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Agape Agape Paperback – 1 Dec 2005

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Paperback, 1 Dec 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; New Ed edition (1 Dec. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843543958
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843543954
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,601,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"'Not a book to rush through but to savour.' Daily Telegraph; 'Agape Agape derives much of its poignancy from its status as the last word of one of the most significant American authors of the last century.' Stephen Burn, Times Literary Supplement; 'The final, posthumous work of one of America's most Important novelists is a lumimous, plangent monoogue... an elegant and affecting swan-song.' Scotland on Sunday; 'A remarkable, contrary work of art.' John de Falbe, Spectator; 'Nobody has written noisier books than William Gaddis. When he died in 1998, he left behind four books bursting with human babble. Often uproariously funny, they capture with sizzling precision... subtle, expansive, intricate, caustically entertaining and resounding with perfectly caught give-away tones and idioms.' Sunday Times"

About the Author

William Gaddis (1922-1998) was one of the greatest writers in twentieth-century America. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and won two National Book Awards, for JR (1976) and A Frolic of His Own (1994). Of his six landmark works, The Recognition (1955), JR (1975), Carpenter's Gothic (1985) and Agape Agape (2002) are published by Atlantic Books.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x992aef30) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x992a8204) out of 5 stars Brilliant Ruminations 12 Jun. 2003
By Elizabeth Hendry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
William Gaddis' Agape Agape is a brilliant, philisophical rumination on the nature of contemporary society and its relationship to art and the artist. It's not really a novel, but rather a 100 page diatribe of a dying man trying to get his affairs in order before the end. He is in a bed somewhere, spilling water, bleeding slightly on his notes, his books. He talks to us about everything from the mundane (the blood) to the deeply philisophical (Plato and many, many others). I read this one one sitting in about an hour because it's that compelling and enjoyable. The conversation seamlessly moves from real estate matters to artistic matters. His commentary will make you chuckle, will make you shake your head in agreement. This is an interesting work and if you are looking from a step up from your average novel. Enjoy.
46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9961c948) out of 5 stars Brilliant--It's Changed My Mind About Gaddis! 3 Jun. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have seldom if ever revised my opinion of an author based on a posthumous work-until now. I confess to having found the late William Gaddis' other (and in some circles, classic) novels (J.R., Frolic of His Own, The Recognitions, and Carpenter's Gothic) theoretically interesting and probably brilliant, but always far too long, very self-indulgent, difficult for its own sake and almost unreadable-in other words, they bored me, what I could get through of them.
This prejudice of mine is coupled with a general dislike for posthumous works in general-the kind where a Major Author left a work unfinished at death, and which is years after released and edited with an introduction or forward by some noted Scholar: ("This really IS a great book, all of Fitzgerald's/Hemingway's/Duras'/McGowin's major Themes are here," etc., etc.). Well, they very seldom are great works, and just as the act of Revision seems contrived to some (your Kerouac wannabes, perhaps), I, conversely, find the act of posthumous publication to itself be contrived-again, in general. Glenn Gould, the great pianist, once expressed his intense dislike of "live" recordings being released on record labels with the surrounding hoopla, and said he planned to do a "fake" live album, recorded in the studio, complete with mistakes and overdubbed with audience coughing, etc. Sony of course wouldn't go for it, but I've often wanted to write a "fake" posthumous novel, the Final (unfinished) Work of a Great American Novelist-I'll make it about 100 de-contextualized pages, with 200 pages of forwards, introductions, afterwards, and footnotes. Now that Dave Eggars is a Publisher, he should get in touch.
But in the case of Agape Agape, the Afterward is totally superfluous. The book was finished when Gaddis died, and I don't need to have that explained to me, nor do I care what Joseph Tabbi et. al. Think of it in the overall context of Gaddis' other novels or what it started out as or what Gaddis wanted it to achieve. It's 125 pages, and all of a piece, without section or chapter breaks, the perfect length for what is the most cohesive and affecting book the man ever wrote-the free-associations of a dying narrator who's afraid his lifelong goal to write the definitive history of the player piano will never come to fruition. Into this frenetic and breathless narrative, then, is woven...everything. What begins with the narrator's opinions concerning several aspects of the History and Future of Technology becomes a fictional autobiography the likes of which has rarely been achieved, cemented by the character's grasp of mortality and humanity, and by Gaddis' seamless and masterful narrative drive. He is ON.
This is a one or two-sitting book, and the reader will come away from it reeling. It's too brief for me to go into specifics, for the specifics are the book, the book is the plot-but if you've never read Gaddis, START HERE. And if you need to picture a Literary Precedent, think of Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, perhaps, or of the best shorter work by Camus or John Hawkes-but only think. Because this book suceeds where Gaddis' other novels drag in that it also makes you feel.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x990eb9d8) out of 5 stars A compressed delight 20 Oct. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An old man's Beckett-like disjointed rant is a forum for satisfyingly inconclusive and erudite musings on art, music, and individual inspiration in our "age of mechanical reproduction" and mass-market pandering. This small book is full of a wealth of crisscrossing themes. Unlike Gaddis's larger tomes, this is simply structured, has blistering forward momentum and can be read in a few hours. In prose alternately profound and profane, Gaddis has contrived a perfect device to exercise his lifelong preoccupations, creating an impassioned but infirm narrator whose very disorganization engagingly mocks the author and his sprawling subject. Parts are excruciatingly funny. This is a must-read if you're a Gaddis or Beckett or Thomas Bernhard or David Markson fan, or if you ponder the nature of art in this--or any other--age.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9929b5b8) out of 5 stars Everything you never wanted to ask because you were afraid one day he'd tell you 7 Feb. 2014
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the best place to start with William Gaddis, and yet, it's not.

On the odd chance that I'm writing this to someone who has wandered onto this page by accident and has no clue who Gaddis is (it's okay if you weren't aware of him previously, he's a tad obscure . . . but I'm still impressed you made it here somehow), he was a man known for writing lengthy, complex and erudite novels, so lengthy and complex that he only managed to write about five in his lifetime, of which this is one. Most of the others have something that would scare off the casual reader, whether it's because it's nine hundred pages ("The Recognitions"), completely comprised of dialogue ("JR" - probably my favorite and the best primer for writing dialogue as cacophony that still advances the narrative . . . just like real life) or uses mounds of legalese ("A Frolic of His Own") it's not that he intentionally made things difficult, it's just that he was going to do it his way and he really didn't care about waiting around to see if you were going to catch up.

He passed away in 1998, and this was published several years later. Its genesis lies in extensive notes that were taken over the years for a history of the player piano but have now been folded into an extended shifting stream of consciousness monologue from a dying writer who is sorting through the disposition of his property and boxes of information about player pianos that he's gathered over the years. There's no dialogue and only one paragraph so once it starts there's no stopping it, not unlike the raspy old man at the bar that twenty minutes into his long, rambling story you realize that everyone else has moved away and left you alone, it's just you and him. And honestly, he doesn't even really need you.

Its length makes its by far the most accessible of his works. Even if you simply power through it'll probably take a little over an hour or so to skim all ninety some odd pages. But there's no true narrative here, no real rising or falling action in the literal sense, and no momentum except for the ceaseless rhythm of a dying voice throwing everything against the wall in the hopes that something will stick and in that sticking won't get washed off right away. Its the sound of someone trying to leave a mark and realizing that everything blends into the color of oblivion eventually. The question is: is it worth trying? The fact that I just finished a ninety page rant suggests that perhaps it is.

People looking for a plot are going to be sorely disappointed but if you came here looking for convention you're definitely in the wrong place. The style comes across as Beckett mixed with Thomas Bernhard (who I've never read but is referenced here and in the helpful forward and afterword), never disjointed but choppy, shifting from one idea to another and then back again with all the speed of whiplash as the narrator rails against the dissolution of civilization, of creativity, of his own body, has imaginary conversations with the old writers and philosophers he admires, all coming at you in prose so tightly compressed that its not until you start looking up references and come up for air that you realize how much is packed in here. Its the sound of a man acutely aware of his mortality, aware that time is running out, and who isn't happy about it and will not accept it, and in that knowledge has become determined to cram in everything he ever thought important, to create something in a world where creativity has ceased to exist, where people are willing to simply plug in the machine and let it play the fruits of other peoples' labors. Art should inspire us to create more of our own, not allow us to simply sit back and passively admire it. In that sense it comes across as less cranky rant than muted scream, desperate to get people to pay attention when even he's lost the ability to even focus. Better people than me can tell you how autobiographical it all is, but you don't need to be an academic scholar to start seeing the parallels. It's not a last will and testament, it's a last ditch effort, and its all too aware of the odds.

It's an easy book to read but not an easy one to digest. The topics shift with all the hyperactivity of a toddler let loose in the Shiny Things Museum and in what has to be an unintentional homage to hip-hop, the narrative drops in quotes from the writers he admires, Bernhard and Tolstoy among others, often addressing their characters directly (Tolstoy gets referenced a lot, unfortunately for me just about every novel but "War and Peace", completely negating my pride at having finished that behemoth). It's the kind of work that becomes more meaningful when you understand the context of what he's referencing, and its almost designed to keep a certain Internet encyclopedia handy if you're so inclined. And if you're not the kind of person who immediately tries to look up stuff he's not familiar with in a work he's enjoying, its quite possible that William Gaddis isn't the author for you.

But even if you don't know your Tolstoy from your Toy Story, what comes across this work is both the passion and the desperation. He puts the invention of the player piano at the heart of everything that's gone wrong, separating people from each other and leaving it unnecessary to make art anymore. He comes across as acutely worried for the world that's to come, and while the specter of death circles the edges of the novel, it never becomes harrowing. He's frustrated that he can't get through and doesn't want to run out of time, but its us poor saps that get left behind that are in for it eventually. He'll be past all concerns. It shows how we're the culmination of all that matters to us, not only what we like but our dislikes as well, the proof that we don't do enough when we could do more. It attacks the spiraling fear that we could say all the best things, if we only had enough time, and lets us watch as he lays too slow, and all the rest remains out of reach. It's the kind of book where every page is the kind of page where you'd underline perfectly said phrases, spectacular in their improvised splatter, and all the more remarkable because they aren't improvised.

At least once per year it seems I read a work where an awareness of mortality lays as close as the condensation from our breath on the bathroom mirror. It's not a story as much as a channeling of one man's emotions about death and dying into a narrative where that nearness is omnipresent, while the author is aware that the slide he feels is the slide into the inevitable. It skirts along the honest edge without ever becoming pitying or maudlin but lays out all the rancor and fear, all the missed opportunities and the hope. It snarls without teeth because that's what you do when you've poured it all in and have nothing left and makes it even more surprising when you look down and see the bite marks. It's everything he ever did and would have done, compressed until its black and hard and impossible to shatter, and departs while daring. It walks with us right up to the border of all things and pauses just long enough to look back and say "I've done all I can, now what can do you do?" before vanishing into a place where only immortality goes. It begs us to do something other than disintegrate and if you think that's not possible, know that there is success and there is proof. Here. Here it is. It has no weight. And it'll last as long as words do.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x99639ca8) out of 5 stars A bit of posthumous genius 1 Sept. 2008
By Steve - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
William Gaddis will never be an American literary icon on the order of Hemingway or Faulkner, it's fair to say. His novels, written in a fractured, stream-of-conscious hybrid of dialogue and interior monologue, are full of obscure allusions, facts and figures, and in true postmodern glee, often defy thematic description. I found "A Frolic of His Own" to be an absolute riot (maybe because I'm a lawyer)--it was too long, for sure, but smart and true as the best satires are.

This interesting little book has a lot to say about the state of Art in the Age of Technology. Unapologetically elitist, the moribund narrator illustrates how the democratization of art (best exemplified, for Gaddis, by the invention of the player piano) has transformed the genius of creation into little more than a spectator sport. Poking fun at the Pulitzers (the only purpose of which, he observes, is to proclaim the recipient fit for bourgeois consumption), the narrator breathes a sigh of relief on behalf of Pulitzer-less Thomas Pynchon, while commiserating with John Kennedy Toole on his posthumous receipt of the prize. Gaddis bewails a world where every four year old with a computer is considered an artist and sounds a note of gratitude (of which self-gratitude is almost certainly a part) for those who toil in the sweat and anonymity of true creation.

For those disgusted by the Hollywood mentality that exalts the mainstream at the expense of the maverick, that assesses quality in the language of capitalism, this sly little book provides a welcome critique, nurturing the inner elitist in us all.
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