|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions|
Pages 169-201; December 1949
Upon returning to New York in early December, Otto is invited to a Greenwich Village party for the unveiling of a new painting (actually a mounted workman's shirt) by an artist/critic named Max. Though some of the characters at the party have already appeared briefly - Agnes Deigh on page 100, Anselm on 103 - it is here that most of the novel's cast is introduced: Arny and Maude Munk, a childless couple always failing in their attempts to adopt; Herschel, a clever homosexual and ghostwriter for politicians and army generals; Agnes Deigh, a literary agent, lapsed Catholic, most comfortable in the company of homosexuals; Hannah, a dumpy Village artist, amateur psychologist, living by charity and her wits, fond both of beer and Stanley, a devout Catholic, composer of organ music, concerned for the souls both of Agnes and Anselm (real name: Arthur), an acne-ridden poet, obsessed with the spirit (but contemptuous of the common practice) of religion; assorted Village people (the suicidal Charles Dickens, guilt-ridden for being in a plane that dropped an atomic bomb in "the late hate"; the onanistic critic in the green wool shirt; Buster Brown; Sonny Byron; Adeline Thing); Ed Feasley, a practical joker who attended Harvard with Otto without learning an occupation; Big Anna the Swede, a flamboyant homosexual and cross-dresser; Mr. Feddle, a befuddled old man who writes poetry and pays to have it published; and Esme, "manic depressive, schizoid tendencies" (196.24) as well as a heroin addict and model, who also writes poetry. The party ends viciously with Herschel hitting Hannah and Anselm maligning everyone else. Otto accompanies Esme home.