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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the perspective of a lawyer/copyright professor
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...
Published on Dec 30 2000 by Edward Samuels

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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 Twain. But he is also---and here's the problem---a modernist of the most uncompromising variety. Reader's familiar with Joyce's Ulysses should know what I mean. Gaddis dispenses completely with...
Published on Jan. 12 2001 by Greg Nyquist


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the perspective of a lawyer/copyright professor, Dec 30 2000
By 
Edward Samuels (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
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
By 
Wordsworth (Greenwich, CT) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
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.
Also, Gaddis throws in some legal briefs, a couple of acts of a play, and a deposition--but don't be scared off by the legal jargon and change of style, because when you stick with it you realize in the middle of these events you are getting a glimpse into the ridiculousness of the whole issue and you can see the true humor of the situations.
Highly recommended if you like some originality and unique qualities to your literature. Plus it's just genuinely interesting and funny.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Whole-Brain Reading, Aug. 20 2001
By 
"pangloss_" (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
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 -- of which this is one -- are great fun to read. As for the reviewers who complain "why doesn't he use quotation marks?"; the answer is because the book wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable. Enjoying Gaddis comes from going with the frenetic flow of his rhythms. The reviewer who finds it "annoying" that characters keep interrupting each other is, with all due respect, missing the point. What's brilliant, and fun, about Gaddis, is the way the cumulative effect of those interruptions mirrors the sensation of certain real-life conversations. If you read a transcription of a spirited debate at a family dinner, or a tense business meeting, or whatever, you won't find many complete sentences. What you'll find is a collection of false starts, interruptions, and apparent non-sequiturs that resemble Gaddis' prose. In my experience, Gaddis's books are the type to which you need to surrender your consciousness and detachment to really enjoy them. To a certain extent, we've all been taught that to be truly intelligent or sophisticated readers, we need to hold part of our mind back to remain "critical" and to analyze the author's technique, and our own reactions, as we read. But if you read Gaddis while carefully searching for his "tricks" or "methods" and trying to discern the key to his authorial voice, you're doing yourself a disservice. It's all about immersion. If you just go with the flow, I don't think it's nearly as "difficult" as many people suggest, and it's as rewarding as reading can be.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Frolic of Modernism, Jan. 12 2001
By 
Greg Nyquist (Eureka, California USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
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 Twain. But he is also---and here's the problem---a modernist of the most uncompromising variety. Reader's familiar with Joyce's Ulysses should know what I mean. Gaddis dispenses completely with quotation marks so that it is difficult to figure out where speech begins and the "narrative," such as it is, resumes. Stream of consciousness is, thankfully, kept to a minimum, but on the few occasions when it rears its none too welcome head, confusion reigns not merely in the minds of character, but in the mind of the reader as well, where it should never reign. Admittedly, Gaddis handles the Joycean tricks with great flair and virtuosity, but it would have been better for all concerned if he had refrained from indulging in this sort of self-absorbed modernist exhibitionism. The technical pretentious of modernism no longer impress. They are not only tiresome, a product of aesthetic hubris and self-indulgence, but they demonstrate a woeful lack of consideration for the reader. The author should above all seek to communicate with his readers, not confuse and bewilder them. It is a breach of literary etiquette to throw up all sorts of artificial barriers between the author's text and the reader's mind. It is especially annoying when the text itself contains excellent material seeking to be heard above the modernist din. Like Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" and Vargas Llosa's "Conversations in a Cathedral," Gaddis' "A Frolic of His Own" is an example of an excellent novel sabotaged by modernist blarney.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, if occasionally tedious, Oct. 20 2000
By 
Dave Shickle (Rockville, Maryland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
Despite the fact that he almost always rewards the effort it takes to get through his books, this is the only Gaddis work I've gotten through. I stalled out on JR and the Recognitions, even though I was enjoying them both . . . it just seems like . . . I dunno . . . TOO MUCH, and diminishing returns kicks in after a while. Even Tolstoy has a hard time keeping my attention for 700 pages +.
Not so in this book. The transitions between dialogue and description seem more refined; there wasn't nearly as much confusion for me in this book as there was in his other books - very little "so who's talking now? and who's this character?"
Since those hurdles were much lower, I could actually enjoy what makes Gaddis enjoyable - he's hilarious. He's bitter and mean and almost always absolutely right. And it isn't like swallowing a cup of bile on every page because you can tell that, beneath all of his disgust with the way things are, there's an undercurrent of well-reasoned humanity and hope for the way things ought to be.
The only thing that keeps this review from being a 5 is the rather tedious excerpts from the play. They have thematic resonances and all that literary garbage but, frankly, when I go back to reread the book (and it's just as funny when you read it again - and you find more and more stuff, which is the mark of a great book) I usually skip over those sections.
It's a shame that so few people can get past the challenge of his style (I always see rows of barely creased Gaddis tomes in used book stores) because those who can settle into his rhythms will enjoy this book a whole lot.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A structural error?, Oct. 2 2000
By 
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
This book is good. Very good. You might ask, but only 3 stars' worth of good?
Gaddis is an ambitious man. At least, his prose testifies so. Other readers' reviews compare Gaddis to Joyce, cite that his prose is difficult to follow, and are unnerved by the change in structure as the author switches from narration to legal briefs to a television voice to the text of a play.
I set out with trepidation when I cracked the cover of this book, although I have tackled such nontraditional texts as "The Waves" by Woolf, or "Mangled Hands" by Johnny Stanton. I mean, who willfully sets out for a painful read? Sure there are legions of literary masochists ready to pore over obscure texts, but I enjoy getting caught up in plot and character, losing myself in the words.
Here's a surprise: Gaddis' text is not at all difficult to follow. His dialog is superb, and he uses it so well to characterize that you need no more than a few words to figure out who's talking, despite the absolute lack of quotation marks. And while his legal briefs read like...well...legal briefs, the other narrative breaks are quite enjoyable, especially the play.
Why the three stars, then? Mr. Gaddis wrote a book no more complicated, no more revealing of human character, no more skillfully plotted than your average latter-day Tom Wolfe novel. Why then, I ask, did he decide to abandon quotes? Serves no purpose. Why the dense stream-of-consciousness passages about Long Island nature? There's little or no metaphor to glean from the Sound.
Other writers use an invented structure to add to the plot or characterization, just as a playwright adds a gun to a scene to increase dramatic tension. For example, in "The Waves," Woolf uses astructural, plotless "narration" to mimic unfiltered thoughts of humans in an attempt to have the reader literally inhabit her characters.
I gave this book three stars, because I feel Gaddis failed to match structure with content. In my mind, such an error is akin to sloppy writing, or the introduction of an uninteresting character. It stops up the flow of the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I thought it was great, and I'm a lawyer!, July 26 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
I am always amused when someone posts a review implying that lawyers should not read a book because it's critical of them and they presumably wouldn't like it (see below). To the contrary, we're not all vain, ignorant barbarians. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and particularly the scathing satire directed at certain members of my chosen profession. I can assure you based upon my several years of private practice that, technical quibbles aside (who honestly cares if Gaddis didn't understand preemption?), this book is 100% dead on accurate, down to the very smallest detail, such as the covertly conniving lawyer sending the "hideous" but "expensive" potted amarylis to Christina. It is pleasurable to see my compatriots (and to a certain extent, myself) stripped of their pompous finery in such a masterful manner. It is certainly at times sobering, but meaningfully and necessarily so. And the entire book was far from a chore to read, but one of the most original, brilliantly designed novels I have ever read. It is told in a stream of consciousness style that takes some getting used to, perhaps, but is positively addictive once you get the hang of it. And the interpolation of satirical legal opinions and a deposition transcript into the novel is an original touch. Judge Crease's first "Spot" opinion is an absolute howl (no pun intended). All in all, a complex, engrossing, enriching experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars the sear of sweet vitriol, Feb. 21 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Frolic of His Own (Paperback)
Let me first toss the caveat that I'm already convinced that Mr. Gaddis is the best American writer of the 20th century, one who has never forsaken his style or his ambition in order to achieve mass "accessibility" (what a terrible measure of a novel's worth). Yet, if forced to rank his works in these terms, I'd say that Frolic is the second least accessible novel of his, right behind the terror which is JR (no chapter breaks, almost no authorial intrusion (i.e. help), and everything takes place in real linear time).
Frolic seems unforgiving at first, as it pours out in ranting dialogue and thick daunting legalese. But when it begins to take shape, it comes across as wonderfully imaginative without ever sounding contrived (which is why I think it resonated so much with lawyers and lovers of satire: no matter how convoluted the lawsuits become, one rarely, if ever, is struck by the notion, "Nahh, this could never happen." Because this is a very fair representation of the circus that the civil courts in this country have become.
The Dennis Miller of complex modern fiction, William Gaddis, like Joyce or Pynchon, is the kind of writer that you owe it to yourself to at least try to read. Remember, very few dug Melville in his time, while even fewer deserve to be compared to him. Gaddis is most definitely worthy of that comparison.
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Frolic of His Own
Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis (Paperback - Feb. 10 1995)
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