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4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  1,700 ratings  ·  191 reviews
Winner of the 1976 National Book Award, J R is a biting satire about the many ways in which capitalism twists the American spirit into something dangerous, yet pervasive and unassailable. At the center of the novel is a hilarious eleven year old—J R—who with boyish enthusiasm turns a few basic lessons in capitalist principles, coupled with a young boy’s lack of conscience, ...more
Paperback, 726 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1975)
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6th out of 90 books — 37 voters
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Glenn Russell

This 700+ page novel by William Gaddis (1922-1998) is a splendid work of literature. And in case you’re wondering about the title, JR is the name of one of the main characters, a grungy 12-year old boy who happens to be a financial genius working his money-magic from a public telephone booth in a hallway at his school. An alternate meaning of the two huge letters on the book’s cover could be ‘Jabbering Ruck’, since the novel is mostly dialogue and, make no mistake, every single person – down-on-

Trying to make sense of corporate America is like trying to make sense of Beckett. Wait, this was a bad year when you made 5% more than last year which was a good year?----Why are they waiting for some dude who never shows up? Why doesn't he just get out of the pile of pig shit?.

I hate capitalism. I abhor it. I don't have a better idea for how things could run, but I know that there is something fundamentally wrong with it. Corporate America knows there is something fundamentally wrong with it
”I'd suggest that what J R documents is the way that America is hollowing out the foundation necessary to even read a book like it, an America that teaches its children via closed-circuit television, an America that thinks democracy means owning a share of profit-maximizing publicly traded corporations. This is what it means to say that J R is about the conditions underlying the impossibility of its own reception. If there were a welcoming mass public for books like this, a public able to apprec
"Rhinegold! Rhinegold!
Purest gold!
If but your bright gleam
still glittered in the deep!
Now only in the depths is there
tenderness and truth:
false and faint-hearted
are those who revel above!"
-The Maidens of the Rhine, Rheingold, Richard Wagner

The first thing which struck me about this book was how noisy it was. Almost the entire book is ceaseless dialogue, not even stopping for quotation marks or even identifying who's talking. The background noise is overwhelming, with Wagner's Ring, televised cla
Dec 03, 2012 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: with a sytrofoam finger making it rain once
Recommended to Mariel by: I came for the food but stayed for the prom dresses
Well he, of course he did yes I, because it's one place it's the one place an idea can be left here you can walk out and close the door and leave it here unfinished the most, the wildest secret fantasy and it stays on here by itself in that balance between, the balance between destruction and and realization until..."

Talking day to night Barbie power suits. Nine to five to pour a cup of rat poison in your kid's cup of ambition. I don't understand money except that I don't have any. I don't unde
Ian Klappenskoff

Hey You Listening?

--- It's like a bloody big brick, isn't it?

--- Um...

--- Monolithic...

--- N...

--- Intimidating...

--- Listen will you, goddammit...

--- Impenetrable...

--- No! It's just like anything else that's marvellous and new...

--- Whaddya mean?

--- It's like me trying to write music. Until a performer hears what I hear and can make other people hear what I hear what the audience hears it's just's just trash like everything else in this world full of shopping malls...

--- Tr
Do you find books like Infinite Jest too accessible? Is Gravity's Rainbow too basic for you? Well friends, William Gaddis's J R is the book for you! It's got a slew of amazing features!

** Over 700 pages of almost totally unattributed dialogue!

** Only the smallest specks of narration possible to indicate a change of time or setting!

** No chapters, headings or sections and barely any paragraphs to indicate the formal beginning or end of any action!

Finishing J R, I feel like Frodo Baggins must feel
This book is devastatingly sad.
This book is devastatingly funny.

" Over cartons and lampshades the mop flew to lodge behind Appletons' and he hitched himself back to the edge of the plateau steadying one foot on Won't Burn, Smoke or Smell, looking into it, digging among un-developed film rolls, string, an odd glove, defunct cigarette lighters, coming up with a straw beach slipper he fitted descending, paused against to brush another layer of dirt down his front before he sat on the sofa's edge
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
JR is simply loads of fun. Don't fall for the Franzen trashtalk about Gaddis being "Mr Difficult." Just fun. And smart.

[NEW]--A conversation apropos the Dalkey reissue of JR regarding Gaddis, JR, and Difficulty at Open Letters Monthly.

Gaddis Annotations is all you'll need to keep yourself oriented to scene and character. Don't let that unattributed dialogue scare you off -- Gaddis has the talent to individuate each of his characters and you won't have to bother reading a bunch of "he said . . .
David Lentz
I have long been struck by the irony that the most avid readers of literary novels seem to have been virtually ignored by American publishers who cater to the mainstream. Sad to say but American publishing's mindless fixation with mediocre mainstream fiction has had an obliterating effect on American literary culture. So God Bless Penguin for having the good sense to bring to light, even belatedly, this breakthrough literary novel by a supremely gifted writer. I haven't read a more challenging n ...more
Jun 12, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who want to know the world in its noisy entirety
Recommended to John by: Donald Barthelme
An essential, a masterwork: uproarious yet profoundly troubling, syllable-perfect in its rendering of voices both adolescent and doddering, and gathering a vital and thunderous narrative force though it features a cast and a technique that risks utter confusion. Indeed, confusion is one of the core themes here, spiritual confusion, as Gaddis here looms up like a recording angel of late-20th Century materialist culture. He gets the entire culture, yes, though his plot never moves beyond a middle ...more
Sentimental Surrealist
I've now read three articles (two of them introductions to Gaddis' own books) on this author that concern the purported difficulty of his work: one by Rick Moody, one by Jonathan Franzen, and my personal favorite, William H. Gass' intro to The Recognitions. Rick Moody wants us to believe that this, widely seen as one of the hardest novels ever written, is actually a fun time, and he's not too far off the mark. Franzen wants us to believe that reading Gaddis is a brain-destroyingly difficult task ...more
Glad I finished it, but I wouldn't read it again if you nailed it to my forehead and pinned my eyes open. 726 pages of unattributed dialogue. No complete sentences, just maddeningly naturalistic speech - all run-ons and sentence fragments and ums and ahs. No chapter breaks. A floating POV with only the dialogue to alert you to scene changes and character entrances/exits. In other words, a migraine dressed as a novel. But in all fairness, it's a good novel anyway. The title character, a sixth gra ...more
lyell bark
this book is so damn long a famous american author named johnathan franzen was compelled to write an essay that was too damn long about how long and difficult this book is, and how he couldnt' finish itt. he also said the same thing about don quixote, which makes me think he didn't try very hand since like 400 pages of don quixote is about the don showing his di dong to sancho panza via mishaps involving horses, aand also farting.

jr isn't about farting or dingdongs most of the time, sadly, but t
Feb 08, 2008 Alex rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: patient readers
Shelves: favorites
Someplace, sometime in the future, someone will be digging around in the rubble of American civilization and find this book. And it will be regarded as a definitive reflection on the entropy of late-stages capitalism.

It's a book of voices, stuttering and self-assured, echoing from a void that one comes to recognize all-too-easily as America itself. JR, the eponymous one, is the prepubescent ubermensch of capitalist will, devoid of self-awareness and scruples alike. What a cutie.

And above all, th
Vit Babenco
“Since you're not here to learn anything, but to be taught so you can pass these tests, knowledge has to be organized so it can be taught, and it has to be reduced to information so it can be organized do you follow that?”
A mise en scène is school but instead of educating it is sowing ignorance and cultivating bad taste.
“The function of this school is custodial. It's here to keep these kids off the streets until the girls are big enough to get pregnant and the boys are old enough to go out and
I am not a good classics reader.

First I would like to thank greg for (not) recommending this to me. I am glad I was aware of it and I am glad I put my best foot forward. and I at this point had more fun then I had not fun with this book.

Lets talk about magic mountain. It is 706 pages (this is 726). I called magic mountain on 440 (I'm calling this on 413 I wanted to give him another 50 pages but the fact is I am worried first that I will never finish and second that it will hurt his star rating
How do you rate this adequately heh? Four stars allows that humanity (or Gaddis) might reach a little higher, dance a little quicker, squeeze a little more juice out of the GD lemon, but sitting here now it also seems like I would have to go and downgrade all previous fours if I only gave it four stars. Five it must be. Besides, if I rate it as five now, I can always downgrade it later, after reading The Recognitions and use the carry-forward star loss to offset the capital gains on my outstandi ...more
Joseph Nicolello


I've tried my best to find anything to add to the professional and unprofessional reviews of JR online and the best seems to have been said. I also try my best to dodge overkill by any means necessary, so herein I'll give you a brief history/take on JR, a book I wanted years to read. I swear to Whatever finally buckling down to this thing in this blizzard with a week off from work reminded me of what sex must have been like in prior centuries. At least for those who waited, and wore s
Eric Muhr
This may be THE Great American Novel. Gaddis mashes together a jumble of monologue, video, broken telephone conversations, radio commercials, bits of an opera (and virtually zero narrative voice) in order to present the story of an 11-year-old boy, hungry for success, whose bold (and incredibly lucky) market maneuvers create a paper empire in which he controls a mill, a brewery, a Texas university, an advertising agency, a matchbook company, a printing press, a network of radio stations, a woman ...more
Can we just all admit that this is a hilarious book? Like yeah Gaddis is Mr. Difficult and highly technical but if the reader focuses too much on that aspect they miss some truly hilarious, screwball moments. Like holy shit Bast is living in an apartment where the water's always running (and he decides not to like call the water company or the building souper to get it taken care of) he uses shirts for towels and he's horrendously malnourished.

The unattributed dialogue isn't hard to follow as l
Hugely disappointing. Once you look past the flash of his prose technique, the all-dialogue strategy plays like a one-note samba, and the characters are mostly tired mid-century clichés. The humor is strained, except for a few witty puns it’s all highly contrived slapstick, and Gaddis has a tendency to repeat any humorous verbal effect multiple times till it becomes tedious, even if it was funny in the first place. The portrayal of gender is about what you’d expect it to be, sadly: Gaddis joins ...more
Max Nemtsov
Легко понять, что после прощания с ХIХ веком в «Узнаваниях/Распознаваниях» методами модернистского романа, разборкам с веком ХХ-м придется подобрать какую-то другую методику. Оттуда сложно было двигаться куда-то дальше экспоненциально, необходимо что-то иное. Но Гэддис пошел по пути еще большего дробления и членения смыслов, к фрагментации и фрактализации. Поэтому «Джей-Ар» — это уже не Босх, как рисовал нам автор в первом романе, не многофигурное полотно, перерастающее в комикс, но остающееся в ...more
Dear J R, I'm a little too busy at the moment to bask in your postmodernist brilliance. We'll continue this half finished affair next year.
(Paused at 41%)
Feb 05, 2015 Whitney rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who are anti-capitalist and people who are pro-capitalist
Stylistically, it's a masterpiece. There must be close to a hundred characters. I can remember the names of a dozen or so. Of those I can name, I could talk for hours about. They are so rich and deep. Everybody is so believable, but also a complete caricature of themselves.

It is mostly dialogue, almost no narration, with these little dashes to show a change in speaker. It is never made explicitly clear who is speaking. You have to figure it out from context. But once you get oriented in the boo
I'm reading this now. It's good. Taking a while. Parts of it get heavy. In general, it can be very harrowing. Uncompromising. The characters in it never compromise. They are capable of ranting. The style is good for the brain to become open. Taking a break from fiction for a little. I think more people are supposed to read Gaddis than do. Ben Marcus was right that he can be inconsistent.


OK I finished it. Damn this book took a long time to read (I was, you know, trying to actually pay atten

People of Earth–should I start here or with The Recognitions?

UPDATE: Too late, I'm reading this first. I downloaded the audiobook because this seems to be one of the only books in the world that make sense to listen to rather than read... this way, it's not some crazy-intellectual, masochistic, artsy-fartsy novel– it's now some crazy-intellectual, masochistic, artsy-fartsy 37 hour long radio show, right? RIGHT?!


I couldn't imagine reading this as a book–without JR's dopey "Wait up,
Mike Nealy
Sorry folks. I'll probably make an enemy or two here, but HEY I gotta say it...

This book stinks. On ice! Oh yeah, sure, you’ll get those who’ll say this is one of the best novels of the 20th century, a masterpiece even. They’ll drone on about its supposed literary merits, its clever post-modernist stylings, its witty satirization of the corporate profit motive, yadda yadda yadda... Some even have gone so far as to say this book (and Gaddis) is genius. Really?? Come on…really?? The only ingenuit
Mark Sacha
"...I'm trying to, to show you there's such a thing as as, as intangible assets?" stammers Edward Bast, reluctant assistant to the eponymous J R, in a futile attempt to make the 11-year old mail-order business magnate appreciate an aesthetic truth, or anything at all beside the thoughtless pursuit of profit. "That bleak little Vansant boy", as J R is described elsewhere, runs his business in absentia, orchestrating an ever-expanding series of schemes through a number of clueless adults such as B ...more
Pochi romanzi mi hanno tanto tormentato e divertito nello stesso tempo. A riguardarlo adesso (sarà per la lettura in ebook e la tecnica che ho adottato di usare i colori per evidenziare e inserire note), più che un romanzo mi sembra un videogame. E’ vero che va decrittato, che è lungo e che fa faticare tanto, ma se usi la leggerezza e la curiosità con cui si gioca o si legge un giallo o con cui si scorrerebbe, come qualcuno ha detto, "il resoconto di una gigantesca intercettazione ambientale" è ...more
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Brain Pain: * Questions, Resources, and General Banter - JR 6 44 Aug 17, 2014 01:49PM  
Brain Pain: This topic has been closed to new comments. * Schedule for Discussions - JR 1 39 Aug 04, 2014 03:52AM  
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William Gaddis was the author of four very complex novels (he completed an as-yet-unpublished fifth book, a non-fictional study of the player piano, called Agape Agape, before he passed away) and an artist inclined to avoid the trappings of celebrity. Gaddis was born in New York December 29, 1922. He went on to Harvard, but was asked to leave the college in his senior year (the circumstances of th ...more
More about William Gaddis...
The Recognitions A Frolic of His Own Carpenter's Gothic Agapē Agape The Rush for Second Place: Essays and Occasional Writings

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“If you want to make a million you don't have to understand money, what you have to understand is people's fears about money” 23 likes
“-Put on the lights there, now. Before we go any further here, has it ever occurred to any of you that all this is simply one grand misunderstanding? Since you're not here to learn anything, but to be taught so you can pass these tests, knowledge has to be organized so it can be taught, and it has to be reduced to information so it can be organized do you follow that? In other words this leads you to assume that organization is an inherent property of knowledge itself, and that disorder and chaos are simply irrelevant forces that threaten it from outside. In fact it's exactly the opposite. Order is simply a thin, perilous condition we try to impose on the basic reality of chaos...” 15 likes
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