Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Usual Suspects

Moody and Franzen on Gaddis:

At the end of my drinking, when I was living in Hoboken, I started writing my first novel, Garden State. Later, through a chain of kindnesses, someone managed to slip a copy of it to William Gaddis, the writer I most admired, then and now. Much later, long after all of this, I got to know Gaddis's son Matthew a little bit, and he said that the book had probably gotten covered up with papers, because that's the way his dad's desk is. But maybe there was one afternoon when it was on top of a stack. (Moody, "Primary Sources")


People love to rank the top novelists, but what about the most difficult? Is Gaddis the best example of an author whose degree of difficulty forcibly ejects readers from his works? Who else comes close? Hawkes?

Hawkes at least wrote shorter books. But the problem with ranking novelists by difficulty is that there are a lot of incredibly hard avant-garde novels out there, much harder than Gaddis, which most of us have never heard of. The thing to keep in mind about Gaddis is that he wasn't just hard; he was also brilliant and, in many places, fun to read. If he was only difficult, we wouldn't be talking about him. The same goes for Joyce. (Franzen, Online interview, New Yorker)

I mean to track down that issue of the Yawker with the Franzen-on-Gaddis, Status-Authors-vs.-Contract-Authors article, but it might take some doing. In the meantime, the Complete Review Recognitions page is, naturally, a good resource if you're in need of one. I've found the remembrances over at Conjunctions pretty interesting, as well. (And don't sleep on Fire the Bastards! either.)


Blogger DerikB said...

Franzen pretty much goes on to bash Gaddis. That article completely turned me off from wanting to read Franzen.

November 9, 2004 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger CAAF said...

I was trying to hunt up the Franzen essay yesterday. It's called "Mr. Difficult," I remember that. I saw it referred to in reviews of "How To Be Alone" but my copy of the book doesn't include it. So maybe it was put in in later editions? Maybe for the paperback edition?

V. frustrating.

November 9, 2004 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger DerikB said...

I have an html copy of it (not well formatted). I'll email it along to whoever wants it.

November 9, 2004 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Syntax of Things said...

Derik, would you mind sending a copy my way? Thanks.

November 9, 2004 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Scott Esposito said...

Derik, please send one my way as well. I had been interested in reading that essay, but couldn't since it was only available in print.

November 9, 2004 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger boccaforte said...

My boyfriend wrote some spot-the-hell-on-the-money about the infamous Mr. Difficult essay:


Hi. I don't have any reading time anymore, but I'm a huge Gaddis fan, so will certainly be keeping up.

November 9, 2004 at 10:37 PM  

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