|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions|
I.5 pp. pages 169-187
169.epigraph] America is the country of young men. - Emerson: from the essay "Old Age" in Society and Solitude (1870). The first edition of R has "a country," which is how the line is misquoted in ODQ.
169.20] When Buddha Smiles: 1921 song by Arthur Freed (words) and Nacio Herb Brown and King Zany (Jack Dill)(music); a best-selling record for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.
170.18] Academic Festival Overture by Tschaikovsky: see 174.6.
171.26] brachycephalic: referring to a short or broad head.
174.6] Academic Festival by Brahms: opus 80 (1880) by German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-97), a short, popular piece.
174.8] Clair [...] Claude, Debussy [...] dunfon: two of French composer Claude Debussy's (1862-1918) more famous compositions are "Clair de lune" and "Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune."
175.20] L'Ame d'un Chantier [...] The soul of a singer: incorrect, as is "the Worker's Soul" (185.33). Chantier means workplace; "singer" would be chanteur; "worker" would be travailleur. Possibly a pun on L'Ame enchantée, literally, Charmed Soul, a very long novel in four parts (1922-1933) by French writer Romain Rolland (1866-1944); chantier is also French slang for "a shambles" or "a wreck," and so the title could most accurately be translated as The Soul of a Wreck. [Jean-Paul Mourlon]
175.42] Uccello: Paolo Uccello (1397-1475), Florentine painter. His famous Battle of San Romano illustrates his use of solids.
176.29] The Joy of Cooking: the ever-popular cookbook by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, first published in 1931 - probably the only cookbook to begin with an epigraph from Goethe's Faust.
176.43] Agnes Deigh: Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God") is Christ's sacrificial title in the Mass (see 643.39).
177.6] "Publish and be damned," the Duke of Wellington said: his attributed response to Harriette Wilson, a courtesan who threatened to publish her memoirs and a number of Wellington's compromising letters to her (ODQ).
177.8] "Trade ye no mere moneyed art": a well-known palindrome (a phrase that reads the same backward as forward) and, as Eric Mottram points out in his short entry on Gaddis in The Penguin Companion to World Literature ("American Literature" 103), a major theme of R itself.
177.11] Shelley did drink laudanum: a liquid form of opium, ostensibly for medicinal purposes; its misuse was a fairly common "vice" in nineteenth-century England.
177.12] Swinburne: Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), English poet and man of letters, notorious for his dissipated lifestyle.
177.14] la noyée de la Seine: Fr.: "the drowned girl of the Seine" - also known as "La Belle inconnue de la Seine" - a deathmask, perhaps fraudulent, popular in the late nineteenth century.
177.23] Guy de Maupassant [...] Marie Bashkirtseff: young Marie Bashkirtseff, the animated and talented daughter of Russian aristocracy, was living in Paris in 1884 as an artist when she impulsively decided to write to French author Guy de Maupassant (1850-93), then at the height of his fame. They exchanged a dozen or so letters over a month's time; hers were ebullient and volatile, his intrigued but cautious: "I kept saying to myself all the time: Is it a masked woman who is amusing herself, or a simple joker?" - therefore: "I mask myself among masked people. It is straight fighting" (letter dated 22 April 1884, in I Kiss Your Hands: The Letters of Guy de Maupassant and Marie Bashkirtseff [London: Rodale, 1954], 40). In his final letter Maupassant suggests they meet; she apparently never replied, they never met, and by October of that year she was dead.
177.30] Thomas à Becket: see 911.19.
177.31] à Kempis [...] Imitation of Christ: this famous fifteenth-century religious treatise on contemplation is commonly ascribed to Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471), though other candidates for the authorship of the influential mystical work have been suggested.
177.33] Handel plagiarized [...] finally stricken blind: the EB article on Handel has a subsection devoted to this subject (11:146-47), where it is also noted that Handel did indeed finally go blind.
177.43] the Negro of the Narcissus: from Joseph Conrad's 1897 novella The Nigger of the "Narcissus."
178.1] Fourteenth Street: the northern limit of Greenwich Village.
178.10] Mister Six-sixty-six: see 499.17.
178.32] Modernism heresy: Catholic Modernism was an attempt by certain progressives to bring their church out of the dark ages and more in line with modern scientific and humanistic trends of thought. Pope Pius X declared it a heresy in 1907.
179.30] The Trees of Home: fictitious.
180.28] Proust [...] Odette: in French novelist Marcel Proust's monumental A la recherche du temps perdu (1912-22), Odette de Crécy is the paramour of Charles Swann, later the wife of de Forcheville, and finally the mistress of the duc de Guermantes. Critics have debated whether Proust did indeed do as Herschel suggests, not so much with Odette as with Albertine later in the novel. Gaddis comments: "I recall hearing Ch[ristopher]. Isherwood did the same in 'Prater Violet'" (WG/SM; Gaddis also told me he had not read A la recherche beyond its "overture").
182.5] Léger: Fernand Léger (1881-1955), French painter whose work displays a great faith in modern technology.
182.5] Chagall: Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Russian-born French painter, noted for his melancholic treatment of Russian and Jewish themes.
182.7] Soutine: Chaim Soutine (1894-1943), Lithuanian painter, like Chagall a Jewish émigré artist in Paris.
182.29] "Ils vont prendre le train [...] de huit heures": "They will take the eight o'clock train": line 11 of T. S. Eliot's French poem "Lune de Miel," concerning an American couple honeymooning in Europe.
182.30] Stanley: "I don't believe his name had any specific source or reason" - WG/SM.
182.44] Praxiteles [...] as Cicero says of Prax . . .: see 124.6.
183.37] psychoanaloser: discounting Joyce's influence, WG wrote Grace Eckley, "No I did not read FINNEGANS WAKE though I think a phrase about 'psychoanaloosing' one's self from it is in THE RECOGNITIONS" (letter dated 3 June 1975). In Finnegans Wake, Yawn tells his questioners, "I can psoakoonaloose myself any time I want" (New York: Viking, 1939, 522). Anselm repeats the Joyce pun at 453.31.
183.40] Justine: extravagant pornophilosophical novel (1791; rev. 1797) by the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) concerning a young woman who stubbornly clings to virtue as an ideal despite its impracticality in the real world. The incident described by Anselm below is one of many degradations Justine endures as the prisoner of a group of depraved monks: see The Complete Justine, trans. Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse (New York: Grove, 1965), 613.
184.6] Malthus: in his Essay on the Principles of Population (1798), Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) argued that crime, disease, war, and vice were necessary checks on population growth. In the second edition (1803), responding to criticism, he added that moral restraint may be a fifth check, but he remained pessimistic about human progress.
184.16] Roland: after leaving the monastery and suffering sundry misadventures, Justine rescues a nobleman named Roland, who had been attacked on the road. In feigned gratitude he offers her a servant's position at his castle, but once there he enslaves her and forces on her a variety of "odious eccentricities" (The Complete Justine, 667-91; the crucifix Anselm describes is on p. 673). Roland, appropriately enough for R, is a counterfeiter as well.
185.1] Phryne: see 73.19. She is said to have been the model for Praxiteles' Cnidian Venus: illustrated in EB (vol. 10, opposite p. 811).
185.23] "Seated one day at the organ," [...] "weary and ill at ease": the opening lines of the once-popular poem "The Lost Chord" (1858) by Adelaide Anne Procter (1825-64); quoted in ODQ.
185.32] Constable: John Constable (1776-1837), one of the two (with Turner) greatest English landscape painters of the nineteenth century. See 623.8 ff for Max's use of Constable.
186.1] Modigliani: Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), regarded by many as the most important Italian painter of the twentieth century. He worked exclusively with the human figure and was successful in sculpture as well.
186.19] Gabrieli: see 322.11.
186.33] Henry James [...] a few grave, rigid laws": expressing his enthusiasm for dramatic form, James wrote in a review of Tennyson's Queen Mary:
The five-act drama . . . is like a box of fixed dimensions and inelastic material, into which a mass of precious things are to be packed away. . . . The precious things in question seem out of all proportion to the compass of the receptacle; but the artist has an assurance that with patience and skill a place may be made for each, and that nothing need be clipped or crumpled, squeezed or damaged. . . . To work beneath a few grave, rigid laws is always a strong man's highest ideal of success.
The ellipses are those of Morris Roberts, who quotes the passage in his introduction to The Art of Fiction and Other Essays by Henry James (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948), xvi-xvii. (Since James's original review "is not readily accessible," Gaddis probably used this source) The complete text of "Tennyson's Drama" can be found in James's Views and Reviews, ed. Le Roy Phillips (Boston: Ball, 1908).
187.6] The Sound and the Fury [...] Faulkner's novel: 1929 work noted for its experimental narrative techniques (derived from Joyce's Ulysses). Gaddis told me this is the only Faulkner novel he had ever read.
187.22] Cézanne: Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), French painter, considered by some (like Clive Bell) to be the greatest painter of the nineteenth century and the father of modern art.
187.40] a limerick about Titian: Tiziano Vecellio, called Titian (1488?-1576), one of the greatest Venetian painters of his time. "We all study with Titian," Wyatt will say later (872.18). The limerick runs:
Titian was mixing rose-madder