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William Gaddis Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Recognitions (1955)Description / Buy at Amazon
JR (1975)Description / Buy at Amazon
Carpenter's Gothic (1985)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Frolic of His Own (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Letters of William Gaddis (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

The Rush for Second Place (2002)Description / Buy at Amazon
Agapē Agape (2002)Description / Buy at Amazon

William Gaddis
William Gaddis was born in New York City on December 29, 1922 to William Thomas Gaddis, Sr. who worked in politics and on Wall Street, and Edith Gaddis, who worked her way up from being a secretary up to the president of the New York Steam Corporation to an executive position as its chief purchasing agent.

When he was just three, his parents separated and William was raised by his mom in Massapequa, Long Island. At the age of five, he was sent to Merricourt Boarding School in Berlin, Connecticut. Until the eighth grade, he continued attending boarding school, after which he returned to Long Island in order to get his diploma at Farmingdale High School in the year 1941.

That same year, he entered Harvard where he was a member of the Harvard Lampoon (eventually serving as their President), but was later asked to leave in 1944 because of an altercation with the cops. William also worked as a fact checker for The New Yorker for just over a year (starting in late February 1945 until late April 1946).

Then he spent five years traveling in Central America, North Africa, Spain, Mexico, England, and France, returning to America in 1951.

In May of 1955, he eloped with Patsy Thompson Black, an actress and model who’d come to New York from North Carolina in order to break into theater. They had two kids: Sarah (born in 1955), who also wrote a novel inspired by the relationship she had with her dad, and Matthew (born in 1958). The couple divorced in 1965. In 1968, he married Judith Thompson, a journalist and later an antiques dealer. The couple separated in 1978, and the next year he reunited with Muriel Oxenberg, whom he’d first met in 1953.

William and Muriel lived together until around the time when “A Frolic of His Own” was published in 1994, which he dedicated to her. He lived alone for the rest of his life.

After his first novel did not do well, he turned to public relations work and making documentary films in order to support himself and his family. In this role he worked for IBM, Pfizer, Eastman Kodak, and the US Army, as well as others. William also received a Rockefeller grant, a National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, which all helped him write his second novel, which wound up winning the National Book Award for Fiction.

He has received The Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1993, The MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Award in 1982, and in 1989 was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. “A Frolic of His Own” won him a National Book Award (his second) and it was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

William died at home of prostate cancer at the age of 75 in East Hampton, New York, however not before creating his final work, “Agape Agape”, published in 2002.

“The Recognitions” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 1955. Wyatt Gwyon’s own desire to forge isn’t driven by larceny instead from love. Exactingly faithful to the letter and spirit of the Flemish masters, he produces these uncannily accurate ‘originals’, pictures that the painters themselves may have envied.

During an age of counterfeit taste and emotion, the fake and the real have become indistinguishable; yet Gwyon’s own forgeries reflect this truth which others simply can’t touch, can’t even recognize.

Contemporary life collapses the distinction between the ‘virtual’ and the ‘real’ world, and Gaddis’ novel pre-empts our own common obsessions by close to fifty years. His novel tackles the blurring of perceptual boundaries, and “Blade Runner” and “The Matrix” each pale in comparison to such an epic novel as this.

“JR” is the second stand alone novel and was released in 1975. A satire about the unchecked power of American capitalism.

At the novel’s center, is JR Vansant, this very average sixth grader from Long Island, with a runny nose, torn sneakers, and a juvenile fascination with junk-mail get-rich-quick offers. After he responds to one, he sees a tiny return on investment, and soon, he’s running this paper empire out of a phone booth in the hallway of his school. Everybody from the municipal government to the school staff to the squabbling heirs of a player-piano company to the politicians in Washington to the titans on Wall Street are going to get caught up in this endlessly ballooning bubble of the JR Family of Companies.

“JR” is an appallingly funny and much too prophetic portrayal of America’s romance with finance. It’s also a novel about suburban development and urban decay, disputed wills and divorce proceedings, the crumbling facade of Western civilization and the impossible demands of art and love, with characters that range from the Edward Bast (earnest young composer) to Davidoff (the berserk publicist). Told almost totally through dialogue, this novel is both a literary tour de force and an unsurpassed reckoning with the way that we live today.

“Carpenter’s Gothic” is the third stand alone novel and was released in 1985. A novel of despair and raging comedy centers around this tempestuous marriage of a Vietnam vet and an heiress. From their “carpenter Gothic” rented home, Paul sets himself up as a media consultant for Reverend Ude, this evangelist that’s mounting a rather grand crusade which conveniently suits a mining combine bidding in order to take over this ore strike on the site of Ude’s own African mission.

At the still core of this breakneck action, revealed in Gaddis’ own inimitable virtuoso dialogue, is Liz (Paul’s wife), and over all of it looms the shadowy figure that is McCandless, this geologist that Liz and Paul rent their house from. While Paul mishandles the situation, Liz takes the geologist to bed and a fire and one aborted assassination happen; Ude issues this call to arms just as harrowing as any Jeremiad, and Armageddon is much closer.

Featuring Gaddis’ startling treatments of sexuality and violence, and his virtuoso dialogue, this novel shows that he’s among the first rank of contemporary American authors.

Book Series In Order » Authors » William Gaddis

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