Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “JR” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,756 ratings  ·  327 reviews
J R is the long-awaited novel from William Gaddis, author of The Recognitions, that tremendous book which, in the twenty years since its publication, has come to be acknowledged as an American masterpiece. And J R is a book of comparable magnitude, substance, and humor--a rushing, raucous look at money and its influence, at love and its absence, at success and its failures ...more
Paperback, 752 pages
Published August 26th 1993 (first published October 12th 1975)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about JR, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about JR

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,756 ratings  ·  327 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of JR
Glenn Russell
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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-
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites

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
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, american
Big Business Is For Kids

I grew up just down the road from William Gaddis's home. But I didn't encounter his writing until about thirty years ago, first in his enthralling Recognitions, and then in JR which to me is the most important piece of fiction ever written about business.

JR is a six-grader who builds a business empire from a phone box. He gets to know the tricks of the trade, any trade, by trial and error. Hence he can reveal the real ethos of business as he goes along, without commentary
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this grubby child persistent child! I feel as if he is someone that I know. Not that any of the large cast of characters gets short shrift in floating opera. But, the reader doesn't miss a scene. It reminded me of reading Robertson Davies and John Dos Passos although darker and less mythical than Davies and more of a micro view than Dos Passos.
—Right. You mention education and they grab for their wallets. Now here’s thirty-two thousand six hundred and seventy for blacktopping the parki
Adam Dalva
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Completely spectacular, best if read very slowly - it is a novel, a very long novel, told almost exclusively in untagged dialogue. Though at first it is dizzying, the characters (dozens and dozens of them) each have their own speech patterns, and through context, the plot (JR, a boy, becomes very rich) slowly becomes clear.

The level of detail is crazy - JR says "this here __" fairly often, and toward the end of the book, he buys HER magazine (a plot set up for many pages), seemingly just so he
Ian "Marvin" Graye

Hey You Listening?

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

--- Um...

--- Monolithic...

--- N...

--- Intimidating...

--- Listen will you, goddammit...

--- Impenetrable...

--- Not at all! 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
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
”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
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
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
Chris Via
- Review:
- Video ramble:

- Group reading on Instagram with @therecognitionsbookclub this October-November.
- Group reading on #BookTwitter with #Gaddis2020 this October-November (thanks, @ReemK10).
“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!”
― William Gaddis, JR


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. Beside
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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 . . .
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
Vit Babenco
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“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
Ronald Morton
I want to make clear up front that this is the strongest 5 Stars I can give – which is kind of a dumb thing to say, but I think rating books is kind of dumb (though I can’t wrap my head around not doing it). All books I give 5 Stars to are highly recommended, I’m just saying that this is one of the ones that should just be considered essential. Is it as good as The Recognitions? Nope. Is it almost as good as The Recognitions? Yep. I really shouldn’t have to say more on that.

This is the Gaddis bo
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
JR is certainly a stylistic masterpiece. As far as I’m aware its structure – that is, a single, gargantuan, unbroken passage comprised almost entirely of unattributed dialogue – has not been attempted before or since. Depending on what you think about the novel, you might interpret this as being indicative of a literary pinnacle, or a dead-end. I think it’s a little of both.

The brilliance of this novel is in how much Gaddis manages to communicate given the constraints of the structure. The sett
Jun 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 11, 2008 rated it liked it
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
David Lentz
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Alexander Weber
4.5 / 5
Wow. I won't be able to write everything here right now. This book is such a monumental achievement. I can't imagine what it took to write it, and I can't pretend to understand all of it. Everyone is so connected through back channels or invisible's hard to make sense of it all. Despite it being entirely in dialogue (well almost), and despite the book feeling at first as though it may not be able to create a fully formed 3D whole person, the book ends up brimming and overflowing
lyell bark
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This here book doesn’t need me to recommend it. But like I want to get down a few of my impressions to like help myself out in like the future you know. So’s I can like recall a little bit of this. But damn it, having spent a god damn long god damn time with this god damn book, I’ll just, holy I mean holy shit.
Jan 09, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Kevin Adams
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reread for book club. Keeps getting better with every read.
Christine Palau
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“No no listen look, first time in history so many opportunities to do so God damned many things not worth doing…” (477, JR)

I take this rating system way too seriously, and therefore need to explain myself because I have to admit that I did not love this book. I'm not even sure I liked it. But for me to give JR anything less than five stars would also misrepresent my reading experience, and since five stars equals amazing, I'm going with that.

When I was reading JR I thought a lot about pleasure—
Griffin Alexander
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: long-haul
U. S. A. is the slice of a continent. U. S. A. is a group of holding companies, some aggregations of trade unions, a set of laws bound in calf, a radio network, a chain of moving picture theaters, a column of stockquotations rubbed out and written in by a Western Union boy on a blackboard, a public-library full of old newspapers and dogeared historybooks with protests scrawled on the margins in pencil. U. S. A. is the world's greatest rivervalley fringed with mountains and hills, U. S. A. is a s ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Among the best I've ever read. Magnificent. Hilarious. Savage. Can't stop marveling... As good as it gets... So many hilarious and anguishing motifs within DFW's Infinite Jest now seem to me to be perfect and just and right and true little valentines to William Gaddis... and what a heartening thought! ...more
U.L. hothot
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like nothing I've ever read before. At first I wondered where it was going and what the hell it was about, but it earns every page and after finishing it, finally, my first thought was that I needed to read it again in a year or so to catch all the things I missed.

Audiobook performance is excellent, adds to the enjoyment of the voice of the Gaddis' work.
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, nyc
While executing more themes, pioneering formal devices, meta-textual acrobatics, and scenes of real, arresting feeling (including humor) than the entire careers of most other novelists (all of Don Delillo's 1970s novels, for example, explicate what William Gaddis does here), this novel might also give you a panic attack in return for your readerly labors.
Not for the faint of heart or the gainfully employed.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Brain Pain: * Questions, Resources, and General Banter - JR 6 59 Aug 17, 2014 01:49PM  
Brain Pain: This topic has been closed to new comments. * Schedule for Discussions - JR 1 45 Aug 04, 2014 03:52AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Omensetter's Luck
  • Underworld
  • Mason & Dixon
  • The Tunnel
  • Mao II
  • Libra
  • Europe Central
  • Antkind
  • Wittgenstein's Mistress
  • Lost in the Funhouse
  • Against the Day
  • Vineland
  • Finnegans Wake
  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again:  Essays and Arguments
  • White Noise
  • V.
  • Bleeding Edge
  • Ducks, Newburyport
See similar books…
William Gaddis was the author of five novels. He was born in New York December 29, 1922. The circumstances why he left Harvard in his senior year are mysterious. He worked for The New Yorker for a spell in the 1950s, and absorbed experiences at the bohemian parties and happenings, to be later used as material in The Recognitions. Travel provided further resources of experience in Mexico, in Costa ...more

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
3 likes · 1 comments
“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” 39 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...” 32 likes
More quotes…