Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Calling all readers...

Surely, some of you must have finished the chapter?

Are you finding it tough going? Don't worry too much about trying to get everything. The annotations are a great help, but you can get a lot out of the novel without them. It may be tough, but it's still a fun book (Well, I think so). Part of the utility of discussing is that you don't have to completely get it all right away.

Rah rah. Go team!


Blogger gwenda said...

I only finished the chapter last night and read through the annotations this morning... And I'm having a great deal of fun with the reading so far. (Though I felt I understood it better before reading the annotations.)

One thing I couldn't find annotated -- and which rings a bell so maybe it's because I'm the only person who doesn't know this off the top of my head, or it's in the annotations and I missed it -- is what the importance is of the mirrors on the cross. Anyone?

November 16, 2004 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

The book is a helluva lot of fun, which I think helps the more, uh, nutritious bits go down a little easier. If the whole business with Heracles, the Barbary Ape, doesn't make you laugh, you're not alive, I think. (My God, the ringing of the sleighbells...)

Anyway, the first section was a re-read for me--the only part of TR I'd read previously--so it seemed a bit familiar. Then again, I'd read that section from the "corrupt" edition, so who knows. Annotations v. helpful, for me, although I typically read them after I read a chapter--I like to wade through without help, making my own leaps and mistakes, then submit to possible correction later.

And no hits here on the cruz-con-espejos--Google's even coming up short on that one.

November 16, 2004 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

Gwenda, I believe this is the annotation for the cross:

25.42] mirrors in the arms of the cross [...] their purpose: apparently they heighten the identification of the supplicant with the sufferings of Christ, sometimes leading to the bestowal of stigmata.

November 16, 2004 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger gwenda said...

Thank you, Derik -- I figured it had to be there somewhere. That was one of my three theories. Very nice.

November 16, 2004 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger gwenda said...

(Um, except I was just thinking more "increased identification" -- less stigmata. I'm not like a theological detective or anything.)

November 16, 2004 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

"Theological detective" that sounds interesting. Lots of material in TR for such a job.

November 16, 2004 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

It's definitely going down easier the second time. The funny stuff is funnier, and, as Rake has it, help with the intake of the denser bits.

Again I notice and admire Gaddis' remarkable ear for human speech.

November 16, 2004 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

OK, I'm still only halfway through though digging on it A LOT; it's far more funny than I expected. Anyone else feel like an armchair Freudian during the scene with the chamber pot dump - followed-up by the reluctance to tithe the nickel at church? (While reading a book whose length alone attests to a certain, um, verbal looseness/generosity (read: logorrhea)). A lot of anal issues going on.

I was thinking of the Freudian stuff b/c of the novel being written in the early '50s, when the psychoanalytic movement was swinging a long (see Salinger oeuvre for unhappy take on said movement -- which you can cross ref. with J. Franz's assertion that The Recognitions is like a fancy-dress religious version of Catcher in the Rye).

Am I going to get kicked out of the club for noticing the anal issues of a character?

I think theological detective would be a kickass job to be able to write down on one's tax returns.

November 16, 2004 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Syntax of Things said...

I'm on my way. Give me another day and I should be able to join the fun, pear juice in hand, cold pack on head.

November 16, 2004 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger LITBLOG CO-OP said...

I'm struggling along and suspect I'll be perpetually behind. Have a few titles I'm committed to review at TEV, so it's a crapshoot.

I will say two things:

1) I plan to post on this but I since I know more or less dicksquat about this book, I've decided NOT to soak myself in too much ancilary reading but rather to receive it as I would have received it picking it up in a bookstore in 1955. It is a first novel, after all, and I want to let it unfold without too much certainty about what is to come.

2) It's much funnier than I imagined. But he does occasionally overwrite.

More to follow, probably drunken rants tomorrow night.

November 17, 2004 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Scott Esposito said...


If you're enjoying the anal imagery so far, just wait till you meet up with Recktall Brown (roughly pg 140)! Yes, his name is a reference to the you-know-what.

November 17, 2004 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Bud Parr said...

I am behind too, but mostly because I started reading the OED entry that TEV posted below. When I finish that, I'll read more of the book.

Actually though, I am behind in my reading because of life events, but the writing is so good that I've been re-reading passages when I have a moment or two. So, if I haven't been able to spend quality time with the book, I am absorbing it when I get a chance.

p.s. It is a funny book in the sense of there is a lot, a lot of mockery - at every angle it seems. I love reading it, but almost get the sense that when Gaddis was writing it (getting risky here), he was afraid to be too serious - I mean it's a serious book that starts with a funeral, mentions a nine-year old committing suicide (albeit in two feet of water, making the act all that more painful) and the main character depressed already at the age of four. To use a film analogy, Gaddis is like the Cohen brothers, who are funniest at their most serious moments (say for example, most of Blood Simple) and serious when they're being funny (Oh Brother...) - uh, this would be good for a drinking conversation where I could say all this, it would fly by and no one would remember later that I said it, because it's starting to look too rambling for print. bye, bye.

November 17, 2004 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

I am not one of the 'official' contributors to the left, but a first time reader that decided to join because of the smart dialogue I anticipate from such a fine group.

Like the others, my initial reaction is to how funny the book is, with vague impressionf of high school flashbacks from East of Eden.

Bud, I understand what you're saying but I don't know if serious & funny are necessarily exlusive of each other. Or better, maybe something can be serious in content but not of mood? Though, I do have a streak of insolence and have laughed at funerals, etc... (If a-holes are shunned at the GDC, I will make my stumbling exit now).

Or...instead of fear of the subject matter as such, the humor could just be the spoonful of sugar to keep low-brows like myself reading the book. I know if it was more consistently somber, I wouldn't make it one tenth through.

November 18, 2004 at 12:15 AM  
Blogger DerikB said...

As I stated elsewhere, Gaddis explicitly says that he thinks of it as a "comic novel". Comedy is a very serious matter when used in the way it is here. Much of the comedy in this chapter is directed at religion, which, it is easy to tell from the novel (and the religion essay quoted in another post), Gaddis took very seriously. Personally, I also think it makes the critique more effective and, of course, more amusing to read, thus more likely to get people to pay attention to it than a more dour mode.

November 18, 2004 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Bud Parr said...

Well, I was hoping to make the point that funny, like Cohen brothers funny can indeed be combined with dark and/or serious. When I said that WG might have been afraid to be too serious I wasn't implying that it was a "spoonful of sugar,"(indeed, I think that WG is a writer's writer and probably had little concern for readers as such) but thinking in terms of how he shrouds his serious points in irony and mockery - the way that most people do when handling touchy subjects, the way that Joyce dealt with Catholicism, for example, like the sermon at the Clongowes retreat in "Portrait,"

November 18, 2004 at 12:10 PM  

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