Carpenter’s Gothic
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Carpenter’s Gothic

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  835 ratings  ·  77 reviews
This story of raging comedy and despair centers on the tempestuous marriage of an heiress and a Vietnam veteran. From their "carpenter gothic" rented house, Paul sets himself up as a media consultant for Reverend Ude, an evangelist mounting a grand crusade that conveniently suits a mining combine bidding to take over an ore strike on the site of Ude's African mission. At t...more
Paperback, 270 pages
Published July 1st 1986 by Penguin Books (first published 1985)
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MJ Nicholls
There was no way I was going to start my Gaddis experience with his 976pp Olympic marathon The Recognitions, not having sampled his style first. Unfortunately, there is nothing in this short novel to repel me from said monolith except perhaps the disorienting dialogue and scene changes (of the four characters in this novel no one formally enters or exits, nor conducts the same conversation), but the man’s prose is unique, mellifluous and (could it be?) readable. What! you say. You mean it isn’t...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Given that William Gaddis towers among novelists of the variety postmodernist, next to whom only perhaps Pynchon and McElroy cast an equal shadow, one would like to know what it’s all about, what’s going on, what makes Gaddis the kind of Gaddis he is. Carpenter’s Gothic is a tempting place to go for answers. It is short. It’s action is confined to a typical kind of American fake dwelling structure, a cheap imitation (of wood) of the Gothic stone and iron, designed to be seen from the outside and...more
I shall simply quote Cynthia Ozick in her wonderful review:

"We have run into these fictional scalawags before, rotted-out families, rotted-out corporations, seedy greedy preachers and poachers, either in cahoots with or victims of one another, and sometimes both. They are American staples; but ''plot'' is Mr. Gaddis's prey, and also his play. Triteness is his trap and toy. He has light-fingered all the detritus that pours through the news machines and the storytelling machines - the fake claim...more
Justin Evans
I must warn you, I have no qualms calling Gaddis the greatest novelist of the later twentieth century, and perhaps ever. I am an unrepentant fanboy. So my star rating is completely untrustworthy. Anyway, on to my thoughts.

This is the shortest and best titled of Gaddis' real books (I don't count Agape Agape). Carpenter's Gothic, one of the characters tells us, is a style of American architecture. The builders tried to imitate European neo-gothic, but did so from the outside in: the houses have t...more
Acaba uno en shock después de leer a Gaddis, joder. Me ha fascinado esta novela, me ha impresionado la capacidad para construir los diálogos, para darles ritmo, para hacerlos reales, la manera de narrar de Gaddis, tan intrincada y confusa y a la vez tan potente y absorbente, cómo un juego imposible en el que el lector tiene que encajar las piezas sin saber quién es quién ni qué pertenece a qué. La trama me ha seducido y me ha arrastrado, las críticas a la iglesia, a la política, al gobierno de l...more
Imagine three or four Thomas Bernhard characters talking to one another and you have the style of this Gaddis novel. Each character, but perhaps one, has a particular rant, with none of them really listening to the others (we've all been to dinner parties like this but they don't typically last more than maybe two hours). Moreover, since the speaker is rarely identified, one sometimes feels a bit lost, and since the novel is almost all dialogue, what has happened needs to be constantly reconstru...more
david blumenshine
in regards to the structure i thought it was brilliant. the conversation as prose which breaks the mold of form while simultaneously showing true form of language as it is spoken offset by pauses of literary prose was as good as any i've crossed. however, no less than two of the main characters were absolutely intolerably obnoxious. as is life, i suppose, that half of the people one encounters go on and on in an annoying fashion, and this is the kind of subversion, on the surface at least, which...more
dialogue constantly surges forward, relentless. i see now why they mention gaddis when reviewing books by david foster wallace.

the novel as a whole is almost startlingly well-crafted. images and phrases return sometimes like musical phrases echoing. made me think of symphonies, or sewing, just the way it was so beautifully woven together. often, the story felt devastating and desperate while the storytelling felt transcendent, brilliant.

i want to read this again, and more slowly.
No sé si es esfuerzo que me exigen estos autores merece lo que dan a cambio.
One of Gaddis' shorter books, but one that still requires a Herculean effort to read. A gigantic sprawl of dialogue.
Lo primero que me sorprendió de William Gaddis fue su impresionante talento para los diálogos, nunca antes había leído parlamentos tan realistas antes de Gótico carpintero, en la otra novela que editó Sexto Piso, Ágape se paga también hay gran realismo en el monólogo del personaje, pero en esta ocasión los personajes interactúan, y sus diálogos ponen en evidencia cualquier intento previo de realismo en los parlamentos de ningún personaje en la ficción norteamericana posmoderna (aunque el verismo...more
An unflinching look at corruption, degraded culture, religious charlatanism, abusive relationships and more. Carpenter's Gothic come off, in some ways, as a footnote to JR, and Gaddis even makes a winking reference to that reality within the book. However, what sets this book apart, in my mind, is how merciless Gaddis is with his alter-ego in this story, McCandless. While Tom Eigen in J.R. is in some ways the reflection of Gaddis after the commercial failure of The Recognition, with a "sell-out"...more
...a patchwork of conceits, borrowings, deceptions, the inside's a hodgepodge of good intentions like one last ridiculous effort at something worth doing even on this small scale...

So describes McCandless the house which serves as the setting for the novel. Gaddis uses the imitation Victorian style used on the house to frame both the novel itself and the characters within it. They are deceptive and self-serving in a world which is corrupt and cynical. Despite being dialogue heavy, there are quit...more
Bitter and loud. Heiress Elizabeth Booth is the financial doormat for her bullying, entrepreneurial husband Paul and the sexual doormat for the enigmatic, intellectual McCandless. She is weak, paralyzed, and a bit pathetic, but she is the best chance at salvation for the raging hypocrites who surround her. Carpenter’s Gothic is the saddest and most humane of Gaddis’s novels and certainly the best entry point for those interested in his work. As always, Gaddis is fatiguing to read, and, even at o...more
I'm conflicted. Carpenter's Gothic is often exhilarating, but equally often a slog. Its grammatically mangled dialogue captures the stumbling rhythms and hesitations of ordinary speech, but becomes tedious when the characters spout longwinded rants that go on for pages (rants bore me). Also, Gaddis is too enamored of artificial complexity for my liking - not only is the narrative willfully murky, it's not always clear or possible to infer what's happening or even who's talking. As a tactic to fo...more
4.5 stars. this was a close call between 4 and 5 stars. the first 50 pages really disappointed me, after the brilliance of JR and Frolic. but suddenly things came together and it was wonderful. i read the last 200 pages aloud to my mom while she was knitting, and for long stretches she had to stop knitting and just sat there enrapt. with 20 pages left, she whined, "I don't want it to end!" no author i have ever read can write dialogue the way Gaddis can. take the best stuff from the film Pulp Fi...more
Maria Grazia
Il lato oscuro e demenziale del sogno americano, qui non c'è una storia di gente che ce la fa, ma la storia di cialtroni, bugiardi, immorali, decadenti, che non ce la fanno. Se non che il peggiore di tutti, il cialtrone supremo, si salva dalla tragedia che corona la farsa, e cerca di ricominciare con le sue arti seduttive trite e ritrite.
Un capolavoro dalla scrittura nevrotica e folle.
Definitely a challenging piece of work that I picked up and put down for about a year until I knuckled down and pushed into it, and I feel it was absolutely worth it. What was so offputting, what I had to get used to, was this breakneck dialog, back and forth, seemingly making no sense, but that was coming from reading conventional novels for the past year or so. Once I got used to it, I realized it was the most realistic communication exchange I've probably experienced, it moves the plot forwar...more
Roy Kesey
I had a harder time getting into it than I'd have guessed, then grew into the rhythms and premises. Enjoyed the descriptive jewels kept rare in all that dialogue. Enjoyed the outrageous manipulation of time. Not sure how many of the tricks here would work more than once.
I had always wanted to read Gaddis because of his superior reputation, but I was disappointed. I only lasted 50 pages, having almost gone nuts with his overuse of 'newel' within only a few pages, a word I thought maybe he had just learned and was very proud of it. So, I turned my attention to a more rewarding book, "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. After 2 tries with Gaddis' Carpenter's Gothic, I doubt if he's worth anymore of my time. George Eliot can deliver much more in the same amount of time.
Joseph Kay
Reading this for the second time the book opened up to reveal whole new intricacies.
Gaddis takes his previous concision and subtlety and ramps it all up (somehow) to the max here, 1000 pages worth of international political intrigue and crooked CIA agents crammed into 262 pages that all take place inside an upstate New York house. It's difficult to describe just how brilliant this book without ruining it, because everything is so tightly hinged together discussing one plot element too much would...more
James Dyke
My first venture in Gaddis-land. Perhaps I was being unfair treating this as merely a warm-up act before diving into The Recognitions, a shorter, simpler taster of Gaddis' style and substance. CG was, after all, released over three decades after The Recognitions. It is very much its own animal, and boy, what an interesting animal it is.

The novel is not built like a novel. It is a serious of conversations, of rants, of arguments, by and between a series of faulted characters all extremely bitter...more
Un modo di scrivere piuttosto difficile e un ritmo incalzante.

Parrebbe un controsenso, ma leggendo questo Gotico Americano di William Gaddis, è proprio questo ciò che traspare, perlomeno nella parte iniziale.

I primi due capitoli infatti, in pratica un quarto dell’intero libro, producono nel lettore una sensazione ambigua: da un lato c’è quella scrittura apparentemente difficile dove il dialogo e le descrizioni si rincorrono senza mai raccontare le cose in tempo reale, mentre dall’altro c’è una s...more
pierlapo  quimby
C'è il teatro d'improvvisazione, no?
E Gaddis qua tenta la narrativa d'improvvisazione, ma è tutto un bluff, non crediate, perché l'intreccio, pagina dopo pagina, chiacchiera dopo chiacchiera, prende corpo.
Ecco, questo forse è il difetto dell'opera.
I continui riferimenti agli affari della famiglia, a quelli di Paul (una specie di Capezzone un po' schizzato e cafone, un Capezzone che ha fatto il Vietnam e poi ha tentato di sfondare a Wall Street senza successo), di McCandless, agli interessi mine...more
Michael Dworaczyk
The whole novel takes place inside the house, which ends up being as much a character as any of the others. Does the house represent existence? Having it intricately Gothic on the outside, a shoddily constructed, falling apart piece of crap on the inside, does that show reality itself to be only a facade, an illusion? The falling apart on the inside representing the 2nd law of thermodynamics? Or has reading this book made me just as crazy as some of the characters?

The only actions outside of th...more
...just finished....! i enjoyed this story more so than j r the only other gaddis story i've read. but then, maybe i'm getting used to it...the way gaddis writes.

you have to figure out who is speaking...much of the story is dialogue and often, through the dialogue, you see action, though in this one, there seemed to be a bit more setting/action than in the previous story, the aforementioned j r.

the man who threatened to kill me apologized...not to me, but to my wife, who heard him bellowing ou...more
Mark Kumleben
Written with a sort of aggressive stylistic competence and a rythmic lyricism that at its height is comparable to Gass or McCarthy. However, Gaddis suffers from the same foundational artistic limitations as his spiritual successor, Johnathan Franzen - Gaddis is interested basically in depicting Americans, and so by extension by extension American society. The problem with this sort of description is that, while it's humorous and cathartic to see society, the American psyche, and the form of the...more
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Consideraciones sobre el autor, su obra y cómo llegué a conocerla:
1) Sobre cómo llegué al autor: labor inestimable de varios blogueros que empezaron a hacerse ecos de él, muy especialmente por la insistencia de Javier Avilés y su excelente blog “El lamento de Portnoy” , una de las mejores referencias literarias y de cultura actuales que deberíais visitar ineludiblemente.
2) Sobre el autor y su figura: William Gaddis (1922-1998) es uno de esos a...more
Mark Sacha
It can be rewarding to read an author's work in sequence, since there is often a tangible thread from one to another. Gaddis is a good representation of this. Carpenter's Gothic picks up seemingly very close to where J R left off, in a house a few miles upstate from New York, overflowing with entropy, mail and incoming calls, and peopled by frustrated grotesques who cut each other off mid-sentence and argue bidirectionally. There is much talk of what "_x_ is all about." Elizabeth Booth, an heire...more
A lot of later Gaddis (which is to say: beyond /J.R./ and /The Recognitions/) has been given, I think, a bit of an unfair reputation--perhaps because of just how great and new those two first books were, perhaps because of an equally unfair Franzen article published in the New Yorker. It's true, Gaddis' later work doesn't much challenge the first two books of his bibliography, but that doesn't mean that the work is bad or deserving of scorn. In a way, we have to give Gaddis the benefit of the do...more
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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 JR A Frolic of His Own Agapē Agape The Rush for Second Place: Essays and Occasional Writings

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