169. (Willa Cather)

At least in her four masterpieces–My Antonia, The Professor’s House, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Shadows on the Rock–Willa Cather is as expansive, sensitive, generous, and understanding towards human life as a novelist could be.  To plot more than she does, it comes to feel, would be to set an agenda; and she has none, though her characters, and the habits and traditions they live by, … Continue reading 169. (Willa Cather)

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 neat 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)

161. (William Gaddis)

Though The Recognitions may have overwhelmed more powerfully, submerging and clinging with an undercurrent, JR (so far; nearing a half-way mark) is the more astonishing novel, for the technical challenge it confronts, overcomes, and redeems—redemption being necessary because a novel depending on a limitation of form or technique alone needs, for success, to prove that the challenge opened a new horizon, accommodated feeling and thought … Continue reading 161. (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)