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

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
I admit it. I am a Gaddis addict who has read the Recognitions four times and JR every two or three years since its publication in 1986. Carpenter's Gothic is another masterpiece, not exactly easy but at least confined pretty much to a single language and words just about anyone can understand. This makes it an excellent place to start on Gaddis for those who may (understandably) be daunted by the longer books.

Liz, a stunning redhead and post-debutante daughter of a corporate tycoon whose bribery scandal provoked suicide several years back, is being fleeced by the company pals of her father's, who are administering her father's estate in their own interest. She has a husband, Paul, a battered ex-infantry lieutenant, her deceased father's bagman, who married Liz for her dough and is now helplessly watching it vanish and trying feverishly and incompetently to establish himself as a public relations consultant to a cartoon backwoods evangelist. She has a brother, Billy, a prep school dropout who finds nothing worth doing and finally makes one pathetic and fateful effort in the wrong direction, and she is chanced upon by McCandless, a mysterious stranger, her landlord, who effortlessly seduces her and then tosses her aside for a chance to ride into town with the brother who just keeps showing up. Even Liz's only friend, another heiress trying her best to run through the dough left her by a despised aunt, calls Liz collect from Acapulco. Her life is one ridiculous situation after another, and then it ends, pointlessly, at age 33.

McCandless, the landlord, is an initially interesting figure whose incessant smoking may offer something of a key to his real character.
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