Friday, August 19, 2011

The Recognitions, by William Gaddis

I don't know, but I might have discovered the one. The one, you ask? No, the ONE. The one book I have been looking for. The one book that has me rolling with laughter, while in the same moment of trying to get my breath, flooring me with the beauty of its prose. The one book I can look forward to reading over and over and over again, plumbing its depths, and yet knowing I will never find the bottom. And why the hell did it take me so long? Truth be told, I should have perused this tome after reading Gaddis' "Carpenter's Gothic," last year, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And (an aside, here, footnote, whatever) that book led me, however circuitously, to Le Salon Litteraire du Peuple pour le Peuple (or, however it is styled now by our mischievous demon of a dictatuer (who is no longer a dictator, or even a member...hmmm, so perhaps another puckish imp is responsible for cracking open the coffins?)

(And now for an aside to the Aside...let the vodka speak (in the form of a Black Russian--I'm ashamed to say, for I usually drink it straight), it will have its way--and by the way, I must insist on putting the period inside the parentheses, being old-school, cuz thats just how i roll.) But after all this time, I still don't feel comfortable enough to participate fully in their discussions (threads) because I am so in awe of the participants. Jeez, I believe half to be English professors, a healthy portion of literary critics, with a sprinkling of writers (Piero, whose first book I'm now also reading alongside Gaddis and Wallace, and am thoroughly enjoying it--damn, I think I am liking it as much if not more than the second (I wish I had read them in order,) which I did not think possible,) and let me toss in a link to this fine piece of prose, because it deserves to be read by as many people as possible (especially those of us too young to have experienced the incredible time of the 60's:)
I Think, Therefore Who Am I (And yes, Mr. Weissman, you belong right up there with those behemoths. If I could write only half as well as you, I would be impossible to live with.)

Yes, as I was saying, the collective intellect and erudition of the Salonistas have me in a constant state of wonder and awe. And one of the Giants of the Salon is tomcatMurr, whose review of "Carpenter's Gothic" was so incredible, so dead-on, and beyond anything I could ever have imagined, I couldn't but help leaving a comment on his's profile telling him how much I admired it. After which he sent me an invite to Le Salon, and since then I've discovered a whole world of wonderful literature I probably never would've found on my own.

Which, now I think, finally, leads me back to the book at hand, which is the whole point of this blog post, right? I do tend to meander so...but the vodka, it is the vodka, and not the possible uninvited denizen in my noggin causing me to ramble so. Although, perhaps enough of the ambrosia might kill it? I am reminded of the story from Katherine Hepburn, when reminiscing of the filming of "The African Queen," and how everyone was catching malaria, except John Huston and Humphrey Bogart. Hepburn said she was not surprised, since Huston and Bogart were in a constant state of inebriation, and there was no way any malarial beastie could possibly survive in all that alcohol. But it probably doesn't work that way for a brain tumor, huh?

Yes, the book. I cannot begin to describe how much I am enjoying it. I cannot remember another book affecting me so. I had started to pick it up after reading another incredibly long and complex tome, "The Tunnel." I read the first few pages, and was almost sucked in. But I wasn't ready just yet to devote another large chunk of my life to such a monster. I wanted to get a few more manageable books down my gullet first. And I did.

Another interesting aside, (my last, I assure you) but one of these manageable chunks was "The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction," and its author, Alan Jacobs, in the first few pages mentioned "The Recognitions," and how it was the first book he just couldn't bring himself to finish. I actually had Gaddis' tome right next to me as I read this. Of course, being a godless heathen, I am not superstitious, but....

But something kept pulling me back to this one. And I finally let go of my resistance, and dove in the other day. It's all I've been able to think about since. I'm not really that far into it (so let me apologize now, rather lately I realize, that if you came to this post thinking to find a review, it's not,) but it has struck such a chord with me, I really feel, as my opening words tried to convey, that I have found the one. May you find the one for you.

1 comment:

  1. Goddamnit bubba! If I were still a member of that Zombinista Salon, I'd pimp this piece. I was halfway through it, glanced to the right, and whoah, saw your Zombie Profile, and about keeled over in a pique of chuckles.

    After I first readIJ in 2001, I read Donald Antrim's, The Verificationist, and then read David Copperfield, and then at the start of '02, first attempted The Recognitions. I failed on my first ascent, but in '04 attempted a second time, and made it. Like you, I was so so so so blown away by it. And to think, Gaddis wrote this beast the year I Love Lucy debuted! Why is Pynchon so much more revered than him? I don't get it. And I especially don't get it considering it and then the accomplishment of J R.

    I hope you'll keep writing about your experience with it; I'll be watching closely.

    Oh, I'm going to go find Steven Moore's Reader's Guide for The Recognitions and send it to you over on LT, momentarily ... along w/a message re. an aside in your post ... sorry for the long post too!