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Publisher's Summary

William Gaddis published four novels during his lifetime, immense and complex books that helped inaugurate a new movement in American letters. Now comes his final work of fiction, a subtle, concentrated culmination of his art and ideas. 

For more than 50 years, Gaddis collected notes for a book about the mechanization of the arts, told by way of a social history of the player piano in America. In the years before his death in 1998, he distilled the whole mass into a fiction, a dramatic monologue by an elderly man with a terminal illness. Continuing Gaddis's career - long reflection on those aspects of corporate technological culture that are uniquely destructive of the arts - Agape Agape is a stunning achievement from one of the indisputable masters of postwar American fiction.

©2002 The Estate of William Gaddis (P)2018 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An exalted, paranoid outcry, a last wounded proclamation of the idea of the sacred rootedness of true art." (New York Times Book Review

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    4 out of 5 stars

PLEASE DO NOT SHOOT THE PIANIST

"whole stupefied mob out there waiting to be entertained, turning the creative artist into a performer, into a celebrity like Byron..."
- William Gaddis, Agapē Agape

"PLEASE DO NOT SHOOT THE
PIANIST
HE IS DOING HIS BEST"

Agapē Agape, the Last of Gaddis' novels, the musings of a dying man, a looking back swan song, wondering how he's going to be remembered. Since before The Recognitions Gaddis has been fixated, playing with, tuning his ideas about technology and art; politics and art; money and art all centered on the player piano. Similar to J R, in rambling dialogue with quotes and facts and related errata thrown in, but different in that here at the edge of mortality, Gaddis has it thinned down to a monophonic monologue from the dying "man in the bed". Most of the spine of this novel was from research he had done on the Player Piano for 50 years. In the 60s he had written an essay, titled 'Agapē Agape: the Secret History of the Player Piano' some of which found its way into Agapē Agape. Gaddis has been Agapēing and Agaping through most of his novels.

At this point, Gaddis had written several fantastic novels:

1. J R
2. The Recognitions
3. Carpenter's Gothic
4. A Frolic of His Own
and now:
5. Agapē Agape

I've now read 3/5 of his novels and this is my least favorite (and it still gets 4 stars, perhaps 3.75). It is interesting, strange, and electric all at once. I love how the whole novella (because, come on, even with the afterward, it is barely over 100 pages and without the afterward it is less than 100). I'm still trying to wrestle his abstraction into a form that can fit or be made sense of in a GR review. Probably impossible. More probable, no one really cares. Whoa is me. Who is me? You say Agapē and I say Agape.

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Good God!

I almost passed this over because it was only 3 hours long (including the introduction and afterword). Do not get caught up in thinking "Nothing true and passionate and meaningful could happen in 3 hours"! Like punk rock, it gets its point across urgently, enthusiastically and superbly. And bravo to Nick Sullivan. Who else could pull off Gaddis' diatribe? Superior!

1 person found this helpful