On Gaddis’s letters.

If, in the period of The Recognition’s conception and execution, Gaddis would sometimes practice his authorial voice in his letters, during the long composition of J R his epistolary voice and his novelistic one would occasionally merge almost completely. Anyone familiar with that novel will hear, in this 1974 letter to Warren Kiefer describing the difficulties of finishing, the voice of J R’s Gibbs: “I ‘finished’ this book 1004 (legal size) pages am now on page 180 cutting ruthlessly nothing to make you wearier of yourself than artfulness when you were 10 years younger whole God damned proposition like living with an invalid real God damned terminal case.” This is an extreme instance of a prominent pattern in the letters. Gaddis’s “personal” voice takes on the compressed syntax of outrage and aghast disappointment that resound so powerfully in his fiction. There’s something almost campy about the appearance of this voice in the letters, as if we’re watching Gaddis don his anger-drag in preparation for more work.

Len Gutkin on The Letters of William Gaddis. [via LARB]



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