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Frolic of His Own [Paperback]

William Gaddis
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 10 1995
A dazzling fourth novel by the author of The Recognitions, Carpenter's Gothic, and JR uses his considerable powers of observation and satirical sensibilities to take on the American legal system. Reprint. 30,000 first printing.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Perhaps William Gaddis' most accessible novel--though a dense and imposing book--A Frolic of His Own is a masterful work that mocks the folly of a litigious society. The story centers around Oscar Crease, the grandson of a Confederate soldier who avoided a deadly battle by invoking a legal clause that allowed him to hire a substitute and who later became a Supreme Court judge. Oscar writes a play about his grandfather that goes unproduced yet appears as the story behind a big-budget Hollywood film. Oscar sues and is tossed into the vortex of litigation. Meanwhile, almost 20 other lawsuits of varying frivolity swirl about, adding to this satirical and philosophical treat, which won the National Book Award for 1994.

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Carpenter's Gothic (and winner of a 1993 Lannan Award) takes a brash, entertaining swipe at the legal profession in his fourth novel. Oscar Crease is a quiet, middle-aged history professor whose father and grandfather were both high-ranking judges. The story begins as Oscar contemplates two lawsuits: one against the Japanese manufacturer of the car that ran over him; the other against a filmmaker Oscar claims stole his play, Once at Antietam , and turned it into a gory, lavish movie. Before long, the legal wranglings, strategic maneuvering and--of course--the whopping bills dominate Oscar's life and wreak havoc on his relationships. There is no description or third-person narrative. Like Carpenter's Gothic , which is rendered wholly in dialogue, this narrative is a cacophony of heard and found voices: Oscar's conversations with his myriad lawyers, his flighty girlfriend, his patient sister and her lawyer husband are all spliced with phone calls, readings from Oscar's play and various legal documents. Rather than slow the action down, these documents add to the grim melee. This is a wonderful novel, aswirl with the everyday inanity of life; it may also be the most scathing attack ever published on our society's litigious ways.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I'm writing this review not as a general reader who likes everything from Umberto Eco (the sublime) to Douglas Adams (the ridiculous), but as someone with a particular interest in copyright to others with a similar interest (assuming you are not already a Gaddis fan). For such a reader, Gaddis's book is an incredible journey through the world of law in general, and copyright law in particular. A lawyer with any perspective ought to love this. Some of the materials are taken almost verbatim from actual cases, but with just enough twists to make it sometimes hilarious. I too noticed what I thought was a flaw in the analysis between federal and state law, but it turns out later that the purported flaw was intentional and plays an important part in the development of the plot!
The book is certainly not an easy read (with no quotation marks, and everyone annoyingly interrupting each other and not finishing sentences), and it takes 50-100 pages to learn how to read the book without getting too bogged down. But this is ultimately a brilliant work, and I recommend that any lawyer or professor or student interested in the field will ultimately get a lot out of it.
-Edward Samuels, author of The Illustrated Story of Copyright
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4.0 out of 5 stars Legal Tender July 16 2004
I read Frolic after JR and The Recognitions of which I was more impressed than Frolic. It's amusing to watch Gaddis skewer the legal profession -- I can think of few professions more worthy of it -- but while he addresses the national feeding frenzy of greed associated with litigation his characters fail to capture much empathy as they were more hideous in many cases than their legal representatives. Consequently, I found myself detached from main characters and unsymapthetic to their sordid fates. In JR and The Recognitions I found characters whose destinies in the story lines mattered to me -- not so in Frolic. Gaddis has his finger on the pulse of a national disgrace in the need for tort reform but, since the reformers are self-regulating lawyers, it isn't likely to happen anytime soon. This novel is very finely written with powerful, pithy observations expressed in breathtaking jabs and poetic riffs. Frolic isn't as densely packed with intellect as JR or The Recognitions but is more accessible than either as his style is more accommodating in Frolic. This novel is just shy of great compared to the high standards set by his other works, which are among the best brace of American novels of the late 20th century. The great novels of Gaddis are destined to be discovered by wider readerships, to radiate brilliantly on America's literary landscape and to endure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of His Own Oct. 9 2002
I made the "mistake" of familiarizing myself with Gaddis' work by first reading The Recognitions about six months ago. Make no mistake - The Recognitions is well worth the effort, once you understand how to read it (i.e. the dialogue and conversational effect and how to interpret who is talking and when, and what is narrative as opposed to dialogue), although toward the end, when Wyatt loses his mind in the monastery, the imagery gets a bit muddled. In any event, as I began reading A Frolic of His Own, I found myself thinking, wow, I should have started with this one, because this is much more accessible than The Recognitions. Of course, I now realize that it is more accessible simply because I had been through the wringer with The Recognitions and not because the style is so much different. Indeed, it is more structured and more coherent, but the same Gaddis black, stinging satire is there in its glory.
An amazing book. Gaddis truly listened to how we speak and interact with each other, because his dialogue is absolutely spot on with how we humans/Americans speak to each other in a familiar manner. While there are no truly sympathetic characters (all are pretentious and selfish in a way we all know far too well), one can't help but feel empathy towards each of them in some sordid way. The plot has been outlined in other reviews, so I won't go there, other than to say that just when you think Gaddis is off on some tangent and you feel a lack of cleverness in having not "got it", he brings it right back around, front and center, although it may not be where you thought it was going to be.
Unlike criticisms of The Recognitions, and even JR, which suggest too much plot, too many charachters, and many loose ends (not necessarily true), this is a tightly, albeit densely, plotted book that is at times laugh out loud funny and other times head in the oven sad. But at all times it challenges and is truly entertaining and wonderful. Maybe the best book I've ever read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading, out of the ordinary style June 25 2002
William Gaddis writes like no other author, and his work is refreshing to read in a market that is simply clotted with bad and substandard writers that somehow manage to get published. He is truly original.
The book follows a motley cast of characters, none of them really likeable, but unswervingly human (and might I say American) if a tad over the top in obsessive behavior. But literature should stretch the human condition a bit to make characters interesting, especially when the goal is satire. The main character, Oscar Crease, is involved in a few lawsuits, the main one being a dispute over a play he wrote that may or may not have been stolen for a big budget Hollywood film.
I am truly not worthy to try to discuss the myriad facets of law, philosophy, literary value, and general twists the book takes, but I will say on finishing this novel I was consistently amazed at how Gaddis fills the characters with depth and turns the story in new ways.
If you haven't gleaned it already from the other reviews, Gaddis writes in a style that is almost all dialogue. Whatever is not dialogue turns into a kind of stream of consciousness prose that takes us from one scene into another, and really doesn't do more to describe action than what the dialogue already does. There are no quotation marks, no "he said's" or "she said's", and no identification of characters except occasional name dropping--you have to know who is speaking through the mannerism and word choice. And really, it only takes about 20 pages to get into the swing of things, and when you start reading it as though you were in the middle of the conversation the book really flows.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not THAT good...
Having read the reviews posted here, I felt pretty certain that I would enjoy Gaddis' books. His emphasis on dialogue (as opposed to description and narration) adds a pleasantly... Read more
Published on Dec 9 2002 by GLBT
2.0 out of 5 stars Why don't I Iike any of these people?
Although tour-de-force writing, this book is a difficult read. Inadequate puncuation, run on sentences, lengthly full-text LEGAL BRIEFS and massive excerpts from one character's... Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars litigation and comedy and a LOT of dialogue.
This is an intense book. It's funny and difficult. For those familiar with Gaddis, you'll know that it's 98% dialogue. That's plenty of dialogue. Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2001 by "donkeye"
1.0 out of 5 stars Kill me now and save me from this!
What can I say? Intense, jumbled, over-bearing - yawn. This novel is about as exciting, and readable, as the telephone directory. So Gaddes knows how to use words - big deal. Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2001 by Leigh Munro
5.0 out of 5 stars Whole-Brain Reading
This book, like Gaddis' other masterpiece, JR, made me repeatedly laugh out loud. While Gaddis is brilliant and innovative, the really important thing is that his best novels --... Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2001 by "pangloss_"
3.0 out of 5 stars overweight and overwrought
I'm baffled by the degree of praise that this book has garnered. As a practicing attorney, I appreciate the satirical aspect, and it's certainly ambitious in scale, but I think the... Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars judging legal art
This novel kept me laughing out loud-- the industry built around the stuck dog, the magic mittens, the ridiculous meal scenes.... Read more
Published on May 23 2001 by L. Wagner
5.0 out of 5 stars Rates 10 stars on a 5 star rating system
This book isn't for lawyers or intellectuals, anymore than "The Tempest" is for 16th century englishmen. Read more
Published on March 12 2001 by desefinado
3.0 out of 5 stars A Frolic of Modernism
Here we have a book that is as exasperating as it is brilliant, as annoying as it is hilarious. Gaddis is as good a satirist as has been seen in this country this side of Mark... Read more
Published on Jan. 12 2001 by Greg Nyquist
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