William Gaddis
Dalkey Archive Press, Champaign, IL, 2012; originally published in 1955, English
ISBN: 9781564786913

From the Publisher. The book Jonathan Franzen dubbed the “ur-text of postwar fiction” and the “first great cultural critique, which, even if Heller and Pynchon hadn’t read it while composing Catch-22 and V., managed to anticipate the spirit of both”—The Recognitions is a masterwork about art and forgery, and the increasingly thin line between the counterfeit and the fake. Gaddis anticipates by almost half a century the crisis of reality that we currently face, where the real and the virtual are combining in alarming ways, and the sources of legitimacy and power are often obscure to us.

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Thomas Girst

The Recognitions, the first novel by one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, went almost completely unrecognized upon its publication in 1955. Apparently, the only prize it won was for its jacket design, according to Jonathan Franzen, one of many contemporary writers to whom Gaddis is a great source of inspiration. A small vertical signature at the cover’s lower right corner reveals the typographic design to be by Janet Halverson, who went on to create many book designs for novels by Joan Didion and Maya Angelou, among others. As for Gaddis, despite his first novel’s failure to attract the critics (or an audience), he went on to be celebrated as a great force in literature.

Gaddis is a demanding and challenging writer. Just as Bach can hardly be enjoyed without giving in to him entirely, without concentration and devoting our time, so William Gaddis, at least in the first two of his total of only five novels, demands our full attention. This is a lesson to be learned, as reading him can be of great benefit to our many ways of life. The Recognitions, besides many other things, is about forgery, the original versus the fake, the genuine versus the facsimile, the origins and urges of creativity—in regard to art as well as our human interrelationships. It is an incomparable source of recognition for so many things going on in our daily lives today. Once we have allowed Gaddis to lead the way through his universe, there is laughter, and humor abounds.

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