|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
Pages 733-68; January 1950.
At a television station back in New York, Ellery, Morgie Darling, and an "Alabama Rammer-Jammer man" discuss their tasteless ad campaigns until they inadvertently witness Benny's suicide on one of their television shows. In another part of the city Agnes Deigh, who has been holed up in a rose-filled hotel room for the past week or so writing a long letter to Dr. Weisgall, attempts suicide by jumping out the window but fails because her fall is broken by a passing mailman. We also learn that Sr. Hermoso Hermoso (from I.1) is suing a newspaper for libel for mistakenly printing his picture as the rapist of the cross-eyed virgin martyred forty years earlier. (He plans to use the settlement money to finance her canonization.) Mr. Pivner's relationship with Eddie Zefnic has bloomed, but on the night Eddie comes over to listen to Handel's Messiah on the radio, Pivner is arrested by Treasury agents for counterfeiting.
Elsewhere, others are seen preparing to go to Europe: Stanley to Italy to play his organ concerto at Fenestrula; Max and Hannah to Paris; Don Bildow "to get laid" (but concerned for his swollen daughter, probably impregnated by her baby-sitter Anselm, who has gone west to join a monastery and write his confessions); Arny Munk (who has come out of the closet) and most of the novel's homosexuals to attend Rudy and Frank's wedding; and Frank Sinisterra back to Spain. Stanley visits both Agnes and Esme at Bellevue and takes Esme with him (as a stowaway) when he finally boards the ship for Europe. Also on board are Basil Valentine, Father Martin, the British R.A. (from II.8), and various other minor characters. Those who remain in New York, like Ed Feasley (whose father has just suffered a stroke), Maude Monk (maltreating her stolen baby), and Ellery (who, going to visit Esther, is shown by the little girl downstairs - whom Ellery drunkenly mistakes for Rose - to her dead mother, the one who had borrowed all the sleeping pills the night of Esther's party), are seen wallowing in ennui. The ship leaves with verbal echoes of the Purdue Victory from the opening pages of the novel.