William Gaddis (1922 – 1998)

William Gaddis (1922 - 1998) was an American novelist, born in Manhattan.

He entered Harvard in 1941, but was asked to leave in 1944, after a drunken brawl. He worked as a fact checker for The New Yorker in 1946, then moved to Central America. His first novel, The Recognitions, appeared in 1955. A lengthy, complex, and allusive work, it had to wait to find its audience. Newspaper reviewers considered it overly intellectual, overwritten, and perhaps on the principle of omne ignotum per obscaenum, filthy.

Gaddis then turned to public relations work and the making of documentary films to support himself and his family. In 1975 he published Jr, an even more difficult work than The Recognitions, told entirely in dialogue, with no direct indication of who is speaking at any given time. Its eponymous protagonist, an 11-year-old, learns enough about the stock market from a class field trip to build a financial empire of his own. Critical opinion had caught up with him, and the book won the National Book Award. A few years later the hugely successfully television show Dallas featured a tycoon named "JR," albeit somewhat older, and the real-life market of the 80s and since has borne an alarming resemblance to some of the machinations described here.

A Frolic Of His Own (1994), where it seems that everyone is suing someone. There is even a Japanese car called the Sosumi. (Gaddis has never been afraid of the pun. There is a character in The Recognitions named Recktall Brown.)

Gaddis died of prostate cancer on December 16, 1998, but not before creating his final work, Agap� Agape (published in 2002), a novella in the form of the last words of a character similar but not identical to his creator.

Books by William Gaddis