Thursday, December 09, 2004

Y'all Better Recognize

If anyone's around, please post away. And, if you're the last to leave, be sure to shut off the lights.


Blogger DerikB said...

I'll be here periodically. I think most of my comments on this section are already posted though.

I'm really enjoying this slow reading of the book. It lets things sink in.

December 9, 2004 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

I'm checking in here and there.

I second Derik--very manageable, good for the comprehension. It also helps to go slowly because I'm reading 4 other books concurrently, so's I don't look completely stupid when it comes time to post about the "Best Books of 2004."

Off to mix myself a tall one.

December 9, 2004 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

Wait, we're supposed to be posting about the best books of 2004! I'm not sure I even read any books from 2004.

It is nice to be reading the Gaddis and other things.

I've got my gin at hand.

December 9, 2004 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

I like the slow reading, too. It has even allowed me to build a little buffer. Which leads me to wonder about the GDS policy on "talking ahead" is?
For example, Derek's previous post about alchemy shines a little more light on the upcoming discussion between Wyatt, Brown & Valentine about using perfect tools, gold, etc...
Maybe you could start a thread that allows for spoilers? Personally, I don't mind getting warned about upcoming themes, but hate to get any warning on 'plot' spoilers.

December 9, 2004 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

Yeah, I was (kind of) kidding.

I have the same problem. I rarely read new stuff when it's new; by the time I get to it, it's old, and by then it's too late to play in all the reindeer games.

This could be 1) because I'm a cheap bastard; 2) because I love paperbacks/used; or 3) both.

December 9, 2004 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

I'm fine with talking ahead, for what it's worth.

In a book like this, some advance warning mught help me understand what's going on the first damn time I read a section. So.

(That said, feel free to start a spoiler thread if you like.)

December 9, 2004 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

Rake: I just find it too hard to figure out what is interesting and new. I need to let things settle a little before I decide to read something new. Of course some authors get the "buy it right away" treatment: Auster, Delany, Markson, Sorrentino... Come to think all of them had new books this year! Maybe I do need to make a list.

Tito: I have no problems with "spoilers" personally, but I'm not one to read for suspense or plot so much. I think I've been making vague spoilery comments the whole time.

You could just post a comment with a "*Spoiler*" tag or some such.

December 9, 2004 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Rake said...


Derik, I came upon a pretty good sized cache of used Sorrention in a bookstore Boulder, CO. Other than Mulligan Stew--which I've been recommended several times--where should I begin (supposing I don't just get one of each)?

December 9, 2004 at 8:37 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

Well, clues... Pretty much everybody at that party scene plays at least recurring roles if not major ones.

December 9, 2004 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

That's Sorrentino. Ahem.

December 9, 2004 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

Derik said: "I've noticed a number of references to fingernail parings, and I'm wondering about that. I only started noting here on p 173: "… he [Wyatt, again no name used] makes gold down there, out of fingernail parings." It's tempting to relate this artist/fingernail connection to Stephen Dedalus' creator god, though Gaddis claims to Joyce influence."

Along with mentions of parings is the description of how a man looks at his nails as opposed to a woman - I don't recall where, but it boils down to a woman looks at the whole finger, and a man bends them inward. Otto apparently looks at his nails both ways. Are we to combine these aspects of nails:
* what they (parings) are used for
* how they're viewed (man v woman)
Or do you think these are to be viewed independently. (so far, it doesn't seem that Gaddis leaves anything not intertwined). my initial thinking is that this all ties into the thought of fake/real -- how we view or accept something defines what it is...... ??

December 9, 2004 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

Ah, Sorrentino: Well... Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things is a good early one, mosly about nyc bohemian types. Aberration of Starling is one of my favorite, it is funny and formally interesting, and, as well all of his, amazingly written. Little Casino his most recent full length is also quite worth the time. I reviewed the latter 2 in my blog somewhere.

Fwiw, Mulligan Stew is my next big read (probably after Gaddis is done).

December 9, 2004 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

Ah, good call, Tito. Otto looking at his nails was one of the other references I noticed (but failed to mark in my book). There was a nice passage about moons and the curves in the nails.

The fingernail parings makes me think of some kind of magic spell, which makes me think (CAAF where are you?) of this Buffy episode where Buffy collects her roommates fingernail parings to discover she is a demon (they keep growing).

Maybe it's all part of the alchemy?

December 9, 2004 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I think Aberration of Starlight is a good one to start with for Sorrentino (it was for me, anyway), and I loved Imaginative Qualities.... I'm a little afraid of Mulligan Stew somehow...

I think Otto is an odd character. There's his weird vanity, checking himself in the mirror... the fake injury is eccentric. Then his play, where he picks up quotes from wherever, often from Wyatt. Like Gaddis incorporating lines from various places, from literature obviously, but also from unlikely sources, perhaps, as the annotations for the last section says:

124.24] the force and the flaw [...] recreate the atmosphere: an editorial intern at Harcourt named David Chandler wrote a reader's report on R in which he stated: "[In this section,] what I expect to be the ultimate problem of the book exposes itself thoroughly. The problem, which is at once the force and the flaw of the novel, arises from the thoroughness with which Gaddis feels obligated to recreate his atmosphere" (quoted in Koenig's "'Splinters from the Yew Tree,'" 43). Apparently Gaddis liked the phrase and incorporated it into his manuscript.

December 9, 2004 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

hey guys,

I just remembered that it was Thursday night and skipped over to the computer, g & t in hand, to see if any of you were hanging out.

It's 10:05 here in NC. Are any of y'all still around?

Derik, thanks for the Buffy allusion ... actually, I was watching a couple Season 3 episodes (the one with Faith's fake watcher, and the one where Oz & Cordelia find out about Willow & Xander) when I remembered the GDC. I've been wondering: Why is it that whenever Faith & Buffy fight each other they end up breaking through a glass window mid-fight? Is it symbolic (the doubles breaking through a mirror)? Or just neato?

Uh, so how about that William Gaddis?

December 9, 2004 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

the lights are on...but noone's home...and so it goes

December 9, 2004 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

Fingernail parings...hmmm. It does smack of withcraft. Or something. Perhaps more research is necessary.

The scene with Otto reminded me of Infinite Jest--the section in which Agent M. Hugh Steeply, in drag, meets with Marathe in the Arizona desert (I believe). DFW mentions Steeply examining his fingernails in a feminine manner. Not sure if it's a coincidence or an homage.

December 9, 2004 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Rake said...


YPTR will be here all night.

(By the way: Cat fight + broken glass = $$$)

December 9, 2004 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

That must be why Otto checking his fingernails seemed so familiar to me, Rake. Infinite Jest... thank you.

December 9, 2004 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

Fingernail parings are used for voodoo. Not witchcraft (to my knowledge). Though I'm sitting beside a big stack of witchcraft books -- I could look up.

Oh, what I was going to say last week:

Re-reading Lolita, which came out about the same time as The Recognitions, it was funny to note how much of that book deals with similar issues re: authenticity vs. fakeness in art and experience. (One example: Lolita kneeling by the pool where Humbert meets her feels more like the sea, to him, than the sea to him.) Does anyone else remember that? I mean, in a way, the experience of reading the whole book is an act of trying to figure out what _real_ly happened and what were Humbert's delusions.

As J. Franz notes, spotting phonies is also a theme of Catcher in the Rye, also contemporary. V. interesting, culturally.

December 9, 2004 at 10:40 PM  
Blogger Syntax of Things said...

I hate to chime in with a whine and a plea, but I'm incredibly overwhelmed at the paying job and haven't been able to get much into the Gaddis beyone the first assignment. On top of that, Saturday I'll be making a return trip to Amsterdam. I'm hoping that you guys can find a replacement for me in my "reading leading" slot because I fear I'm not going to be able to catch up until after xmas. Apologies.

December 9, 2004 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger Tito said...

Regarding contemporary novels. From the git go, the first book this reminded me of was East of Eden, and a quick google shows that that also came out in...1952.
Maybe b/c R starts out as a family story with some religious references and the concept of Election made me think of the "thou mayest" free will v pre-destiny in East of Eden.
I've read it too long ago to think of any other concrete reasons for this, but it's the novel that came to mind and I now see it came out around the same time.

...before this club I'd never heard of Gaddis...
...and my drink is jamrson...
...i don't watch buffy...

i am curious as to the distinction between witchcraft & voodoo. i am pretty ignorant to both. i would appreciate a primer anybody could provide.

December 9, 2004 at 11:08 PM  
Blogger Rake said...

No worries, Jeff, I'm sure.

Re Lolita: It has been described as Nabokov's "love letter to America," or some such, a million times, but it always struck me that Humbert is in fact experiencing the country by touring very cheesy "faux-pastoral"-type motels, which seem to be the very essence of phony. (Of course, Nabokov favored the same sorts of places on his trips across the country, so I'm not sure that was meant to be an indictment on his part.)

Of course, there are more than a few masks, fakes, etc. in Lo, as in all of VN. (Hell, H. Humbert is a major phony, himself.) Interesting point, Ms. Thang.

December 9, 2004 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

Voodoo v. witchcraft:

Some people might disagree with these definitions but here might be a good place to start:

Voodoo originated in Haiti, and it's a belief system that fuses some African religions with Catholicism. (I really no very little about it and prob. got the fingernail parings thing from a James Bond movie.)

And witchcraft (the way I'm defining it) started in Europe. It has lots of different sects, but at the most basic level, it's kind of about kinship with the earth.
The book I'm working on is about witches. I'm pretty fascinated though not a witch (being too skeptical to join much of anything but the GDC).

Lots of people use witchcraft as an umbrella word for everything they deem pagan or semipagan -- from voodoo to black magic to spirit doctors. But I think that's insulting to all as well as imprecise.

December 9, 2004 at 11:28 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

Oops, I meant to add:

I haven't read East of Eden yet.

OK, I'm off to bed. Y'all make sure what's left of the cheese ball gets put back in the fridge.

December 9, 2004 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

Oh, one last note on voodoo: If you're interested, I remember Wade Davis's "The Serpent and the Rainbow" being pretty good, though it's been years since I've read it.

December 9, 2004 at 11:41 PM  
Blogger CAAF said...

Oh and crap, Margot Adler's "Drawing Down The Moon" is the best introduction to witchy stuff. I avoided it for a long time but it's actually pretty cool.

OK, now I'll really truly skedaddle, just hoping that Jeff, your work lets up soon, and a kiss and a wave to the rest of you.

December 9, 2004 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger DerikB said...

I thought the Witchcraft books were just for the engravings of naked women, you're supposed to read them? (sorry, nother Buffy reference).

I can see the V./Recognitions connection, though honestly I never made it all the way through V. (I tried and got really far, but it didn't work for me). It had a bunch of those boho party scenes too, no?

Carrie, love the Buffy/Faith glass-breaking doppelganger idea! Never thought of that, but it works for me. Love the way every time you watch that show you can find something new in it.

Jeff: No problem with next week, I'll be adding comments regardless, and the Annotations do pretty well as far as summaries.

December 10, 2004 at 9:11 AM  
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