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 too, that is why they play their game from a socialist standpoint; if the game were truly played fair most of them wouldn't stand a chance of surviving. America would be a vast wasteland of destruction with just a few having won everything. They would be the emperors of a big pile of shit. Hooray for them!
Fortunately laws are in place that let lots of people people rule over their own little piles of shit.
Before I even knew about the whole corporate take-over bullshit with Barnes and Noble I had dreams about the store turning into a fucking supermarket. In my dreams I yell and scream that this is all bullshit, we are a bookstore, not a fucking supermarket, that there is more to the business than just making the most possible money. In my dreams I'm a troublemaker who people get angry at, and then ignore while I throw temper tantrums. Now there is a guy who runs supermarkets trying to buy the company and institute policies more favorable to the shareholders.
Art and making conditions that are fiscally favorable to those greedy idiot children that go buy the name of shareholders do not go hand in hand. Actually, they are antagonistic to one another.
As is seen in JR.
JR is now part of the holy trinity of novels. The father (Gravity's Rainbow), the son (JR), and the holy spirit (Infinite Jest). Feel free to move these around, arguments can be made for any of the books to occupy any of the spaces.
JR is not quite as engaging as Gaddis's first novel The Recognitions, but it's a more cohesive novel. I mentioned in my review for the earlier novel that it felt like it was straddling the line between the moderns and the post-moderns (this is such bullshit really, how is Joyce any less of a post-modernist than most of the pomo authors? High Modernism and post-modernism are the same shit, but whatever this makes sense if you don't over think it (and by this I mean my argument about Gaddis, you need to over think the modernism is post-modernism thing)). The straddling of The Recognitions gave the text an interesting tension. It was almost like Gaddis was afraid to really let go and let the novel go where it wanted to go.
He no longer has that problem in JR. I don't know if it is because writers like Pynchon, Coover and Barth had staked out some of the territory for him, or if he just grew more comfortable, more angry, more something in the twenty years he hid from writing novels in corporate America, but whatever happened he produced a capital em fucking Masterpiece.
While the book is a capital em fucking Masterpiece I do not recommend you read it. Seriously, I'm telling you don't read it, or if you do decide on your own to read it. Don't let anything I say influence you to read it. If you do let anything I say influence you to read it and you hate the book I don't want to hear about it. I'll just tell you I told you so. And then I'll tell you that it is one of the greatest books ever written and that I told you not to read it on my advice.
JR is possibly a 726 page headache. Or it is an oh my fucking god of all literature this is one of the greatest fucking things ever!! type experience. The book is probably about 99.5% dialog (maybe higher actually). NONE of the dialog is attributed to anyone. There is no he said, Stella exclaimed, JR excitedly yelled, Bast resignedly agreed, Jack drunkenly argued. None of that stuff. Just approximately seven hundred some odd pages of people speaking who you need to build the story up out of the context of what they are saying and the brief action/description paragraphs that move characters either temporally or spatially around. If you can give yourself into the author. If you can trust that Mr. Gaddis. knows what he is doing and he isn't going to steer you too wrong then go right ahead and start reading. If you are going to get your asshole in a knot over not always being completely clear about who is speaking to whom or that you need to know everything immediately than this book is not for you. Roland Barthes kooky theory aside, this book shows the author is not dead, the reader is to the author and that giving yourself over to the hands of a very skilled writer, such as William Gaddis, is a transcendent experience. I imagine engaging in a novel like this is about as close as I will ever have to putting myself fully in the hands of a higher power.
BUT! that doesn't mean the book is going to excuse you from having to do some work on your own. You've got to pay attention and read the fucking thing like an intelligent adult and not as a passive consumer. And you have to be the type of reader who can enjoy that an author is creating a cantata of dialog (well it may have been an opera at first, but after a bit it had to be toned down...).
Why we (re)read.
Why does a book like this appeal to me? Why at the midway point in my days (well midway point in a year) do I spend ten days reading a satire on corporate America written in a difficult and slow style? Why did I feel a total rush reading this? Why does reading a book like this get me excited for the possibilities of literature, the intellect, creativity, etc., that a straight forward book just doesn't usually do for me? Why are most, well all, of my absolute favorites all 'difficult' in one way or another? I'm not looking to impress anyone by reading this. If anything I'd recommend most people I know not to read this because I don't think they would have the patience to let the book unfold on it's own terms (this is the condition that I imagine one must have to read Finnegans Wake, I believe Joyce is an able writer (genius) who may make things difficult but not guide one wrong. As opposed to certain 'wits' on this website who believe that it is just gibberish that a computer program could write as satisfying of a read).
I read lots of books that aren't difficult. And some of those books I enjoy a great deal. Some I even award five stars. But they don't usually strike me as books I will want to return to again. For example Kafka's prose isn't the most enjoyable to read, I mean stylistically for me. But he is an author that I can see returning to again and again. His stories have an openness to them that invites re-readings and play, even though they take place in a very confining and formally rigid realm (I'm not just talking about plot setting here). Or why are DFW's long serpentine sentences really a light joy that can be savored? Why doesn't a more straight-forward writer not seem to invite re-readings? Of course this is only for me. For you there are probably a whole different set of characteristics that make you want to cherish one book over another. But can we even really point a finger to what it is in a book that makes one work over another?
In closing. JR is an amazing book and I don't recommend you read it. Or read it but I disavow all responsibility for you reading it and consider yourself warned.