Monday, November 29, 2004

Week Two, the Second Time

Okay, a little late, but here goes on week the second:

I have to admit that this was a less interesting part for me, but I can also see it building towards something.

The French sections are very abstract and disconnected. I love that Gaddis just uses the original language rather than translating everything, and that he plays with the tourist pronounciations of words.

I want to find some significance to the fact that Wyatt is confused about it being dawn (it is really dusk) when the art critic Cremer visits him. Just another illusion example? Wyatt is fooled because he has no reason to think otherwise?

I put this in the comments elsewhere, but, the discovered Memling painting Wyatt reads about on p.74 is the painting he did while in Munich, which he later refers to as lost to Esther. Wyatt is implicated in forgery without even trying.

It is interesting to note that at the end of Part I Chapter 2 we have: "And the shadow he cast behind him as he turned away fell back seven centuries..." (77) echoing the end of Part 1 Chapter 1 where Gwyon "stumbles back by years" (62). What's with the falling back in time?

When Esther is first introduced I felt she was described by the narrator very harshly, but when we actually see her portrayed, acting, speaking, I felt more sympathetic to her. The passage on p.80 about Esther and her analyst is odd. It seems her analyst loved her and then killed herself when she married Wyatt.

Page 83, 15 years from when he started it and the Camilla portrait is still undone.

I love this quote:
"That romantic disease, originality, all around we see originality of incompetent idiots, they could draw nothing, paint nothing, just so the mess they make is original... Even two hundred years ago who wanted to be original, to be original was to admit that you could not do a thing the right way, so you could only do it your way." (89)

Wyatt on page 91-2 talking about his viewing of the Picasso painting (Night Fishing in Antibes) is an important passage which I won't type out, except for: "When I saw it all of a sudden everything was freed into one recognition, really freed into reality that we never see, you never see it." (92) That has also confused me a bit, "freed into one recognition". What does that mean?

That passage (and further down on 92 about the Mona Lisa) brings up the idea of familiarisation, the automatization of perception (see me elsewhere on Shklovsky, etc.) and "a thousand off-center reproductions between you and it" (again with copies).

A passage on 112: "it's the sense of privacy that most popular expressions of suffering don't have, don't dare have, that's what makes it arrogant." Brought Guy Maddin's "Saddest Music in the World" (a film) to mind. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it (out on DVD). The idea of public suffering, fakery, and the casting around for hope of future sympathy/pity is important there.

Esther quoting Wyatt: "I should have to believe that I am the man for whom Christ died." (127) Is something we will be seeing again, and another thing that I need to puzzle out as I read.

We see a number of flashes of future fleshed out characters in the New York chapter. Otto being the one we start to see the most of, obviously showing him in relatin to Wyatt whom he (Otto) relentless copies.


Blogger Scott Esposito said...

Interesting remarks. I'll reply to a couple.

First off, regarding the Picasso. It seems to me that this has to do with the Benjamin/Berger stuff I posted about a while back. I think that when Wyatt sees the Picasso, he sees the painting as if for the first time. In other words, he sees JUST the painting, and not everything else that surrounds art. In an age of increasing art reproduction and art criticism, I think Gaddis felt that the room alotted to just the painting what growing smaller and smaller (of course, I would say this is only more true in our time). As for why he called it a "recognition", I'm not sure. Perhaps alluding to the fact that good art forces us to recognize some deep common bonds we all share; brings them to the fore . . . ?

Thanks for bringing up the Christ quote. I think this raises an important point--for all of Gaddis's clear criticisms of religion, I think it's also something that really perplexes him. I think it's too easy to say that Gaddis is anti-religion, and as we read it will be important to figure out the true relationships between Gaddis--religion and religion--art.

Lastly, regarding the dawn/dusk. I forget where, but I believe Gaddis also describes other convergences of opposites. I don't think that this one instance is isolated. I'm not sure exactly where Gaddis is going with it, but I think this convergence of opposites is a theme for Wyatt.

November 30, 2004 at 11:41 AM  

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