Scenes 1 - 10 | pages 3 - 59
Annotations by Steven Moore except as [noted].

click for sound clip on J R music page

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annotations with scene outline
scenes 1 - 10 | pp. 3 - 59    
 scenes 11 - 20 | pp. 59 - 149   
scenes 21 - 30 | pp. 149 - 194
scenes 31--40 | pp. 194 - 251
scenes 41--50 | pp. 251--352
scenes 51 - 60 | pp. 352 - 449
scenes 61 - 70 | pp. 449 - 580
scenes 71 - 83 | pp. 580 - 726
scene outline only

dedication] For Matthew | Once more unto the breach, dear friend, once more:
Matthew is Gaddis's only son; the quotation is from Shakespeare's Henry V (cf. A Frolic of His Own 542.9).

Scene 1 (3.1-17.32)
Bast home, outside of Massapequa, Long Island

The lawyer Coen holds a largely futile legal discussion with Anne and Julia Bast; their nephew Edward leaves the house unobserved, much to Coen’s exasperation.  

3.13] how he jingled when he walked: Peter Wolfe hears an echo from Edward Arlington Robinson's poem "Richard Corey" (". . . and he glittered when he walked": A Vision of His Own, 151.

4.35] Engels: Ger., angels. Cf. Friedrich Engels (1820-95), co-author with Marx of The Communist Manifesto and editor of Capital. Marx and Engels will be alluded to several times in the novel (20.4, 115.11, 232.20, 409.27, etc.).

5.17] a Tom show: that is, a minstrel show (after Uncle Tom, the slave in Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Abbreviated Bibliography
A.  Gaddis' Books
CG: Carpenter’s Gothic.
1985. New York: Penguin, 1999.
FHO: A Frolic of His Own.
New York: Poseidon, 1994.
1975. New York: Penguin, 1993.
R: The Recognitions.
1955. New York: Penguin, 1993.

B.  Gaddis’s Sources
EB: Encyclopædia Britannica.
14th  ed., 1929.
ODQ: The Oxford Dictionary of 
1st ed., 6th impression (London: Oxford University Press, 1949). Gaddis owned this particular impression, given to him by Ormande de Kay in Paris in 1950.

C.  Gaddis Criticism
Knight, Christopher, Hints and Guesses:  William Gaddis and the Fiction of Longing, Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1997.
Wolfe, Peter, A Vision of His Own: The Mind and Art of William Gaddis, Madison& Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 1997.  
7.28. And Sousa's Band? John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), "the March King," composer of songs, operettas and especially marches, among them the official march of The United States, "The Stars and Stripes Forever." He was the conductor of a famous band which was known as Sousa's Band. [AZ]

9.5] Rachmaninoff [...] had his fingers insured: Sergei Wassilievitch Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), Russian composer and pianist, a resident of New York after 1918.

9.25] Tannersville: small town in New York's Catskills Mountains.

11.14] res gestae: Lat., basic facts.

11.22] Maurice Ravel: French composer (1875-1937).

12.30] Philoctetes: as Gaddis explained to interviewer Lloyd Grove: "He was the hero with the bow, the great champion of the Greeks, who goes into the sacred garden where he's not supposed to be and is bitten by the snake, and has a festering wound and they get rid of him, they exile him. Then, when there's trouble and they need him and his bow, Ulysses and the prince [Achilles' son Neoptolemus] come and say, ‘Please, come and help us.' And that idea has always fascinated me" ("Harnessing the Power of Babble," Washington Post, 23 August 1985, B10). Philoctetes is the subject of plays by Sophocles and Gide and of Edmund Wilson's essay "The Wound and the Bow." See J R 117.

12.37] A and S's: Abraham & Straus, a Manhattan department store.

16.25] At the Jewish temple, rehearsing Wagner: highly ironic, of course, in light of Wagner's pronounced anti-Semitism.

17.22] the devil paying the piper for all the good tunes: complaining of the popularity of folk music over hymns, the Reverend Rowland Hill (1744-1833) "did not see any reason why the devil should have all the good tunes" (quoted in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Gaddis' probably source.). But Julia seems to be confusing this quotation with the proverb "He who dances must pay the piper."

transition (17.33-18.7)
Coen drives from the Basts’ house into the center of town. 

Scene 2 (18.7-19.35)
Outside the bank in Massapequa

Principal Whiteback converses with Amy Joubert outside his bank; both see Coach Vogel, then Edward Bast, who joins the conversation; a retarded boy frightens Amy into dropping a bag of money, which Bast promises to deliver later.

18.21] the lenses, erasing any life behind the cf. this passage from George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" (1946): "When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating familiar phrases . . . one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them" (Collected Essays, vol. 4 [New York: Harcourt, Brace& World, 1968], 135-36]). Throughout J R Gaddis protests against the same misuse of language that Orwell does in this classic essay.

18.27] Ring: Richard Wagner's operatic tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelung, first produced in its entirety in 1876. See 32.14 ff. (An audio excerpt from the Prelude—described on p. 111 as "that E flat chord that [...] goes on for a hundred and thirty-six bars until the idea that everything's happening under water is more real than sitting in a hot plush seat with tight shoes on.")

19.24] twenty-four dollars: the sum the Dutch settlers Paid the Manhattan tribe for their island, as Christopher Knight points out (Hints and Guesses, chap. 2).

transition (19.35-.38)
Whiteback and Amy drive to their school; Jack Gibbs witnesses their arrival from his classroom window. 

Scene 3 (19.38-21.30)
a middle school in Massapequa

Gibbs in classroom teaching concept of entropy; Gall outside arrives for meeting.

20.4]  EBFM SAOH AQQFBR: Greek letter substitutions for the English phrase "FROM EACH ACCORD. . ." -- from Marx's famous formulation in Critique of the Gotha Program (1875): "From Each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." The inscription is identified as Marx's at 409.27.

20.18] Mister Gibbs: takes his name from the American physicist Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903). See Norbert Wiener's The Human Use of Human Beings (one of Gaddis's source books for J R) for Gibbs's importance, especially regarding entropy.

20.20] Energy may be changed but not destroyed: this film and the discussion that follows are concerned with the laws of thermodynamics and especially the related concept of entropy: the measure of disorder in a closed system.

21.41] Horatio Alger: the author (1832-99) of nearly 130 popular books for boys, many concerned with a boy's rise from poverty to prosperity due to hard work and clean living. See 575.29.

21.43] "that confidence [...] has yet come to me . . ." later identified as the words of 34th president Dwight Eisenhower (see 51.18-19). Hyde echoes this phrase at the bottom of p. 24.

transition (21.30-22.6)
Dan diCephalis travels from parking lot to Principal’s office.

Scene 4 (22.7-31.27)
School, Principal’s office

Conference between Miss Flesch, diCephalis, Whiteback, Gall, and Major Hyde; Congressman Pecci joins; all watch teaching programs on television; diCephalis leaves to deliver teaching materials for Mozart program. 

25.13] Is Seder a holiday?: no, a ceremonial feast held on the first night of Passover.

30.30] Miss Rheingolds: in the 1940s and '50s, Liebmann Breweries, the makers of Rheingold Beer, sponsored a yearly competition for a Miss Rheingold; the winner was pictured on their beer cans.

transition (31.27-.39)
“The even passage of the sun” over Massapequa.

Scene 5 (31.40-37.8)

32.14] Rhine . . . G O L D!: from the first scene of Wagner's music drama Das Rheingold (first produced in 1869), translated The Rhinegold in English criticism. Gaddis's source for what follows is the synopsis in Gustave Kobbé's well-known Complete Opera Book, rev. ed. (New York: Putnam's, 1935), as the following verbal parallels indicate:

32.17: —This is your shout of triumph. A joyful cry. Kobbé 151: With shouts of triumph the Rhinedaughters swim around the rock. Their cry "Rhinegold," is a characteristic motive.
32.19: The river is glittering with golden light Kobbé 151: As the river glitters with golden light
32.32: Pretend it's there shimmering Kobbé 150: Amid the shimmering accompaniment of the violins is heard on the horn the Rhinegold motive.
33.5: you come in playing the Rhinegold motif Kobbé 151: the Rhinegold Motive rings out brilliantly on the trumpet.
33.35: down the keyboard Bast darted Kobbé 150: In wavy sport the Rhinedaughters dart
36.18: in sinister pianissimo [...] Bast echoed the Ring motif. Kobbé 151-52: The Ring Motive occurs in both voice and orchestra in mysterious pianissimo (like an echo of Alberich's sinister thoughts)
36.22: the rhythms of the Nibelungs [...] sharp cadences Kobbé 152: Then is heard the sharp, decisive rhythm of the Nibelung Motive.
36.32: the cry of the dwarf was lost, —Hark floods! Love I renounce forever! Kobbé 152: "Hark ye floods! Love I renounce forever!" he cries
36.35: it crashed with the Rhinegold motive Kobbé 152: amid the crash of the Rhinegold Motive

36.17] Buffalo Gals: or "Lubly Fan," words and music by Cool White (1844) and famous since minstrel-show days.

Scene 6 (37.8-38.10)

DiCephalis drives Bast to television studio, where his wife Ann prepares Bast to deliver Miss Flesch’s Mozart lecture.

37.12] Clementine: words and music usually credited to Percy Montrose (1884), elsewhere to Barker Bradford.

37.24] Dark Eyes: a 1945 jazz hit for the Gene Krupa Trio, and again the following years for Krupa’s sax man Charlie Ventura. The tune is based on a Gypsy air of the 19th century.

37.30] B’hai: or Baha’i, a religious faith developed by Baha’u’llah (d. 1892) from Babi, in which the essential unity of the world’s religions is stressed.

Scene 7 (38.11-51.21)
School, Principal’s office

Hyde, Whiteback, Pecci, Gibbs, and two Foundation visitors (Ford and Gall) view educational television programs, including Bast’s on Mozart.

42.16] he wrote to a girl cousin: letter dated 28 February 1778; the complete text of this extraordinary letter can be found in Letters of Mozart and His Family, ed. A Hyatt King and Monica Carolyn, 2nd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1966), 1:499-501. The relevant portions are as follows:

Mademoiselle matrés chére Cousine!
      Perhaps you think or are even convinced that I am dead? That I have pegged out? Or hopped a twig? Not at all. Don’t believe it, I implore you. For believing and shitting are two very different things! Now how could I be writing such a beautiful hand if I were dead? How could that be possible? I shan’t apologize for my very long silence, for you would never believe me. [...] Ah, you’re laughing! Victoria! Our arses shall be the symbol of our peacemaking! I knew that you wouldn’t be able to resist me much longer. Why, of course, I’m sure of success, even if today I should make a mess, though to Paris I go in a fortnight or less. So if you want to send a reply to me from the town of Augsburg yonder, you see, then write at once, the sooner the better, so that I may be sure to receive your letter, or else if I’m gone I’ll have bad luck, instead of a letter to get some muck. Muck!—Muck!—Ah, muck! Sweet word! Muck! Chuck! That too is fine. Muck, chucuck! That’s what I like! Muck, chuck and suck! Chuck muck and suck muck! [...] Well, to make a long story short, about four hours from here—I have forgotten the name of the place—at some village or other—and indeed it is all one, whether the village was Tribsterill, where muck runs into the sea, or Burmesquick, where the crooked arseholes are manufactured—in short, it was a village. [...]

43.18] a white-maned man [...] America’s beloved humorist whose real name: Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain (1835-1910).

43.14] Franz Schubert [...] Robert Schumann [...] Tchaikowski: celebrated 19th-century composers. All three anecdotes are recorded in Wallace Brockway and Herbert Weinstock’s Men of Music, rev. ed. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1950), Gaddis’s probable source. The book notes that Schubert was 31, not 32, at his death (266); that Schumann threw himself into the Rhine shortly before his death in 1856 (310-11); and that at his debut as a conductor, Tchaikowski “had the hallucination that his head was coming off, and actually held on to it with one hand during the entire performance. This experience so terrified him that ten years elapsed before he had courage to repeat the experiment” (505).

43.22] Edward Mac . . .: MacDowell (1861-1908): see 225.26. (Anecdote not recorded in Brockway and Weinstock.)

43.25] a biceped Valkyrie [...] Brünnhilde: the heroine of the second opera in Wagner’s Ring, The Valkyrie.

43.28] D-minor piano concerto of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: K.466, since its composition in 1785 the most famous of all his piano concerti. It is heard again on pp. 69 ff. See also 112.41 and 707.4-5.

45.6] Empedocles [...] the second generation of his cosmogony: from fragment 57 of the fifth-century B.C. Greek philosopher’s On Nature, a philosophical poem discussing the conflict of love and strife in the universe. Gaddis’s source seems to be G. S. Kirk and J. E. Raven’s The Presocratic Philosophers (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1960), esp. 336-38.

49.10] painter that cut off his ear: Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) once cut off an ear to give to a prostitute.

49.42] Title Four: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 consisted of eight sections or “titles”; Title Four, called “Cooperative Research,” authorized $100 million for the period 1966-74 for “federal construction aid for educational research facilities” and for grants and/or contracts to various kinds of research groups. {Richard Scaramelli}

50.25] maybe he hears a different drummer [...] let him step to the music which he: from the concluding chapter of Thoreau’s Walden.

transition (51.22-52.14)
DiCephalis offers to “ride” Gibbs somewhere, then drives alone to television studio. 

Scene 8 (52.15-54.17)
Television studio, Massapequa

DiCephalis picks up his wife and drives home.

52.43] Clementi trio: Muzio Clementi (1752-1832), Italian pianist and composer.

Scene 9 (54.18-57.20)
DiCephalis home, Massapequa

Domestic life with “Dad” and children, Nora and Donny.

55.5] the sweeter for being unheard melody [...] this mad pursuit of whatever men or gods those were: from the first two stanzas of Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.

annotations with scene outline
scenes 1 - 10 | pp. 3 - 59    
 scenes 11 - 20 | pp. 59 - 149   
scenes 21 - 30 | pp. 149 - 194
scenes 31--40 | pp. 194 - 251
scenes 41--50 | pp. 251--352
scenes 51 - 60 | pp. 352 - 449
scenes 61 - 70 | pp. 449 - 580
scenes 71 - 83 | pp. 580 - 726
scene outline only

Scene 10 (57.21-59.27)

Bast catches up with J R and demands money taken at Rhinegold rehearsal; J R walks him home.

Alone, Bast walks to back entrance of Bast property.