164. (Herman Melville)

When T.S. Eliot characterized that peculiar mental life we and he call wit, he had in mind a metaphysical poet of the seventeenth century, Andrew Marvell, for whom “wit” would have encompassed “intelligence”; for Eliot, though, the wit of the seventeenth century was the highest species of intelligence: With our eye still on Marvell, we can say that wit is not erudition; it is sometimes … Continue reading 164. (Herman Melville)

163. (William Gaddis)

“So listen I got this night idea hey, you listening? Hey? You listening . . .?” Thus ends J R.  The voice of an eleven year old buzzing, in miniature typeface on the page, from a dangling phone line: a voice incessantly grabbing attention to peddle its newest scheme, hungry to interact in order to transact, and needing always more. It represents an intersection of the … Continue reading 163. (William Gaddis)

162. (William Gaddis)

No other writer has made me think about the short story and short fiction as William Gaddis has; that is maybe because his novels JR and The Recognitions are as far from the form of the short story as a novel can be, and for this sort of novel to succeed, it needs to remind itself, and remind us, of why it is not something else, namely a … Continue reading 162. (William Gaddis)

160. (William Gaddis)

Charles Dickens appears as a character in Gaddis’ The Recognitions, published in 1955, and it is hard not to believe that Gaddis did not, if he did not arrive there himself, come to an appreciation of Dickens through the praise of Edmund Wilson, written some fifteen years earlier and carrying others in its wake since. In The Recognitions, Charles Dickens attempts suicide, and later, after a stay … Continue reading 160. (William Gaddis)

159. (William Gaddis)

T.S. Eliot’s claim that Henry James had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it might be misunderstood as disguised disparagement or understood, against the intentions of the critic, as damning praise; it might also be taken as a stupid statement. I think it might suppose an alignment of mind and work, so that Eliot really is referring to the quality of the … Continue reading 159. (William Gaddis)

158. (George Eliot)

Six, and possibly seven, models were available for the realist novel in the nineteenth century. First, the novel of social order and disorder, in which society is an engine with efficiency and waste, or with conservation and loss (Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Zola at times; the novel of manners and naturalism are both potentially in this category–that is because this category could likely swell to fit … Continue reading 158. (George Eliot)