisham.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 8:12 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Currently rereading Timothy Hallinan's crime series about Junior Bender, super thief, who self educated with intense deep study dives in Gaddis's The recognitions.
At 956 pages, I couldn't get into it.
Maybe one of his other titles isn't as long?
posted by Mesaverdian at 11:31 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


'Nearly everything in the United States...was made within the last 100 years, and done so by whoever promised that they could do it for the cheapest.' resonated with me.


Attributed (with little evidence) to John Ruskin is the observation, "There is hardly anything in the world that cannot be made a little worse and sold a little cheaper, and those who consider price alone are that man's lawful prey."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:24 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


But I've picked up JR twice and both times I got about 200 pages in, really enjoyed those pages, had to stop, and had a hard time getting back into it. I think it's the kind of book I need to read in a long, focused reading jag, and with young kids I just don't have that kind of time.

I could have written this. Sometimes I think it would be great if I were stuck on a desert island alone for a year or two, with only the longest and densest books to keep me company. That way I'd actually finish Gaddis, and Ulysses...countless others.
posted by zardoz at 1:41 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]


there is so much more to J R than didacticism or prognostication. DFW as well
posted by alsoran at 4:13 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]


JR is a beautiful book. You're shocked when first getting into it, it is chaotic, but, staying with it, you start to, well, "sing along" with it, like a song on the car radio. You couldn't have composed it, performed it, recorded it, but, by god, this is YOUR car!
posted by Chitownfats at 10:33 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


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