The Info List - William Gaddis

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WILLIAM THOMAS GADDIS, JR. (December 29, 1922 – December 16, 1998) was an American novelist. The first and longest of his five novels, _ The Recognitions _, was named one of TIME magazine\'s 100 best novels from 1923 to 2005 and two others, _ J R _ and _ A Frolic of His Own _, won the annual U.S. National Book Award for Fiction . A collection of his essays was published posthumously as _ The Rush for Second Place _ (2002). _The Letters of William Gaddis_ was published by Dalkey Archive Press in February 2013.

Gaddis is widely considered one of the first and most important American postmodern writers .


* 1 Biography * 2 Legacy and influence * 3 Awards and honors

* 4 Works

* 4.1 Fiction * 4.2 Non-fiction

* 5 See also * 6 References * 7 External links


Gaddis was born in New York City
New York City
to William Thomas Gaddis, who worked "on Wall Street
Wall Street
and in politics", and Edith (Charles) Gaddis, an executive for the New York Steam Corporation. When he was 3, his parents separated and Gaddis was subsequently raised by his mother in Massapequa , Long Island
Long Island
. At age 5 he was sent to Merricourt Boarding School in Berlin, Connecticut . He continued in private school until the eighth grade, after which he returned to Long Island
Long Island
to receive his diploma at Farmingdale High School in 1941. He entered Harvard in 1941 and wrote for the _ Harvard Lampoon _ (where he eventually served as President), but was asked to leave in 1944 due to an altercation with police. He worked as a fact checker for _ The New Yorker _ for little over a year (late February 1945 until late April 1946), then spent five years traveling in Mexico
, Central America, Spain, France, England, and North Africa, returning to the United States in 1951.

His first novel, _The Recognitions_, appeared in 1955. A lengthy, complex, and allusive work, it had to wait to find its audience. Newspaper reviewers considered it overly intellectual, overwritten, and perhaps on the principle of _omne ignotum per obscaenum_ ("all that is unknown appears obscene"), filthy. (The book was defended by Jack Green in a series of broadsheets blasting the critics; the series was collected later under the title _ Fire the Bastards! _) Shortly after the publication of _The Recognitions_, Gaddis married his first wife, Patricia Black, who would give birth to two children: Sarah (who has written a novel, _Swallow Hard_, inspired by her relationship with her father) and Matthew.

Gaddis then turned to public relations work and the making of documentary films to support himself and his family. In this role he worked for Pfizer , Eastman Kodak , IBM
, and the United States Army
United States Army
, among others. He also received a National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, a Rockefeller grant , and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, all of which helped him write his second novel. In 1975 he published _ J R _, told almost entirely in unattributed dialogue. Its eponymous protagonist, an 11-year-old, learns enough about the stock market from a class field trip to build a financial empire of his own. Critical opinion had caught up with him, and the book won the National Book Award for Fiction . His marriage to his second wife, Judith Thompson, dissolved shortly after _J R_ was published. By the late 1970s, Gaddis had entered into a relationship with Muriel Oxenberg Murphy, and they lived together until the mid-1990s.

_Carpenter\'s Gothic _ (1985) offered a shorter and more accessible picture of Gaddis's sardonic worldview. Instead of struggling against misanthropy (as in _The Recognitions_) or reluctantly giving ground to it (as in _J R_), _Carpenter's Gothic_ wallows in it. The continual litigation that was a theme in that book becomes the central theme and plot device in _ A Frolic of His Own _ (1994)—which earned him his second National Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction —where it seems that everyone is suing someone. There are even two Japanese cars called the Isuyu and the Sosumi.

Gaddis died at home in East Hampton, New York , of prostate cancer on December 16, 1998, but not before creating his final work, _Agapē Agape _ (the first word of the title is the Greek _agapē _, meaning divine, unconditional love), which was published in 2002, a novella in the form of the last words of a character similar but not identical to his creator. _ The Rush for Second Place _, published at the same time, collected most of Gaddis's previously published nonfiction.


Among fans of post-modern fiction, Gaddis is often acknowledged as being one of the greatest of American post-war novelists. A critic who early on appreciated his work and recognized its value is Steven Moore : in 1982 he published _A Reader's Guide to William Gaddis's "The Recognitions"_ and in 1989 a monograph on Gaddis in the Twayne series. Gaddis's influence is vast (although frequently subterranean): for example, postmodern authors such as Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo
and Thomas Pynchon seem to have been influenced by Gaddis (indeed, upon publication of _V. _, Pynchon was actually speculated to have been a pen name for Gaddis due to the similarity of styles and the dearth of information about the two authors; the Wanda Tinasky letters also claimed that Gaddis, Pynchon, and Jack Green were the same person), as well as authors such as Joseph McElroy , William Gass , David Markson , and David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace
, who have all stated their admiration for Gaddis in general and _The Recognitions_ in particular.

Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen
, who in an essay in _ The New Yorker _ called Gaddis "an old literary hero of mine", dubbed him 'Mr. Difficult', stating that "by a comfortable margin, the most difficult book I ever voluntarily read in its entirety was Gaddis' nine-hundred-and-fifty-six-page first novel, _The Recognitions_." Franzen continued: "In the four decades following the publication of _The Recognitions_, Gaddis's work grew angrier and angrier. It's a signature paradox of literary postmodernism: the writer whose least angry work was written first."

Characters in fiction based on Gaddis include "Harry Lees" in Chandler Brossard 's 1952 novel _Who Walk in Darkness_, "Harold Sand" in Jack Kerouac 's autobiographical 1958 novella _ The Subterraneans _ and possibly "Bill Gray" in Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo
's 1991 novel _ Mao II _. (DeLillo was a friend of Gaddis.) The characters "Richard Whitehurst" in Kurt Wenzel's _Lit Life: A Novel_ (2001) and "Joshua Gel" in Stephen Dixon's _I: A Novel_ (2002) likely are based on Gaddis. Authors clearly influenced by Gaddis include Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen
(_The Corrections _), David Markson (_Epitaph for a Tramp_), Joseph McElroy (_A Smuggler\'s Bible _) and Stanley Elkin (_The Magic Kingdom_).

His life and work are the subject of a comprehensive website, The Gaddis Annotations, which has been noted in at least one academic journal as a superior example of scholarship using new media resources. Gaddis's papers are collected at Washington University in St. Louis . The first book-length biography, Joseph Tabbi's _Nobody Grew but the Business: On the Life and Work of William Gaddis,_ was published by Northwestern University Press in May 2015.


Beside the awards for particular works, Gaddis has received three other awards and honors:

* The MacArthur Foundation ’s "Genius Award" (1982); * Election to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1989); * The Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement (1993).



* _ The Recognitions _ (1955) * _ J R _ (1975) * _Carpenter\'s Gothic _ (1985) * _ A Frolic of His Own _ (1994) * _ Agapē Agape _ (completed 1998, published 2002)


* _ The Rush for Second Place _ (collection, published 2002)


* List of novelists from the United States


* ^ Alberts, Crystal (August 11, 2005). "William Gaddis, 1922–1998. American author". Washington University Libraries, Department of Special
Collections. Retrieved June 7, 2010. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Gussow, Mel (December 17, 1998). "William Gaddis, 75, Innovative Author Of Complex, Demanding Novels, Is Dead". _The New York Times_. Retrieved June 7, 2010. * ^ "All Time 100 Novels". _Time_. October 16, 2005. * ^ National Book Foundation: Awards: " National Book Award Winners: 1950–2009". Retrieved March 28, 2012. * ^ Entropy in William Gaddis\'s Novels * ^ _A_ _B_ "William Gaddis: A Portfolio," _Conjunctions_ 41 (2003), 373–415. * ^ "Gaddis, William : American National Biography Online - oi". _Oxfordindex.oup.com_. Retrieved 2016-08-01. * ^ Gutkin, Len (June 3, 2013). "The Last Obscenity: William Gaddis’s Collected Correspondence". _ Los Angeles Review of Books _. * ^ "Fire The Bastards!: The Great Defender of William Gaddis". Mark O'Connell. _The New Yorker_, February 20, 2012.

* ^ "National Book Awards – 1976". National Book Foundation . Retrieved March 28, 2012. (With essay by Chad Post from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.) * ^ "National Book Awards – 1994". National Book Foundation . Retrieved March 28, 2012. (With essay by Harold Augenbraum from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.) * ^ _A_ _B_ "Who\'s Writing Whose Writing? Gaddis, Green, Pynchon, and Tinasky". * ^ "Mr. Difficult: William Gadd