—Reading Proust is an experience. In unassigned dialogue, William Gaddis writes, probably recognizing what it would be like to read his 956 page novel “The Recognitions”. A novel that demands not just the time of the reader, but requires them to to figure out who is talking, which “he” is speaking to which “she”, to wade through the ambiguities of the book, to discard characters and welcome new characters, whom only through faith you know will matter and intertwine with the rest of the characters. In the simplest explanation, the plot is a Faustian tale of a preacher’s son, a mind bogged in orthodox religion and the pagan routes and parallels to Christianity, who fails to gain attention for his own paintings and begins creating new works by great painters (which had somehow remained undiscovered) with the help of a gangster until his bargain turns against him, or he against it, and like Eve biting the apple and discovering consciousness becomes a whole human. By page 148 Wyatt, the counterfeit painter, is not the focus of the story, but his wife, whom he abandons, and their friend, Otto, a young would-be playwright who becomes, Esther’s, Wyatt’s wife, lover. Then the story moves on to Otto returning from working in Central America (including a hilarious scene where looking for the draft of his play, explains to the Spanish speaking help that he is looking for his “la playa”, and they don’t understand how he lost a beach in his room!) where most of the novels characters are introduced, mostly 1950’s vaguely Beat-like  Lower East Siders, or Greenwich Village people, who speak of their books, poetry, paintings and works they’ve done (where Gaddis writes random unassigned party dialogue that would make most artistically knowledgeable people cringe at their past drunken statements on artists and their works) and the reader hears of Esther, trying to find a doctor for an abortion, and the reader sees references to Wyatt through Esme, a model/poet/junky/schizoid, who smells of lavender that Wyatt uses as a medium to recreate his 17th century paintings. The book continues, introducing characters, and dropping the arc of the previous focused character right before a concrete and final scene, making the reader almost reach completion, and want more. Small references in each area bring light to old characters. Though the prose is wild with long sentences that ramble from myth, to description, to only description in dialogue, to pure ambiguity that only the reader could guess at—but Gaddis uses great selection with the details that he does give. The ambiguity is what drives the reader to continue, to know what happened to Wyatt, Esther, Esme, and a money counterfeiter who Otto thinks is his dad, who the counterfeiter think’s Otto the drop off, and Otto gets $5000.00 in fake cash, the gangster follows him, once recognizing, but Gaddis never finishes the arc and moves on. Otto’s dad meets some other guy and thinks it’s his son. The second section, some 500 pages, takes place in the days before Christmas. All the characters intertwine. There’s a party at Esther’s for a famous poet; she doesn’t know anyone, really; her new boyfriend takes a blonde in the bedroom during the party and has sex; a child comes up repeatedly for sleeping pills for her mom, a baby is on the floor; a married man has a homosexual encounter in the bathroom; Esther watched a critic masturbate in her bedroom; Anselm fights another critic; Wyatt shows up for clothes; Esther’s new boyfriend’s workmate used to make bridge plans with Wyatt, and longs to speak with him again; Otto longs to speak with Wyatt again. The reader thinks that unassigned dialogue shows how we all speak the same, hear things which are misconceptions of people and believe them, that no one actually sees the world, and that the traditional narrative tells a story under the illusion that what we see is real, as Gaddis by ambiguity creates a world where the characters reference each other, recognize each other, see their influence, suggest plagiarism, when we are all one-off of the original, a math, a growing, an inertia of thought beginning a million generations ago, and changed like the King James Bible where even Jesus isn’t the light and the way, but something similar, or a condensed bible where they don’t show Nimrod shooting an arrow at heaven from his Tower of Babel (which would make Gaddis’ “La Playa” joke void) because Nimrod thought he was greater than God. What is the real bible that isn’t perverted by the greed of man? Wyatt flees to his New England hometown where his father slaughters a bull and preaches on Christmas on Mithraism about the Rock and the Bull and the Egg which seems to be like the Holy Trinity, and he’s sent to an asylum and, maybe, crucified by a crazed scientist institutionalized because his obsession on scientifically testing the stigmata by crucifying cadaver arms, and then, later, crucifying Wyatt’s father, possibly. In the 3rd section everyone goes to Spain, Italy and France because Wyatt killed the gangsters and Otto had counterfeit money (he went to Central America) and Stanley who had a crack in the ceiling in his Village studio apartment, which when recognized later, you see how the world will fall on top of him as he plays his music, his dream to play the organ in a great church; Wyatt’s mother’s body is accidentally canonized; the counterfeiter who inadvertently killed his mother at the beginning of the book meets Wyatt and Wyatt helps him steal a body to make a counterfeit mummy (really the girl who is being canonized), and then Wyatt goes to Africa and kills his old friend and then works in a church, his father had stayed at 30 years earlier, and restores painting (and accidentally eats bread made with his father’s ashes). It seems most people die, or are sick, or repent, but Wyatt learns you must live through life, that there is no final constant, Biblical ending or revelation but a continued life of suffering and pleasure and work and that the suffering is not something that can be completely transcended but must be endured. There is a reference guide online that can help the reader wade through some ambiguity, but in the Paris Review Gaddis said the ambiguity is intentional. Who knows what is really happening around us? Do you think you really know? If 20 people saw an event there would be 20 different stories—with some basic commonality—but with much contradiction and subjectivity. Esme says of Otto, that he puts himself on her and then wants that from her. Wyatt said that the Flemish painters where into separating and the minutia of God and how that was in God, and then later he derides the separating and the minutia and goes on how El Greco was able to breath and give space and not separate. There is so much unity in the world and so much incongruity. You probably don’t want to read this book, but if you do it’s really not that crazy to understand.
 William Gaddis knew many of the Beat writers, and was a character named “Harold Sand” in “The Subterraneans”.