Wyatt Gwyon's desire to forge is not driven by larceny but from love. Exactingly faithful to the spirit and letter of the Flemish masters, he produces uncannily accurate "originals" - pictures the painters themselves might have envied. In an age of counterfeit emotion and taste, the real and fake have become indistinguishable; yet Gwyon's forgeries reflect a truth that others cannot touch - cannot even recognize.
Contemporary life collapses the distinction between the "real" and the "virtual" worlds, and Gaddis' novel pre-empts our common obsessions by almost half a century. This novel tackles the blurring of perceptual boundaries. The Matrix and Blade Runner pale in comparison to this epic novel.
©1978 William Gaddis (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
Gaddis is not easy and it is not surprising that some readers/listeners do not find his work worth the effort. For readers, like me, who do, there is simply nothing to match the richness and depth of Gaddis' novel(s). If you enjoyed David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" or, e.g., James Joyce's "Ulysses", neither of which is easy but both of which offer a great deal of pleasure to those whose tastes lean in this direction, you will like "The Recognitions."
"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
My first impulse was to just copy some old, obscure review of 'the Recognitions' and claim it as my own. Alas, even the reviewers, academics, and cult worshipers of the God of PoMo all seem at once thunderstruck AND intimidated by Gaddis' opus.
What I understood was brilliant, what I didn't understand is most likely obscene. This is not a novel for the casual beach read, although as I write this, I am on a beach...washing sand out of my ebbs and salt off my flow, so never mind.
This is not a perfect rendition of The Recognitions. All of the narration annoys when dialogue is absent- the actor sounds as though he is trying out for the Smart Ass's Encyclopedia. However, he plays all of the characters very distinctly and very respectably, and that is saying a lot as these are difficult, varied, and plentiful characters. The production is really 4 stars, but the book itself is a 5, and so great that I am giving the whole a 5 in the hopes you will read it. A lot of brilliant ideas float through "God cares as much for a moment as for an hour", "Do you think your Dutch masters never made bad pictures just because we have a few masterpieces passed down to us?", "How can I write a novel when I only know boys? Easy, I'll just do what Proust did and change half the boys names to girls", and so forth. Gaddiss perhaps more than any author is strengthened in the audiobook form because he writes in a stream of consciousness or a stream of reality where snippets of conversation come to you as if you were just sitting on the street, or walking through the novel. Don't dare try this book if you need very linear progression with distinct chapters and chronology like it was 7:45 am on October... and it was raining outside with a temperature of... you won't get any of that. One character asks another "Don't you ever wear a coat?" And that tells you it is winter now in this scene. No hero emerges either, though you expect it and wait for it. The novel feels drawn out near the end and is by no means perfect, but quite great and brilliant. Sadly overlooked, as was Gaddiss, though he fell to pure satire and snarkiness after this one book. For further reading see the Clementine Recognitions, The Golden Bough, and any other apocrophal early church writings. JR is much funnier but less rewarding and narrower in its reach.
Alright - I admit it: I am ONLY 7 hours into this novel....but they have been the longest 7 hours of an audio book that I have ever painfully limped through. I'm intelligent and literate - but my tolerance for 'stream of conscious' type stories evidently has gotten very low. The idea seemed very intriguing: a fine art forger who is a little "different".... And I love the idea of a very long book that gives me a lot of time to enjoy the way words play against each other. But at this rate, I think I'll never make it through the 48 hours total. The Pope used to ask Michaelangelo "When will you make an end?!?" as the years went on and the Sistine Chapel still wasn't finished. For this author, I must ask: "When will you make a beginning?!?" (And a middle, and an end, too!)
I got this book because I enjoyed JR (same author, same narrator) so much. I've listened to lots of long books, and I listened to all of this one, lots of it more than once. Some parts, like the cocktail parties, were lots of fun. Through most of it, though, I was thinking "what in the world is going on" or "who are these people."
Maybe if I'd had some outline to follow, I would have known what was going on. But then again, would it be be worth it to have to work so hard to follow a book.
This is supposed to be a "great book" and one of the best from the last century. I don't think so.
I have listened too probably 100 books and have not had to stop listening to many (two others). I am forced to put this one aside as there doesn't seem to be any story here and the reader is horrendous. Hate to use up my credits on this.
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