You approach this immense book wondering whether you should have done a week of roadwork and calisthenics to get ready for it, and not just because of its more than 900-page length. Gaddis’ ferocious discontent with the world as he finds it and his daunting erudition make for a demanding read, but also a hugely rewarding one. Wyatt Gwyon is a forger. In the service of a crooked art dealer he expertly counterfeits Early Renaissance masterpieces. He longs to live in a more authentic time, one unlike his world of simulations, substitutes, impostures and pale resemblances. What Wyatt wants in every realm of life is the true antecedent, and he struggles across three decades and three continents in search of it. This is a serious book, but it’s also the highest of high comedies, full of outraged wit. It took decades for The Recognitions to be recognized as the masterpiece it is and as a book that inaugurated the great age of black humor in American fiction that would come into its own in the 1960’s with Pynchon, Vonnegut and Roth.
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