THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis


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This overlong (946 pages) and rather pretentious first novel concerns itself with the impasse of the modern intellectual, living in a world where everyone wears a false face of one kind or another, wanting to believe in something, and "knowing" too much to have faith in anything. The scene is Spain, Rome and Paris in Europe, New York City (mainly Greenwich Village) and a New England town in the United States, and at moments an unnamed Central American Republic. The characters, and they multiply- since Mr. Gaddis has tried to write a "novel without a hero", range from hipsters and homosexuals to spoiled Catholics and Puritans to aimless pseudo-intellectuals, town drunkards, and religious fanatics. In what is also a novel without a defined plot, the most interesting parts concern Wyatt Gwyon, as his various activities take him from forging old masters in New York to Spain where he attempts to find some kind of truth; and his father, a New England minister who converts himself to Mithraism- sun worship. But the main fault of the novel is a complete lack of discipline. Gaddis writes with ease and vigor about a Greenwich Village gathering, but repeats this sequence many times. He knows many odd facts about ancient religious and he injects them all. He is familiar with many languages, and there are passages in Spanish, Italian, French, German, Latin and even Hungarian. It is a pity that, in his first novel, he did not have stronger editorial guidance than is apparent in the book for he can write very well- even though most of the time he just lets his pen run on.
Pub Date: March 10th, 1955
ISBN: 1564786919
Page count: 976pp
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1955


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