Now recognized as one of the giants of postwar American fiction, William Gaddis shunned the spotlight during his life, which makes this collection of his letters a revelation. Beginning in 1930, when Gaddis was at boarding school, and ending in September 1998, a few months before his death, these letters function as a kind of autobiography and are all the more valuable because he was not an autobiographical writer. Here we see him forging his first novel, The Recognitions
, while living in Mexico; fighting in a revolution in Costa Rica; and working in Spain, France, and North Africa. Over the next twenty years he struggles to find time to write the National Book Award–winning J R
amid the complications of work and family; deals with divorce and disillusionment before reviving his career with Carpenter’s Gothic
; then teaches himself enough about the law to indite A Frolic of His Own
, which earned him another National Book Award. Returning to a topic he first wrote about in the 1940s, he finishes his last novel, Agapē Agape
, as he is dying.