William Gaddis

In the New York Review of Books, Jonathan Raban, in a review on a new book of Gaddis’s letters, provides a nice biography of him.

Gaddis, most famous for his 1955 novel The Recognitions, held conservative leanings:

Besides Toynbee (“that brilliant man has somehow the meaning of meaning, and never in a smart way, you know, like so many of the books now”), the two writers he most revered were T.S. Eliot and Evelyn Waugh. Both were converts, Eliot to High Anglicanism, Waugh to Catholicism, and Gaddis himself was religiously inclined.

In one letter, Gaddis explains the traditionalism of Costa Rica that appealed to him:

The disinterestedness of all the people, the almost entire absence of grasping, of self-promotion…. Because Costa Rica is still traditional—and largely I suppose due to the hold of the Church—and the family is still family, and it is splendid and interesting to see the hospitality that such a traditional society can afford, as to one rootless, which our (eastern) society cannot because it is rootless itself.

In another letter, Gaddis distills his literary essence:

That’s what my work is about, the collapse of everything, of meaning, of language, of values, of art, disorder and dislocation wherever you look, entropy drowning everything in sight, entertainment and technology and every four year old with a computer, everybody his own artist…

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