I'd seen references to The Recognitions
in so many places that I really felt like I should read it. According to this
it is "a unique and influential novel, a pivotal work that makes connections between Modernism and what has come to be called Postmodernism, both as a literary style and as a philosophical position" and who am I to disagree.
It features a large cast of characters, some of whom are detailed, but many of whom seemed to pop up occasionally to get me a little confused. They are mostly in New York, and the novel is about things pretending to be what they're not... fakes of master paintings, forged money, mistaken identity, people lying about their past and talents and skills. It's peppered with references to biblical and classical tales that were a bit over my head, but made me feel like I was reading something ever-so worthy.
The book is 1000 pages long, and took me over 100 pages to get into it. And the last 200 pages or so became a bit of a drag, but it is often worth the effort. There are some great passages and turns of phrase, and Gaddis is wonderful at creating an atmosphere by dropping overhead background conversation among the main action. His several descriptions of parties that descend from civilized chit-chat to complete chaos are great, including one that finishes
"[the party] broke up and spread itself, in couples and threes and figures of stumbling loneliness, into the streets, into doorways, they all went into the dark repeating themselves and preparing to meet one another, to reassemble, rehearse their interchangeable disasters; and the place looked like a kingodm stricken by papal anathema, as when Philippe Auguste, cunning pitiless monarch of France, was excommunicated for marrying Agnes while his wife Ingeborg still lived, and in his kingdom under the interdict there was neither baptism, marriage, nor burial, and corpses rotted on the high road."