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All Over the National Book Foundation Site Today

Following up on the post about Gravity’s Rainbow, the National Book Foundation just posted a short appreciation I wrote of William Gaddis’s J R.

J R is the perfect novel for our new recession-driven world. Similar to Gravity’s Rainbow (which I wrote about earlier), this is another encyclopedic novel with dozens of characters, subplot upon subplot, quite literally overflowing with ideas, conversations, and detritus. And money. It’s all about money.

At the heart of this comic masterpiece is an eleven-year-old boy named J R, who, with a bit of capitalist ingenuity and the help of his music teacher Edward Bast, builds a paper fortune out of surplus goods, common stock, and an unerring ability to game the system. It’s a coming-of-age tale for the late-capitalist period of irrational exuberance.

Of course, things fall apart in the end. Bast—who dreams of becoming a composer—loses his artistic mojo, and J R’s paper empire is just that, and implodes like a house of cards. (Sound familiar?)

Click here for the complete piece.



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