Monday, November 27, 2006

Great Big Book of Everything

I've embarked upon The Recognitions by William Gaddis. It weighs two pounds in paperback and runs to almost a thousand pages. Recently I've been struggling to get through anything, bookwise, to the point where I might have abandoned Bonjour Tristesse mid-sentence, halfway through, for fear that there was something else I should rather have been doing. Anyway, I'm confronting this sudden incapacity with a blunt object; a vast, sprawling, apparently difficult book stuffed with erudition on Early Northern and Flemish Art and Calvinism. Three characters have already died (one of them a monkey) and I'm only fifty pages in. It's terribly overwritten, in a sense, no noun escapes an (obscure) adjective and no action an adverb. The overall effect is surprisingly convincing, however, and one suspects that perhaps the author is either pulling your leg, or aiming to tune the reader in to a kind of mediaeval metaconsciousness , with the gothic layering of modifiers.

I've had to buy a new sofa on which to read it, which makes it a pretty expensive undertaking. I'm optimistic that I'll succeed. Finishing a big book is one of those things that I need to do to reassure myself that things will be normal again soon.

1 comment:

patti digh said...

I well remember my initial attempts to make it through The Recognitions. I never thought to buy a new sofa - damn it, I could have shaved years off the process...(I eventually wrote my dissertation about the Big Book, so there is hope, and with that sofa and your brush with metaconsciousness, I'm betting on you to finish by the Ides of March. If not 2007, then by 2008 for sure).