Herman Melville discussion

Melville and Gaddis - THE RECOGNITIONS

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message 1: by Michael (last edited Oct 02, 2008 10:04AM) (new)

Michael Hi all. I just started reading THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis. I'm only about 100 pages into it, but I found the first chapter of Book I reminded me very much of Hawthorne and Melville. All the Puritanism in Wyatt's family and talk about guilt, etc. made me think that if Hawthorne was alive and writing in the 21st century, this is what he might write! Also, the central theme about counterfeiting and con men (especially the deliciously named character "Frank Sinisterra" --evil land, or sinister land?) reminded me of Melville's CONFIDENCE MAN. Anyone else familiar with Gaddis and some possible nods to Hawthorne and Melville?

message 2: by Frederick (new)

Frederick I have always heard Gaddis is worthwhile, but I haven't read him yet. What you describe sounds to me Melvillean. PIERRE was Melville's nod to Hawthorne (Puritans turned into outcasts by other Puritans) and certainly PIERRE itself has a lot in common with THE CONFIDENCE-MAN in its (PIERRE's) chapters about the pamphleteers og Greenwich Village. THE CONFIDENCE-MAN is a great study of the nature of conning. Also, ISRAEL POTTER is filled with broad caricatures of iconic figures in American history. Melville's comic side is often overlooked. It sounds as if William Gaddis gave Sinatra some comic treatment. James Joyce apparently based the Night-town seqence in ULYSSES, to some extent, on Chapters 37-40 of MOBY-DICK, which are in the form of a stage-script (as is Night-town.) Given Joyce's punning, he'd have come up with a name such as "Sinisterra" for Sinatra. (What's it mean? 'Badlands?") Such universal authors seem to float through time. I'm glad Melville arrived when he did. If Joyce had preceded him; indeed, if Sinatra had preceded either of them, ULYSSES might have opened with "Call me Ishamael who sleeps with the fishes."

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