The Recognitions - Reception

Reception

The book was poorly received upon publication. Years later, Jack Green (Christopher Carlisle Reid) examined the initial 55 reviews in his essay Fire the Bastards! critiquing those critics: "Two of 55 reviews were adequate, the others were amateurish and incompetent, failing to recognize the greatness of the book, failing to convey to the reader what the book is like, what its essential qualities are, counterfeiting this with stereotyped preconceptions — the standard cliches about a book that is "ambitious," "erudite", "long," "negative," etc., counterfeiting competence with inhuman jargon." Presciently, Gaddis had already taken critics to task in his book, thus one of them responds when asked if he is reading a book that has the size, price, and appearance of The Recognitions: "No. I'm just reviewing it... A lousy twenty-five bucks. It'll take me the whole evening tonight. You didn't buy it, did you? Christ, at that price? Who the hell do they think's going to pay that much just for a novel. Christ, I could have given it to you, all I need is the jacket blurb to write the review." Green showed that the blurb made it into the reviews, indeed.

Over time, the work received not popularity, but gradual recognition. David Madden observed that "(a)n underground reputation has kept it on the brink of oblivion." Tony Tanner claimed that it inaugurated a new period in American fiction, adumbrating and sometimes directly influencing the work of later ambitious novelists such as Joseph McElroy, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and David Foster Wallace. Franzen, who compared it to a "huge landscape painting of modern New York, peopled with hundreds of doomed but energetic little figures, executed on wood panels by Brueghel or Bosch...," believes that the disappointing reception negatively affected Gaddis's future development as a novelist. Gaddis did not publish another novel for twenty years. Cynthia Ozick wrote that " The Recognitions is always spoken of as the most overlooked important work of the last several literary generations... Through the famous obscurity of The Recognitions, Mr. Gaddis has become famous for not being famous enough."

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Famous quotes containing the word reception:

    To the United States the Third World often takes the form of a black woman who has been made pregnant in a moment of passion and who shows up one day in the reception room on the forty-ninth floor threatening to make a scene. The lawyers pay the woman off; sometimes uniformed guards accompany her to the elevators.
    Lewis H. Lapham (b. 1935)

    Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind of reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.
    Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)

    He’s leaving Germany by special request of the Nazi government. First he sends a dispatch about Danzig and how 10,000 German tourists are pouring into the city every day with butterfly nets in their hands and submachine guns in their knapsacks. They warn him right then. What does he do next? Goes to a reception at von Ribbentropf’s and keeps yelling for gefilte fish!
    Billy Wilder (b. 1906)