Thursday, December 08, 2011

J R audiobook

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.

Highly recommended.

That is where he would have done it
Point is...
A landmark indeed


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

How long was this baby? I can hardly imagine.

I can easily imagine, though, how a good actor could make the book take off.

Dwight said...

J R was around 38 hours. The Recognitions was 48 hours.

My only complaint was with Gaddis and not the narrator...several times (in both books) I just wanted to say "OK, you've flogged, strangled and cremated that horse" and want to move on. Sometimes, though, that would be the moment that he would have a character surprise you with more depth than you assumed they had.

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

They are exasperating, thrilling books.

Have you read any of Gaddis's sensibly sized books? I've only read the gigantic ones, which seems ridiculous.

Dwight said...

No, I haven't. I had a copy of Carpenter's Gothic that evidently didn't accompany me during one of my moves. I may approach it at some point (but I need a break from Gaddis right now).

Today I sent a note to Nick Sullivan regarding his performance in both narrations and received a nice reply. Funniest quote: "My 'year of recording Gaddis' had a surreal dreamlike quality, as I look back on it. (it was more like 3 or 4 months)". I can only imagine.