Agape Agape (Penguin Classics)
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William Gaddis published four novels during his lifetime, immense and complex books that helped inaugurate a new movement in American letters. Now comes his final work of fiction, a subtle, concentrated culmination of his art and ideas. For more than fifty years Gaddis collected notes for a book about the mechanization of the arts, told by way of a social history of the player piano in America. In the years before his death in 1998, he distilled the whole mass into a fiction, a dramatic monologue by an elderly man with a terminal illness. Continuing Gaddis's career-long reflection on those aspects of corporate technological culture that are uniquely destructive of the arts, Agape Agape is a stunning achievement from one of the indisputable masters of postwar American fiction.
heart. “Discover your unsuspected talent” that’s what breaks your heart, losing that whole, the loss of a kind of innocence that crept in, drifting away of that romantic intoxication that was really quite ridiculous but it was, no it was really quite wonderful, for the first time music in homes anyone’s home “every member of the household may be a performer” this ad says, discovering his unsuspected talent with his feet, this romantic illusion of participating, playing Beethoven yourself that was
of, of, I can’t even go into it you see that’s what I have to go into before all my ideas are stolen before I get them written down before my work is distorted misunderstood turned into a cartoon and, towel here in this mess somewhere sheet’s cold and wet dry my leg before I start to rust, back of my hand all these little criss-crosses looks like broiled bluefish but, a little music. Music, that’s really where it all starts and ends next time I see a human being I’ll ask for a little music here
they’re being used till the roof falls in, doctors lawyers abortions adulteries thimble theatre learned nothing forgotten nothing go right back and do it all again. “My one impulse is to work and forget” says Tolstoy “but forget what. There’s nothing to forget” and then? here’s the scrap, “I shall write no more fiction,” he’s about thirty, “people are weeping, dying, marrying, and I should sit down and write books telling ‘how she loved him’? It’s shameful!” And where else yes here, “reading bad
the energy the tinge of madness, the supernatural powers that emerge, from disease that Plato mentions and the primitive idea that crazy people speak in divine languages and above all yes above all the catharsis of abandoned music and dance we’ve talked about that haven’t we, should have looked into that yourself Pozdnyshev, should have tried it. Should have learned the tango Pozdnyshev, the most elegant, merciless, disciplined abandon never would have killed her, learned the tango you never
and madness and keep the work from becoming “what it’s about”: entropy, chaos, loss, and a mechanized culture indifferent to the cultivation of particular, individual talents. This is the theme he would come back to, obsessively, in the very last working papers and at the last page of Agapē: “Discover yr hidden talent,” “yr unsuspected talent,” “disc secret talent” all appear on one page of notes, along with “the self who could do more” (three times, with variations). The notetaking evidently