The Letters of William Gaddis: Revised Edition (Paperback)
On Our Shelves Now
A revelatory collection of correspondence by the lauded author of titanic American classics such as The Recognitions and J R, shedding light on his staunchly private life.
UPDATED WITH OVER TWO DOZEN NEW LETTERS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Now recognized as one of the giants of postwar American fiction, William Gaddis shunned the spotlight during his life, which makes this collection of his letters a revelation. Beginning in 1930 when Gaddis was at boarding school and ending in September 1998, a few months before his death, these letters function as a kind of autobiography, and also reveal the extent to which he drew upon events in his life for his fiction. Here we see him forging his first novel, The Recognitions (1955), while living in Mexico, fighting in a revolution in Costa Rica, and working in Spain, France, and North Africa. Over the next twenty years he struggles to find time to write the National Book Award–winning J R (1975) amid the complications of work and family; deals with divorce and disillusionment before reviving his career with Carpenter’s Gothic (1985); then teaches himself enough about the law to produce A Frolic of His Own (1994). Resuming his lifelong obsession with mechanization and the arts, he finishes a last novel, Agapē Agape (published in 2002), as he lies dying.
This newly revised edition includes clarifying notes by Gaddis scholar Steven Moore, as well as an afterword by the author’s daughter, Sarah Gaddis.
About the Author
A 1982 MacArthur Fellow and two-time winner of the National Book Award, William Gaddis (1922–1998) was the author of five novels: The Recognitions, J R (both published by NYRB Classics), Carpenter's Gothic, A Frolic of His Own, and, published posthumously, Agapē Agape.
Steven Moore is the author of the two-volume survey The Novel: An Alternative History, and has written and edited several books on the works of William Gaddis. He served as the managing editor of Dalkey Archive Press and the Review of Contemporary Fiction from 1988 to 1996. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Sarah Gaddis is the author of the novel Swallow Hard, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Faultline, and other publications. She is William Gaddis’s daughter.
“In these letters, Gaddis praises readers who simply appreciate how entertaining, how funny, his richly allusive novels can be. . . . [I]f you’re a Gaddis devotee, you should definitely acquire this superbly edited collection of his letters.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“The version of Young Gaddis we get from these early letters will resonate with anyone who’s held artistic ambitions. He’s callow, largely unread, generally ignorant of just how ignorant he is, charming, brave, and foolish.” —Biblioklept
“Gaddis’ letters make for remarkable, stimulating reading. . . . These letters will surely be rewarding for those who have found common cause with Gaddis’ novels, and they should be read by anyone who seriously cares about being a writer or understanding the struggles of the true artist in a capitalist society.” —Veronica Esposito, Barnes and Noble Review
“A welcome book for those of us who want to learn of the financial, legal, and marital challenges Gaddis faced while writing what is without question some of the most profound—if still seldom read—literature of the 20th century.” —Andrew Ervin, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The most interesting early letters are those in which the would-be novelist practices his voice. It is touching to discover that Gaddis, whose writerly authority is so pronounced and unassailable in the novels, had in fact to struggle for his style.” —Len Gutkin, Los Angeles Review of Books
“[T]he Letters constitute a telling self-portrait, one that reads like a powerful if admittedly difficult (that word again!) novel, in which much of the action takes place outside of the narrative proper.” —Justin Taylor, Observer
“The publication of The Letters of William Gaddis is significant because it presents the first direct and unveiled access to this ‘reclusive’ author.” —Emmett Stinson, Sydney Review of Books