The dialogue novel is often deeply intellectual. Recalling the conversations of Socrates and Plato, it allows for freewheeling philosophical inquiry. The lack of solidified characters and settings engenders abstraction, an open space where jokes, digressions, and ideas can roam wild. Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist and his Master, first published in France in 1796, tells of chummy Jacques and his humdrum master. To pass the time on their journey, Jacques regales his master with tales of love and loss. Regardless of what happens—whether it’s tragic, banal, absurd, or romantic—Jacques claims it was written up above, meaning everything is predetermined, meaning that the course of our lives was set before we ever got here, which raises questions about the deterministic nature of existence, among other things.
Because I am an American, and my whole problem lies in American society; that is, in thinking it out, in understanding where that country has gone all wrong, and perhaps eventually being able to contribute something on the way to right it. About 90% of USA needs to be rescued from vulgarity, and it is the responsibility of them—us—all. Doubtless the most critical time in history.
A razor’s edge tribe between phoniness and dishonesty
"I wanted Mr. Gaddis to know how grateful I was for the work. Thanks to him, I have a (very) small place in legal and literary history. Only later did I fully understand what an extraordinary privilege he had offered me. I can but hope that I proved worthy of it in his eyes." On meeting William Gaddis.
One (women’s of course) magasine which considered publishing one chapter finally demurred (in frightened awe) but wanted my ‘picture’ and what of my life I cd spare: if you are a writer, they don’t want to buy and print yr writing, but rather a picture and what you eat for breakfast, &c. But then good God! that’s what the book’s about—It’s difficult not to strike a pose, for being ‘eccentric’ enough to try to get across that: What do they want of the man that they didn’t find in the work?
Lee Konstantinou has made a summer reading schedule for William Gaddis’s J R. Could this be the start of a Tumblr-wide summer book club?
By Lee Konstantinou
When I started grad school, ten years ago, I was pretty cocky. I felt well-read, confident in my grasp of American literary history. The paradoxical effect of getting a Ph.D. in English is that it leaves you feeling less knowledgeable, less well read than before you…