One of my closest pals gave me J R a while back and I have only just gotten around to reading it. The story and way it was delivered hit me like a freight train. William Gaddis was a visionary in his approach and style, choosing to write the novel in a conversational, stream-of-consciousness way, using no transitions, at least, not in the traditional sense. I loved it and will crave it now wherever I encounter literature.
Instead of tried and true convention, Gaddis was more concerned with rhythm and flow, participation and collaboration, and so led characters to bump into shared situations in a way often confusing to most readers, reminiscent of Altman’s film, Short Cuts, though even more naturally, in my humble opinion.
Without giving the gist of it away, let me just say the 11-year-old boy at the center of J R has been on my mind, asking me questions about myself, my world and the kinds of questions I ask, my sources for answers, overall openness to the world and how I plan to transmit such information, wisdom in my own version of silliness, to my own young son.
Gaddis was a brilliant satirist. I owe my friend a debt of gratitude for turning me onto his work. He was fond of using a certain phrase from Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel (1929) and it goes like this:
“…the unswerving punctuality of chance…“
I love this phrase and seem to easily find elegant ways of working it into my thought processes, regardless of individually problem-solving or collaborating with a team. It reminds me there are many moving pieces, much hidden machinery behind our lives, out of our control, and we simply need be open to the world and possibilities as we saunter through. When we are open, it is then that the most wonderful opportunities present themselves, fill hearts with peace and certainty that all of this, though temporary, is a fragile dance best enjoyed in the moment. The unseen has properties, these moments, they cannot be counted but rather only enjoyed in their fleeting passing.
This particular story is open to interpretation, of course, but what I take from it is this: it is only through the eyes of children that our folly is clearest.
I don’t know what the point of my riff here was other than to share and remember a wondrous writer whose style breaks through to something new, something I had not yet experienced. Thank you, pal. Thank you, Mr. Gaddis. No small feat.