A Frolic of His Own Paperback – 29 Jun 1995
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Not so in this book. The transitions between dialogue and description seem more refined; there wasn't nearly as much confusion for me in this book as there was in his other books - very little "so who's talking now? and who's this character?"
Since those hurdles were much lower, I could actually enjoy what makes Gaddis enjoyable - he's hilarious. He's bitter and mean and almost always absolutely right. And it isn't like swallowing a cup of bile on every page because you can tell that, beneath all of his disgust with the way things are, there's an undercurrent of well-reasoned humanity and hope for the way things ought to be.
The only thing that keeps this review from being a 5 is the rather tedious excerpts from the play. They have thematic resonances and all that literary garbage but, frankly, when I go back to reread the book (and it's just as funny when you read it again - and you find more and more stuff, which is the mark of a great book) I usually skip over those sections.
It's a shame that so few people can get past the challenge of his style (I always see rows of barely creased Gaddis tomes in used book stores) because those who can settle into his rhythms will enjoy this book a whole lot.
An amazing book. Gaddis truly listened to how we speak and interact with each other, because his dialogue is absolutely spot on with how we humans/Americans speak to each other in a familiar manner. While there are no truly sympathetic characters (all are pretentious and selfish in a way we all know far too well), one can't help but feel empathy towards each of them in some sordid way. The plot has been outlined in other reviews, so I won't go there, other than to say that just when you think Gaddis is off on some tangent and you feel a lack of cleverness in having not "got it", he brings it right back around, front and center, although it may not be where you thought it was going to be.
Unlike criticisms of The Recognitions, and even JR, which suggest too much plot, too many charachters, and many loose ends (not necessarily true), this is a tightly, albeit densely, plotted book that is at times laugh out loud funny and other times head in the oven sad. But at all times it challenges and is truly entertaining and wonderful. Maybe the best book I've ever read.
The book is certainly not an easy read (with no quotation marks, and everyone annoyingly interrupting each other and not finishing sentences), and it takes 50-100 pages to learn how to read the book without getting too bogged down. But this is ultimately a brilliant work, and I recommend that any lawyer or professor or student interested in the field will ultimately get a lot out of it.
-Edward Samuels, author of The Illustrated Story of Copyright
The book follows a motley cast of characters, none of them really likeable, but unswervingly human (and might I say American) if a tad over the top in obsessive behavior. But literature should stretch the human condition a bit to make characters interesting, especially when the goal is satire. The main character, Oscar Crease, is involved in a few lawsuits, the main one being a dispute over a play he wrote that may or may not have been stolen for a big budget Hollywood film.
I am truly not worthy to try to discuss the myriad facets of law, philosophy, literary value, and general twists the book takes, but I will say on finishing this novel I was consistently amazed at how Gaddis fills the characters with depth and turns the story in new ways.
If you haven't gleaned it already from the other reviews, Gaddis writes in a style that is almost all dialogue. Whatever is not dialogue turns into a kind of stream of consciousness prose that takes us from one scene into another, and really doesn't do more to describe action than what the dialogue already does. There are no quotation marks, no "he said's" or "she said's", and no identification of characters except occasional name dropping--you have to know who is speaking through the mannerism and word choice. And really, it only takes about 20 pages to get into the swing of things, and when you start reading it as though you were in the middle of the conversation the book really flows.
Also, Gaddis throws in some legal briefs, a couple of acts of a play, and a deposition--but don't be scared off by the legal jargon and change of style, because when you stick with it you realize in the middle of these events you are getting a glimpse into the ridiculousness of the whole issue and you can see the true humor of the situations.
Highly recommended if you like some originality and unique qualities to your literature. Plus it's just genuinely interesting and funny.