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Carpenter's Gothic (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – March 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An unholy landmark of a novel--an extra turret added on to the ample, ingenious, audacious Gothic mansion Gaddis has been building in American letters"—Cynthia Ozick, The New York Times Book Review

"Everything in this compelling and brilliant vision of America--the packaged sleaze, the incipient violence, the fundamentalist furor, the constricted sexuality--is charged with the force of a volcanic eruption. Carpenter's Gothic will reenergize and give shape to contemporary literature."—Walter Abish

About the Author

William Gaddis (1922-1998) was a master of the American novel who was frequently compared with Joyce, Nabokov, and Pynchon. Two of his novels, J R and A Frolic of His Own, won the National Book Award. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the recipient of a MacArthur Prize.
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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182223
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By E. Hawkins on May 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gaddis must give Thomas Bernhard a run for his money. While Bernhard specialises in the ranting monologue -- and denies the reader the breathing space of a single paragraph-break -- Gaddis plunges us into a cacophony of competing voices. Passages of description and narration are few and far between, and even when we get them, they're written telegraphically, almost as a stream-of-consciousness, with only the most minimal punctuation. I'm an advocate of lucidity in prose as a rule, but Gaddis's energy does away with the distinctions between lucidity and obscurity -- after a single page of this novel, you know you're in the hands of a master, one of the greatest writers of dialogue the novel has known. (He makes David Mamet seem quiescent by comparison.) The material of the novel seems terribly unpromising. It's set almost entirely in one house (full of false walls and chimneys unconnected to fireplaces -- a sure sign that everything is not as it seems) and the protagonist, Liz, is a nervous wreck. None of the characters really communicate with one another -- or at least not while they're talking. The plot is inordiantely complex, and we're often given information that doesn't make sense at the time. And Liz is the only person who really manages to elicit any sympathy from the reader. But it's still a thrilling read, because Gaddis stokes the rhetorical fires unceasingly and with unflagging wit. A good starting point for his three larger novels.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
Gathering storm..Unfolds like a stage play on the floor boards of one rented house....any reader who gives this book a chance will be borne along ever faster and further by the magnificent, ranting dialogue which seems to reach from these rented rooms into every nefarious corner of American mischief; a sinister bible act of the Pat Robertson ilk with an African ministry(the entire rape of Africa is rendered in one amazing four or five page salvo), the unscrupulous wife-bullying moron who decides to act as his P.T.Barnum, and a host of other characters who fall into those two GADDIS categories(not mutually exclusive) of grotesque and disposessed. What a book!Gives evil many faces."As funny as hell"
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven Q. Dump on February 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Having heard so much praise for Gaddis' work and having read excerpts from all four of his novels, I decided to give "Carpenter's Gothic" a try. I must say that I was not at all surprised to find that everything I've heard about Gaddis' virtuoso prose and dialogue is absolutely true. The man was an absolutely brilliant writer. His dialogue is the best I've ever read. I also can see why he never really became popular: he's not the easiest writer to read. A book like this has to be read at least two times in order for the reader to catch up on a lot of what is going on. Not that this would be much of a chore. In fact, I think that anyone who has read this book would look forward to a second go-round!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
Carpenter's Gothic is a good book--the harshest criticism ever written on American crudity: illiterate religious zealots, megacorporations and good consumers, the mass media, and the density of the average American mind. Gaddis' dialogue--and _CG_ is nearly all dialogue--crystallizes the idiocy and the vague terror in the hearts of his messed-up characters. It's always spot-on in its parody of stupidity and incoherence (I am a college student, and I constantly hear echoes of _CG_ when other people, or I, talk). However, there are no interior lives of the Proustian or Joycean sort--all is speech, documents, objects. Gaddis writes nothing of what his characters think. While the external emphasis is completely appropriate for late 20th century America, if you're looking for meaningful inner lives, skip _CG_ and go to Gaddis' first book, _The Recognitions_, or jaunt to Joyce. Better yet, go out and make some effort to raise yourself above the intellectual level of the characters in _Carpenter's Gothic_. The spirit of Gaddis might give thanks for that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on July 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
Often this is considered the least of Gaddis' novels, the most obvious reason being that it's the shortest, although that isn't the only reason. Still, in his longer novels Gaddis was always able to work his themes to a fever pitch and stretch them out, playing with dialogue and tone over the course of hundreds of pages, giving you in essence a grand symphony. A depressing symphony, also, mind you, dotted with sparks of black humor but it made each book a rather meaty read. Here he attempts to do all that in like a tenth of the space and while that gives the novel a breakneck pace that isn't really matched by anything else he's ever done (Agape, Agape, maybe, but I'll let you know when I get there), things start off quickly and keep moving. Even this is an illusion, while The Recognitions was a tad ponderous at times and was meant to be read slowly, JR comes across as a mad flurry of action, due to all the competing voices charging head-on in cacophony. Here everything just feels compressed, the characters trapped in a bottle, the setting never really leaving the house that gives the novel its name. With its limited setting and fewer characters, it sometimes can feel like JR-lite but the tone is remarkably different. As I mentioned, there are hints of Gaddis' rather dark view of things but most of the time it was leavened by humor or at least some kind of compassion. In this story, you have none of that. The two main characters, Paul and Elizabeth, are taking care of a house owned by a different man, while Paul works with a Reverend and also seems to be suing a bunch of people due to some kind of airplane crash, while Elizabeth goes to different doctors somehow aligned with the case and generally frets about.Read more ›
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Carpenter's Gothic (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)
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