William Gaddis published only four novels during his lifetime, but with those works he earned himself a reputation as one of America's greatest novelists. Less well known is Gaddis's body of excellent critical writings. Here is a wide range of his original essays, some published for the first time. From "'Stop Player. Joke No. 4,'" Gaddis's first national publication and the basis for his projected history of the player piano, to the title essay about missed opportunities in America during the past fifty years, to "Old Foes with New Faces," an examination of the relationship between the writer and the problem of religion-this diverse collection displays the power of an autonomous literary intelligence in an age increasingly dominated by political and religious conservatism.
Author of the deeply satirical novel JR (which features an 11-year-old capitalist who trumps up his Army surplus company in a manner that seems eerily prescient today) and of The Recognitions, Gaddis (1922-1998) was a fact-checker at the New Yorker and a corporate speech-writer before coming to prominence, but published very little essay-based work. Editor Joseph Tabbi here collects 29 short and occasional pieces, some left in manuscript at the time of Gaddis's death, others admiring encomiums to Saul Bellow or Julian Schnabel, all of which, as he notes, "create a sense of the environment in which Gaddis worked."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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September 30, 2002
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