|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
II.7 pp. pages 568-605
568.epigraph] We will now discuss [...] Origin of Species: from ODQ; cf. 626.27-30.
568.1] that convent [...] that was turned into a madhouse: the location of Claas Sluter's (fl. 1385-404) sculpture Puits de Moďse, discussed by Conway (VEF 30), who heard the cries of madmen when visiting the sculpture.
568.17] Handel [...] The Triumph of Truth and Justice: that is, The Triumph of Time and Truth, an oratorio. (The man is perhaps confusing Handel's oratorio with Superman's "never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.")
569.14] Renaults [...] An original?: the automobile is confused with the painter Georges Rouault (1871-1958). A similar gag appears at 940.25.
569.21] Murti-Bing: "The Pill of Murti-Bing" is the title of the first chapter of Czeslaw Milosz's The Captive Mind (trans. Jane Zielonko [New York: Knopf, 1953]). Gaddis informed me it first "appeared as 'The Happiness Pill' in Partisan Review Sept-Oct 1951 which must be where I saw it. Milosz is describing a 1932 novel of Witkiewicz titled INSATIABILITY with which I'm not familiar" (WG/SM). Milosz describes his fellow Pole's dystopian novel (actually published in 1930; an English translation appeared in 1977) as follows:
Milosz compares those who embrace communism - especially intellectuals - to Witkiewicz's Murti-Bing addicts.
570.12] a fluttering blond boy who [...] resembled an oeuf-dur-mayonnaise: sounds like Truman Capote.
570.39] Edna St. Vincent Millay: (1892-1950), American poet. Arnold Genthe's well-known photograph of her "posing with magnolias" is now at the Museum of Modern Art.
571.10] Pyramus and Thisbe: famous thwarted lovers, recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses, travestied in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.
571.35] Ruskin [...] a book about stones: John Ruskin (1819-1900), prominent English art critic, author of The Stones of Venice (1851-53). He dated his "entry into life" from his first sight of the Alps (VEF 60-61).
572.17] barber's son who had learned to play on a dumb spinet: according to EB (11:143), Handel was the son of a barber-surgeon and learned to play on a clavichord smuggled into his attic.
575.1] Jupiter Symphony: Mozart's forty-first (and last) symphony (1788). (Coincidentally, it is playing on the radio at Brown's party, which is taking place at the same time as Esther's: see 655.13.)
575.22] Goering's: Hermann Göring (1893-1946), a high-ranking member of Hitler's Third Reich.
576.26] Yaddo: a mansion in Saratoga Springs, New York, since 1926 a working place for invited writers and other artists.
577.10] Victor Hugo wanting the whole city of Paris renamed for him: Carnegie cites this as an example of how various people "got their feeling of importance" (HWF 2.2).
579.21] player pianos: the subject of an essay Gaddis wrote in 1946, a portion of which was published "'Stop Player. Joke No. 4'" ( Atlantic Monthly, July 1951). Gaddis's lifelong interest in the cultural implications of player pianos resulted in his final, posthumous work, Agapē Agape.
580.9 Doukhobor dress ... Tolstoy: the Doukhobors were a Russian Christian sect whom Tolstoy befriended; he donated the profits from his final novel Resurrection to them.
580.13] Bathysiderodromophobia: this seems to mean "deep-iron-road-fear," that is, a fear of subways: see 618.8-9.
580.34] What's he to Hecuba: marveling at an actor's identification with his role, Hamlet asks: "What's Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba, / That he should weep for her?" (2.2.585-86).
581.20] Seven Pillars of Wisdom: T. E. Lawrence's (1888-1935) lengthy account of the Arab revolt against the Turks and his own adventures as "Lawrence of Arabia." It was edited by his friend Bernard Shaw and is somewhat indebted to Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta (43.13), for which Lawrence wrote an introduction (see 405.31 ff.).
581.28] lost horizon: title of a popular novel by English writer James Hilton (1900-54).
583.37] Nearer My God to Thee: well-known hymn (PH #200), words by Sarah Flower Adams.
584.11] James Leak [...] With Gun and Camera in Flatbush and Greenpoint: fictitious.
584.19] Charles Reade: (1814-82), English novelist, best known for his medieval romance The Cloister and the Hearth (1861).
584.20] George Borrow: see 892.11.
584.28] Ischia: island resort off Naples, favored at that time by homosexuals.
585.18] The Great Elopement: like The Gods Go A-Begging (600.26), a suite of Handel's music arranged by English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham.
590.44] a play by Silone called And He Hid Himself: Ignazio Silone (1900-78), anti-fascist Italian writer, best known for his novel Bread and Wine. Inspired by that novel, And He Hid Himself (Ed Egli Si Nascose, 1945) concerns a leftist agitator in Mussolini's Italy named Murica who betrays his comrades to the police. He develops a "horror of impunity" and, after years of disbelief, begins yearning for the existence of God. "If I finally decided to confess everything," he tells the leftist leader who threatens to kill him, "taking no thought of the consequences, it was with the deliberate and clear-cut intent of setting up order once again between the world and myself, of restoring the ancient boundary between good and evil, without which I couldn't go on living any more" (trans. Darina Tranquilli [New York: Harper Bros., 1945], 100). Murica rejoins his comrades, is arrested by the police, and dies from their brutality (with heavy crucifixion imagery), but whose death mobilizes the peasants for further resistance.
593.4] "A magnet hung in a hardware shop": "a silly song from gilbert & sullivan," says Jack Green (51). See Patience, act 2.
593.44] faggot [...] Greek phagein: the Greek etymology is more ingenious than plausible. "Faggot," which began as a contemptuous term for a woman, is thought to have become associated with gay men either because "fags" (British slang for cigarettes) favored by gays were considered effeminate by cigar and pipe smokers when first introduced at the end of World War I, or from "fag," meaning a boy servant or lackey in the British school system.
594.11] I Can't Give You Anything But Love: 1926 song by Dorothy Fields (words) and Jimmy McHugh (music), featured in several films of the 1930s and 1940s. Cf. 523.33.
594.15] Enthousiazein [...] spirit of God: cf. de Rougemont's discussion of Platonic love (LWW 55):
594.28] I never wanted to see him [...] I have to see him: "dialogue that echoes Edward in [Eliot's play] The Cocktail Party," commented James J. Stathis in his review of the Meridian R in Critique (5 : 92).
596.28] Harmonious Blacksmith: popular name for the air and variations from Handel's harpsichord suite no. 5 (1720).
597.10] Frothingham's Aratos: American theologian and writer Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham's (1793-1870) verse translation of the Phenomena of Aratos, quoted earlier at 6.29-30. Frothingham's translation is included in his Metrical Pieces, Translated and Original (1855).
599.4] Nietzsche [...] "the melancholia of things completed": section 277 of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil translates: "It is too bad! Always the old story! When a man has finished building his house, he finds that he has learnt unawares something which he ought absolutely to have known before he - began to build. The eternal, fatal 'Too late!' The melancholia of everything completed!"
599.20] killing the one thing you . . . love: see 464.41.
599.32] negation [...] the Eternal No: Stanley has it backward: Nietzsche (especially in Antichrist) says Christianity is the Eternal No and the embodiment of negation.
600.12] Einstein [...] Epstein [...] Gertrude: cf. this anonymous limerick: "There's a wonderful family called Stein, / There's Gert and there's Epp and there's Ein; / Gert's poems are bunk, / Epp's statues are junk, / And no one can understand Ein." "Epp" is American-born British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959); Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) will be alluded to later (757.41).
600.15] Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty: states that any observation of a system inevitably disturbs the system under observation. It was formulated in relation to the measurement of atomic systems by German physicist Werner Heisenberg (1901-76).
600.20] "a little lower than the angels" [...] That was Pope: Alexander Pope's couplet "What would this Man? now upward will he soar, / And little less than Angel would be more" (Essay on Man, 1:173-74) is based on Ps. 8:4-5: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou has made him a little lower than the angels, and has crowned him with glory and honour."
600.29] Handel. The Gods Go A-Begging: see 585.18.
600.40] the interior castle: title (El castillo interior, 1583) of a famous mystical treatise by Saint Teresa of Avila, considered by many to be her finest work (and cited occasionally in LWW). She envisions the soul as "a castle made of a single diamond [...] in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions."
601.3] Robert Maillart: (1872-1940), Swiss engineer and bridge designer. His Schwandbach Bridge is featured on pp. 90-91 of Max Bill's Robert Maillart (1949; trans. W. P. M. Keatinge Clay [New York: Praeger, 1969]).
604.33] A dreadful crime she did commit [...] Black beetles in walnut shells: from the ballad: “Mary Arnold, The Female Monster”
(Geoffrey Grigson, The Penguin Book of Ballads, #101, pp. 313-314) Also see: http://www.staggernation.com/msb/mary_arnold_the_female_monster.php
605.22] Fedya [...] Tolstoy's Redemption [...] hate them for the harm: Fedya, separated from his wife Lisa, fakes a suicide to leave her free to marry a childhood sweetheart. He relates the story in a bar (2.1: the scene from which Feddle quotes), where he is overheard and arrested. Learning at his trial that either exile or an annulment of Lisa's second marriage will occur, Fedya shoots himself.
The play's Russian title, Zhivoi trup (1900), is properly translated The Living Corpse; Redemption is the title Arthur Hopkins used when first producing the play in New York (1918); Gaddis's use of the latter title stresses the importance of redemption to his novel.