I finally finished the audiobook of William Gaddis’ J R and thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend it, especially for anyone that has wanted or tried to read it and felt overwhelmed at keeping so many unattributed conversations straight. Narrator Nick Sullivan provides distinctive voices for each character. Think of it as the color-coding Faulkner wanted to use for The Sound and the Fury. In addition, The Gaddis Annotations should help as does Gaddis’ interview in The Paris Review.
Speaking of which, the annotations (and almost everyone else that talks about J R) highlight the opening line of the novel “- Money...?” as the major theme of the novel. Scarcer (I originally said ‘never’ but I now see Frederick R. Karl mentions it in his introduction to the 1993 Penguin edition) is any focus on the closing lines. J R’s plaintive eleven-year-old voice issues from a dangling phone receiver: “So I mean listen I got this neat idea hey, you listening? Hey? You listening…?” Karl touches on the irony that a novel of voices has a surprising lack of communication. The Recognitions was similar when it came to the inability to connect but, thinking back on it, I would say the failure to communicate (sorry…I couldn’t resist) dwelt more in the struggle of the characters to express themselves. In J R, though, the conversations aren’t incomplete but interrupted. Everyone talks past each other, with the opening scene between Coen the lawyer and the elderly Bast sisters providing a hilarious, perfect lead-in to this attribute.
That is where he would have done it
A landmark indeed