Sunday, November 21, 2004

pp. 63 - 131. Summary and Thoughts

To recap the decision made in the comments field: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday and the general laziness caused thereby, we're pushing everything back a week. So 63-131 is now the reading for the week of 11/29. Now get blogging people.

Summary and thoughts for this week's reading.


Part II is more or less a description of France at length, with a few important interludes into Wyatt's life. Gaddis described everyday life in France, what he refers to as the "spectacle of culture fully realized." (64) Gaddis describes a collection of forged notes/autographs from historical entities, Cleopatra up through Newton (even though they were all written, improbably, in French). Gaddis describes the Sacre Coeur at length, calling it a monument to the "Jesuit victory over France." (66)

Wyatt has lived in Paris for three years, painting and restoring old paintings for money. Wyatt remains ignorant of the various art movements that swept post-War france, prefering his own style, which he works on long into the night.

An art critic named Cremer offers to give Wyatt's exhibition a good review (guaranteeing sales) in exchange for a cut of the profits. (70) Disgusted, Wyatt refuses; in consequence, his paintings get a bad review and don't sell.

This part closes with some more description of France. Napoleon's aspirations to equal Rome in culture and import are mentioned, and Gaddis notes France's spirit of art collecting.

At the opening of Part III, Wyatt and Esther, now in New York, haphazardly decide to get married. (78) There is aquick cut to a year later, where Wyatt and Esther are listening to the radio and Esther asks what Wyatt thinks of her fiction. Wyatt replies somewhat dismissively. (82) Esther tells Wyatt he is going to waste as a copier of blueprints. Wyatt has grown listless and does not work on painting much any longer.

Wyatt is still working on the portrait of his mother and it is a source of tension between him and Esther. Esther believes it is an impediment to his progress as an artist. She also feels that Wyatt's art cuts him off from her. (88) Wyatt and Esther's relationship continues to deteroiate and Esther continues to exhort Wyatt toward some ambition for himself. (96)

In the middle of Part III, Gaddis presents a mosiac of New York, as he did earlier for Paris. After this description Esther turns down an invitation fo a New Year's party for Wyatt's sake. Wyatt's antisocial tendencies are a source of further tension. Otto the playwrite is introduced. (106)

Wyatt and Ester get drunk in a Spanish restaurant. Esther watches Wyatt from afar and sees him acting decisively. He looks manly and arrogant, the way she wishes he was more often, and the waitress compares him to a Flemish soldier (Flamenco). (111)

Later, Otto and Wyatt go on a walk together and Otto finds Wyatt very strange and difficult to talk to. Esther and Otto confide in each other regarding Wyatt's increasing disaffection from the world, and the two of them contemplate an affair. (131)


pg. 71 -- The critic Cremer notes that Degas said "the artist must approach his work in the same frame of mind in which the criminal commits his deed."

pg. 74 -- at the bottom of this page Gaddis describes several paintings that have been transformed by being painted over. He describes one in which a man being tortured on a rack is turned to a peaceful interior of a man in bed.

pg. 91 -- Rilke "refused to be psychoanalyzed for fear of purging his genius."

pg. 103 -- Regarding Christmas: "under dead trees and brittle ornaments prehensile hands exchange forgeries of what the heart dare not surrender."

pg. 109 -- "They swayed a little, standing in the doorway, still holding each other together in a way of holding each other back . . . until both, unrealized, come in to shatter coincidentally upon the shore."

pg. 113 -- There is a lengthy paragraph on writing worth re-reading.

pg. 131 -- "Gd crs as mch fr mmnt as fr hr--wht mean?"


* Gaddis goes on at length about France and the role it has played in arts and culture. These descriptions are some of the least accessible thus far, but he seems to be making some worthwhile points.

* Gaddis has a wonderful ability to build the feeling of a character through dialog. The exchange between Esther and Wyatt on pp. 94-97 is particularly good.

* Otto will be a character worth watching. It is as though Otto and Wyatt are both halves of the complete artist. Otto has the ambition but executes his play cluelessly, and ambitionless Wyatt lets his innate ability languish.

* This lament of Esther's cuts deeply: "You . . . even when we make love you don't share it, you do it as though . . . so you can do something sinful . . . Why aren't you a priest? You are a priest! Why aren't you one then, instead of . . . me . . . they don't share anything." (116)