What we're about

This group began and spent 2 1/2 years reading the entirety of Marcel Proust's gigantic (~4000 pages) 'In Search of Lost Time'. We've now changed direction toward some other novels of scale and either large and enduring or smaller and slightly obscure reputations.

Novels in a major key? By no means a rigid or fully articulated faith, but we are seeking writing of more than less scale and importance; big books, many probably but not necessarily long; most likely sitting outside mainstreams of contemporary reading. It's all a mission and path yet to be fully formed, and we wish attendees to contribute to the directions and choices of future days.

For now though, our first foray is a 1955 pre-post modern American brick called 'The Recognitions' by William Gaddis. It's 900+ pages about a priest who becomes an art forger. It falls somewhat into the 'difficult masterpiece' camp and so not a trifle. As we set out we hope we find here as we found with Proust; difficult but living and visionary pleasure.

This book's sentences are almost all musical, and very often is subtly and slyly humorous:

"It rained, then it snowed, and the snow stayed on the paved ground long enough to become evenly blackened with soot and smoke-fall, evenly but for islands of yellow left by uptown dogs."

Finally, a quick introduction:

Gaddis’s first novel takes the form of a quest. In a carefully wrought and densely-woven series of plots involving upwards of fifty characters across three continents, we follow the adventures of Wyatt Gwyon, son of a clergyman who rejects the ministry in favor of the call of the artist. His quest is to make sense of contemporary reality, to find significance and some form of order in the world. Through the pursuit of art he hopes to find truth. His initial “failure” as an artist leads him not to copy but to paint in the style of the past masters, those who had found in their own time and in their own style the kind of order and beauty for which Wyatt is looking. His talent for forgery is exploited by a group of unscrupulous art critics and businessmen who hope to profit by passing his works off as original old masters. As the novel develops, these art forgeries become a profound metaphor for all kinds of other frauds, counterfeits and fakery: the aesthetic, scientific, religious, sexual and personal. Towards the end, Wyatt wrenches something authentic from what Eliot called “the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.” The nature of his revelation, however is highly ambiguous and is hedged about by images of madness and hallucination, which disturbs simple distinctions between real and authentic, between faiths and fakes.

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