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Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: April 4, 2023
The Letters of William GaddisRevised Edition
by William Gaddis, edited by Steven Moore, afterword by Sarah Gaddis
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 also reveal the extent to which he drew upon events in his life for his fiction. Here we see him forging his first novel, The Recognitions (1955), 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 (1975) amid the complications of work and family; deals with divorce and disillusionment before reviving his career with Carpenter’s Gothic (1985); then teaches himself enough about the law to produce A Frolic of His Own (1994). Resuming his lifelong obsession with mechanization and the arts, he finishes a last novel, Agapē Agape (published in 2002), as he lies dying.
This newly revised edition includes clarifying notes by Gaddis scholar Steven Moore, as well as an afterword by the author’s daughter, Sarah Gaddis.
PraiseIn these letters, Gaddis praises readers who simply appreciate how entertaining, how funny, his richly allusive novels can be. . . . [I]f you’re a Gaddis devotee, you should definitely acquire this superbly edited collection of his letters.
—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
Gaddis’ letters make for remarkable, stimulating reading. . . . These letters will surely be rewarding for those who have found common cause with Gaddis’ novels, and they should be read by anyone who seriously cares about being a writer or understanding the struggles of the true artist in a capitalist society.
—Veronica Esposito, Barnes and Noble Review
A welcome book for those of us who want to learn of the financial, legal, and marital challenges Gaddis faced while writing what is without question some of the most profound – if still seldom read – literature of the 20th century.
—Andrew Ervin, The Philadelphia Inquirer
The most interesting early letters are those in which the would-be novelist practices his voice. It is touching to discover that Gaddis, whose writerly authority is so pronounced and unassailable in the novels, had in fact to struggle for his style. . .
—Len Gutkin, Los Angeles Review of Books
[T]he Letters constitute a telling self-portrait, one that reads like a powerful if admittedly difficult (that word again!) novel, in which much of the action takes place outside of the narrative proper.
—Justin Taylor, Observer
The publication of The Letters of William Gaddis is significant because it presents the first direct and unveiled access to this ‘reclusive’ author. . .
—Emmett Stinson, Sydney Review of Books
Publication Date: April 4, 2023