The book Jonathan Franzen dubbed the "ur-text of postwar ?ction" and the "?rst great cultural critique, which, even if Heller and Pynchon hadn't read it while composing Catch-22 and V., managed to anticipate the spirit of both"-The Recognitions is a masterwork about art and forgery, and the increasingly thin line between the counterfeit and the fake. Gaddis anticipates by almost half a century the crisis of reality that we currently face, where the real and the virtual are combining in alarming ways, and the sources of legitimacy and power are often obscure to us.
Gaddis's brilliantly experimental first novel, undervalued when it was published in 1974, is generally considered a masterwork of American literature. The 1000-page story is about Wyatt Gwyon, an artist from an old New England family, who devotes his life to obsessively copying the great Flemish Old Masters, seeking not merely to copy but to reproduce the conditions--physical, psychological, spiritual--under which they worked. Gwyon's skill earns him the attention of unscrupulous forgers. The "recognitions" Gaddis has in mind are the recognition of reality, of true art, of one's real self, and of love; his title is taken from an anonymous third-century treatise on the search for salvation, RECOGNITIONS OF CLEMENT, and he claimed in a notebook that his novel was originally "quite explicitly a parody on the Faust story."
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- January 3, 2012
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- William Gaddis