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The Rush for Second Place: Essays and Occasional Writings [Paperback]

William Gaddis , Joseph Tabbi
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2002
William Gaddis published only four novels during his lifetime, but with those works he earned himself a reputation as one of America's greatest novelists. Less well known is Gaddis's body of excellent critical writings. Here is a wide range of his original essays, some published for the first time. From "'Stop Player. Joke No. 4,'" Gaddis's first national publication and the basis for his projected history of the player piano, to the title essay about missed opportunities in America during the past fifty years, to "Old Foes with New Faces," an examination of the relationship between the writer and the problem of religion-this diverse collection displays the power of an autonomous literary intelligence in an age increasingly dominated by political and religious conservatism.


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From Publishers Weekly

Author of the deeply satirical novel JR (which features an 11-year-old capitalist who trumps up his Army surplus company in a manner that seems eerily prescient today) and of The Recognitions, Gaddis (1922-1998) was a fact-checker at the New Yorker and a corporate speech-writer before coming to prominence, but published very little essay-based work. Editor Joseph Tabbi here collects 29 short and occasional pieces, some left in manuscript at the time of Gaddis's death, others admiring encomiums to Saul Bellow or Julian Schnabel, all of which, as he notes, "create a sense of the environment in which Gaddis worked."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Criticism is integral to William Gaddis' (1922-98) referential fiction, and he also wrote tonic critical essays spiked with a parodic wit, never-before-collected and invaluable works that Gaddis scholar Joseph Tabbi ably sets in literary and biographical context. Gaddis is particularly rousing in his skewering of the corporate world, a realm he infiltrated while writing for Eastman Kodak and IBM, and he takes on with equal mettle the Protestant work ethic and its shaping of the military-industrial complex, and the plight of art in a culture of pragmatism. Fascinated and appalled by the complexity, hypocrisy, and fever of American life, Gaddis concludes that we're all in this craziness together, "we are all in the same line of business: that of concocting, arranging, and peddling fictions to get us safely through the night." Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
WILLIAM CADDIS'S EARLY TREATMENT by unprepared reviewers is well known; perhaps less known is the fact that he wrote a good deal of criticism himselfmore than Thomas Pyn-chon so far, more than Don DeLillo or David Markson, and much that approaches the best critical writing by William Gass, Harry Mathews, Joseph McElroy, or Robert Coover. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, the Collected Uncollected Works... Oct. 18 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
It's good finally to see William Gaddis's "ocassional" writings collected into one volume. For years, the only thing available was the super-rare and thus ridiculously expensive pirate edition, "The Uncollected Works of William Gaddis" published by the so-called Black Moon Press, whoever and wherever they were or weren't. While that underground classic might have had the drop on this legit book, "The Rush For Second Place" is more complete and up to date. Good stuff!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Gaddis's head, but as essays these are incredibly ineffective. Take the longest piece in this collection - The Rush for Second Place: it pretty much starts out with the conviction that American culture is largely mediocre (revolutionary thought!) and then just lists a whole bunch of things that Gaddis considers stupid and ridiculous. Well, I agree that there's a lot about this country that's stupid and ridiculous, but the last thing I need is a list: I'm not asking for solutions, just an argument - a point - something. An essay: TRY to accomplish something. No one else needs another sputtering catalogue of rage.
The only thing a list is useful for, of course, is exposing you to something (a book, a person) that you may not have heard of before. And the most wonderful discovery that I got out of this book was John Holt and his books. Read him if you haven't already.
As an admirer of Gaddis's fiction, though, which is full of fascinating ideas, this collection was disappointing and even a little dismaying. The early essays contain interesting germs of topics, such as a short piece of writing on the player piano, whose ramifications aren't really developed. Gaddis apparently considered the player piano as a sort of symbol for a culture that wants art without effort, easy mechanized entertainment for the masses - but that's just my incompetent gloss, and I wish that he'd made the effort to put together an argument himself.
And the later work, as I said earlier, is of the scattershot rant variety - even the interesting comparison of Erewhon with the Republican congress of the 90s jumps around and has obviously dated rather badly.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay just as an indication of what's bouncing around in Nov. 21 2003
By Gulley Jimson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Gaddis's head, but as essays these are incredibly ineffective. Take the longest piece in this collection - The Rush for Second Place: it pretty much starts out with the conviction that American culture is largely mediocre (revolutionary thought!) and then just lists a whole bunch of things that Gaddis considers stupid and ridiculous. Well, I agree that there's a lot about this country that's stupid and ridiculous, but the last thing I need is a list: I'm not asking for solutions, just an argument - a point - something. An essay: TRY to accomplish something. No one else needs another sputtering catalogue of rage.
The only thing a list is useful for, of course, is exposing you to something (a book, a person) that you may not have heard of before. And the most wonderful discovery that I got out of this book was John Holt and his books. Read him if you haven't already.
As an admirer of Gaddis's fiction, though, which is full of fascinating ideas, this collection was disappointing and even a little dismaying. The early essays contain interesting germs of topics, such as a short piece of writing on the player piano, whose ramifications aren't really developed. Gaddis apparently considered the player piano as a sort of symbol for a culture that wants art without effort, easy mechanized entertainment for the masses - but that's just my incompetent gloss, and I wish that he'd made the effort to put together an argument himself.
And the later work, as I said earlier, is of the scattershot rant variety - even the interesting comparison of Erewhon with the Republican congress of the 90s jumps around and has obviously dated rather badly.
The reason I say this is a little dismaying is that - if an author writing essays has such trouble expressing himself in a coherent fashion - it starts to reflect on his fiction as well. I've read A Frolic of His Own and Carpenter's Gothic - and have stalled out recently, although I hope to start again, on The Recognitions and JR - and although I still find them hilarious satires, I'm starting to doubt the penetration of the thought behind the comedy. Gaddis's imagination is visionary, but I'm starting to feel that - like Dickens - his mind is pretty commonplace. The standard liberal line on politics, for the most part, and moaning about the stupidity of mass culture: maybe he's right, but how dreary it is to be right in such a boring and disorganized fashion.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, the Collected Uncollected Works... Oct. 18 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's good finally to see William Gaddis's "ocassional" writings collected into one volume. For years, the only thing available was the super-rare and thus ridiculously expensive pirate edition, "The Uncollected Works of William Gaddis" published by the so-called Black Moon Press, whoever and wherever they were or weren't. While that underground classic might have had the drop on this legit book, "The Rush For Second Place" is more complete and up to date. Good stuff!
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