|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
Pages 281-342; Monday evening, 19 December-Wednesday morning, 21 December 1949.
At the end of his working day, Mr. Pivner leaves the office for his lonely apartment. There, after taking his insulin injection (for diabetes), he listens to the radio and obediently reads the news. (Among other things, he reads "of the discovery of two priceless art treasures, original paintings of Dierick Bouts, in a pawnshop in Hell's Kitchen"  - forgeries by Wyatt.) Mr. Pivner is excited because Otto has written to say he will call to arrange a meeting - unaccountably, Otto has never met his father - and he patiently awaits his son's call.
In her office the following afternoon, Agnes rejects Otto's manuscript, which she in fact never read. After he leaves, she sees from her window what appears to be "a case of malicious cruelty" (297) and reports it to the police, only to be informed later that Dr. Weisgall was "disciplining" his daughter and that the dentist may take legal action against her for his "unjust arrest" (555).
At the same time, Esme sits in her room, reading Stevenson's "Olalla" and brooding on Wyatt. Again she is interrupted by a knock on the door, this time by Chaby Sinisterra.
A despondent Otto leaves Agnes Deigh's office, passes Fuller, and goes to Esme's, where he finds Chaby - "still fastening his clothes when he knocked" (304). Chaby leaves and Otto takes Esme out to dinner at the Viareggio, "a small Italian bar of nepotistic honesty before it was discovered by exotics" (305). There they encounter Max, Anselm, Ed Feasley, and a few others from the earlier party (and someone who looks like Ernest Hemingway, who obligingly takes advantage of the resemblance). Otto calls his father to arrange a meeting, then leaves with Esme and Feasley for a drag ball in Harlem (which Agnes Deigh also attends). After this "Saturnalia" (329) breaks up, Ed and Otto go for a joyride; satisfying a whim of Feasley's, they stop at a hospital morgue and steal an amputated leg (formerly belonging to Stanley's mother). Otto thinks bitterly of delivering it to Edna Mims, a college girlfriend who now works for Recktall Brown and who, Otto discovered earlier in the evening, has slept with Max (who has also slept with Esther and Esme). But Otto reconsiders, and they decide to leave the leg with Stanley instead.
At dawn the next day, after a night watching over his mother at the hospital, Stanley is still awake. Hannah comes by needing a place to stay, and Stanley leaves her there to go to early Mass, where he unexpectedly encounters Agnes Deigh (who had fled there after the drag ball). Ed and Otto stop at Stanley's basement apartment and see Hannah through the window, and they assume Stanley has slept with her. At this point, though, Stanley has been taken home by Agnes, who tries to seduce him. He flees, leaving not his garment (like Joseph fleeing from Potiphar's wife) but his glasses.
The insomniacal Basil Valentine, also awake at dawn, decides to visit Wyatt. On the way he is disturbed by the drunk who had been present at John and Wyatt's last meeting. Having worked through the night, Wyatt shows Valentine the newly finished (and newly damaged) Death of the Virgin, but confesses his doubts about continuing with forgery. Wyatt had hidden fragments of his previous forgeries at Esther's apartment the night before (328), but he agrees to Valentine's suggestion to store them with him instead.
Stanley, returning from Agnes Deigh's, encounters Valentine in a subway returning from Wyatt's; after a woman exposes herself to them both, he also encounters the same drunk Valentine had met. He finally collapses with exhaustion into his own bed - Hannah has left by now - as the drunk commits a "nuisance" in the open window above Stanley's face.