|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
Pages 222-77; December 1949
The same afternoon as the preceding chapter, Fuller, Recktall Brown's black servant, is walking the dog and once more buys a train ticket in an effort to escape Brown's domination. Upon returning, Brown asks him to surrender the ticket (Fuller had given himself away earlier by asking if "they use United States of America money in a place called Utica" ). Brown returns his attention to Basil Valentine, an art critic who works with him by first doubting (in print), then authenticating Brown's commissioned forgeries. (Brown has just picked up Wyatt's old Memling imitation, thinking it original.) Valentine has come to meet Wyatt and to propose his next forgery. When Wyatt does arrive he soon finds in Valentine someone more sensitive to the implications of forgery than Brown; Valentine is likewise intrigued by Wyatt, and between the two a cautious rapport develops. In the course of the conversation Valentine questions the authenticity of the Bosch table in Brown's possession, knowing that Brown will have it checked out, after which Valentine will replace it with a copy and send the original "back to Europe where it belongs" (688-89) - apparently this has been his practice with others of Brown's works. (This is the genuine Bosch painting Wyatt stole from his father and sold to Brown years before.)
Valentine's plan is for Wyatt to forge a work by Hubert van Eyck, Jan van Eyck's shadowy older brother - an Annunciation that Wyatt never does actually paint. After their meeting, Valentine and Wyatt share a cab (almost running over Mr. Pivner, Otto's father, to be introduced in the next chapter). They part ways, and Wyatt unexpectedly runs into John, a fellow divinity student (he meets him for the second time; the first was on p. 115, almost two years earlier). Both duck into a bar, where John tells Wyatt about his father, still regaling his congregation with pagan parallels to Christianity.
Back at his Horatio Street studio, Esme has come to model for Wyatt, only to find she is not needed. After she reads aloud from the Brothers Grimm (in German), however, Wyatt sees in her the lines of completion needed for the portrait of his mother he began fifteen years earlier, and he plans to use the face in his next painting (which Valentine calls a Stabat Mater). A moment of intimacy is suggested: Esme puts her arms around Wyatt's shoulders, but he suddenly straightens up and dismisses her. Esme goes home, injects herself with heroin, and tries to write some poetry. Failing to come up with anything of her own, she begins writing the opening lines of Rilke's first Duino Elegy, only to be interrupted by an unidentified knock at the door.
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