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4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  1,395 ratings  ·  159 reviews
A biting satire, JR features JR, an eleven-year-old capitalist, who embodies the cash culture he grows up in. The young JR manipulates his meagre economic beginnings including a shipment of Navy surplus picnic forks, a defaulted bond issue and turns them into a massive paper empire. The novel's satiric assault upon the American Dream, and the economics it represents makes...more
Hardcover, 726 pages
Published January 1st 1975 by Alfred A. Knopf
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The Recognitions by William GaddisThe Third Policeman by Flann O'BrienWittgenstein's Mistress by David MarksonThe Tunnel by William H. GassJ.R. by William Gaddis
Best Dalkey Archive Titles
5th out of 142 books — 44 voters
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleUlysses by James JoyceA Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessInfinite Jest by David Foster WallaceDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Rabelais' Codpiece
63rd out of 107 books — 59 voters

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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...more
"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...more
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...more
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...more
Josh Watkins
The Most Surprising Page-Turner I Ever Read
You should see my copy of JR. In the course of a month, it went from a pristine Dalkey Archives* doorstop to "this is your novel after meth." Round about 250pgs, I found that the spine had cracked in several places. The corners are peeling back. And the spills: water-drips, whiskey, Old Style, some major bread-crumbage, chili, KFC special sauce, and coffee, eversomuch coffee. One afternoon I found a grain of fried rice tucked between the pages.

I mean I...more
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...more
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 . . ....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
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
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
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
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...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...more
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...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...more
Robert Farwell
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
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
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
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
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
Jul 29, 2014 Whitney rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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...more

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,...more
“I mean why should somebody go steal and break the law to get all they can when there's always some law where you can be legal and get it all anyway!”

Hilarious satire of capitalism and corporate greed, the centerpiece of which is an 11 year-old boy who builds, in barely understood absentia, a family of companies through a series of deals, acquisitions and mergers all started from a pay phone he had installed in his school.

I feel that there should be more to this review, there was a lot going on...more
Josh Friedlander
Otto in The Recognitions is ostensibly Gaddis's cameo in the story, but it's obvious that Wyatt Gwynn is who the author really pictures himself as. Besides for the shared initials (and just being the main character in the book), Wyatt's metaphysical journey is the central struggle present in Gaddis's work - between faith, aesthetic beauty and the pursuit of truth on the one hand, and the materialism and cynicism of society on the other, which permeates the intellectual and artistic scene as much...more
Kilburn Adam
This book is brilliant. Basically it's about capitalism. Lots of people talk about stuff. And the em-dash is awesome. speech marks are rubbish.

I will definitely be reading Carpenter's Gothic.

William Gaddis FTW.
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...more
Jeffrey W.
Truly one of the greatest books I've ever read. Definitely an influence on Pynchon's Against the Day.

Stressing the vital necessity of expanded capital formation unimpeded by government restraints, Senator Broos' impassioned plea for a restoration of faith on the part of the common man in the free enterprise system as the cornerstone of those son of a bitches who still think winning's what it's all about give them a string of high p e ratios and a rising market it's all free enterprise all they h
OK this book is funny and a real trip but I don't have the time to even get into it. Basically I wouldn't recommend this to anyone unless you have a whole lot of time to kill. Also it's kind of a "guy" book, and i'll just leave it at that.

There are long books and there are DENSE books. Basically no paragraph breaks or punctuation, 90% dialog, maybe two or three actual chapter breaks.

But it's really good. JR the character is an absolute classic, ("I'm on this here field trip, what does it look li...more
Ben Thurley
This sprawling, comic tale of capitalist America centres around a precocious 6th-grader, JR, who parlays a shipment of Navy-surplus picnic forks, along with endless give-aways and promotional offers, into a continent-spanning corporate empire. JR trades through a series of barely-understood conversations on the payphone he has installed in the corridor of his elementary school (barely-understood because he disguises his age by stuffing his handkerchief in the mouthpiece) and through his hapless...more
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Brain Pain: Discussion - Week One thru Six - JR 22 44 Sep 02, 2014 03:53AM  
Brain Pain: * Questions, Resources, and General Banter - JR 6 37 Aug 17, 2014 01:49PM  
Brain Pain: * Schedule for Discussions - JR 1 30 Aug 04, 2014 03:52AM  
  • The Tunnel
  • Women and Men
  • Mulligan Stew
  • Ten North Frederick
  • The Hair of Harold Roux
  • Chimera
  • A Crown of Feathers
  • Darconville’s Cat
  • The Public Burning
  • The Royal Family
  • Morte D'Urban
  • The Lime Twig
  • Paco's Story
  • Wittgenstein's Mistress
  • Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories
  • The Magic Barrel
  • Miss MacIntosh, My Darling
  • Steps
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” 20 likes
“I mean why should somebody go steal and break the law to get all they can when there's always some law where you can be legal and get it all anyway!” 9 likes
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