a. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975 (simultaneous cloth & paper editions) 3 cloth printings
b. London: Jonathan Cape, 1976 (simultaneous cloth & paper editions, with corrections appearing in  U.S. edition of 1985.
c. New York: Penguin, July 1985
d. London: Penguin, January 1986
e. New York: Penguin, 1993 (with introduction by Frederick R. Karl)

annotations with scene outline
scenes 1 - 10 | pp. 3 - 59    
 scenes 11 - 20 | pp. 59 - 149   
scenes 21 - 30 | pp. 149 - 194
scenes 31--40 | pp. 194 - 251
scenes 41--50 | pp. 251--352
scenes 51 - 60 | pp. 352 - 449
scenes 61 - 70 | pp. 449 - 580
scenes 71 - 83 | pp. 580 - 726
scene outline only

Twenty years after his first novel, and after twenty years of working for the government and big business, Gaddis produced his highly acclaimed second; the prize-winning J R, another huge book of 726 pages containing very little except dialogue. A number of critics have said that this is the novel which comes closest to catching the varieties of spoken American English, while another has called it “the greatest satirical novel in American literature”.  The first line of the novel gives us its theme:  “- Money...?”. J R is a satire on corporate America and tells the story of the eleven-year-old schoolboy JR Vansant who builds an enormous economic empire from his school's public phone booth, an empire that touches everyone in the novel, just as money - the getting of it, worry about the lack of it, the desire for it - shapes a great deal of the characters’ waking and dreaming lives.  Through conversations, letters and telephone calls, we come to understand what Marx called “the distorting power of money”, how all value under capitalism is transformed into economic value.  The novel lays before us in immense detail, in the very grain of the human voice, the alienation that is part and parcel of a world in which our innermost feelings have been commodified and where money has become fetishized; rather than it being simply a medium of exchange, a means to an end, money has become an object of desire for its own sake, an outward sign of success and power.  The novel draws on a huge range of social and economic thinkers from Marx, a phrase of whose hangs over the entrance to JR's school, to Max Weber, George Simmel and George Bernard Shaw, whose interpretation of Wagner's Ring as an allegory of the rise of capitalism is central to J R.

The novel is far more than a tissue of references to other works, however.  The way in which JR’s growing paper empire impinges on the lives of the other characters allows Gaddis to explore a number of themes that will be familiar from his first novel. Around the central figure of JR are educators, writers and musicians and through their greed and need we see how human relationships are torn asunder and how artistic creativity is stunted or dissipated. J R is an epic work and the second indisputable masterpiece Gaddis has contributed to post-war American fiction.

 from William Gaddis:  Life & Work  by Peter Dempsey
 to complete essay

Related materials

J R Cast of Characters
by several hands, and being revised

J R: music on the soundtrack
with sound clips

Stop Player.  Joke No. 4
by William Gaddis

Walter Benjamin
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
JR Goes to Washington 
by William Gaddis
Agapé Agape 
by Jack Gibbs/William Gaddis

about Josiah Willard Gibbs
a general introduction
about his work
and a commemorative stamp issued, with a larger image of the block.

about Norbert Wiener
quotations from Wiener's
The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society

about Hermann Broch
an essay on "The Sleepwalkers:"
"The Sleepwalkers" review by Klaus Modick
German review of "The Sleepwalkers"
mentioning Gaddis and J R

Articles & essays
His Master's Voice:
On William Gaddis's JR
Patrick J. O'Donnell

What Work They Do and
What It Does To Them:
Alienation in JR

by Anja Zeidler

The 'Protestant Epic’ and the 'Spirit of Capitalism’: A Few Thoughts on Max Weber and Gaddis' Novel JR
by Anja Zeidler

Preface by Steven Moore
to the Chinese translation of J R

A parody
Writer & critic at play: William Gaddis & Gregory Comnes
Life imitates art
The case of Jonathan Lebed, 
a teenager investor strikingly similar
to the character JR