21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I thought it was great, and I'm a lawyer!
I am always amused when someone posts a review implying that lawyers should not read a book because it's critical of them and they presumably wouldn't like it (see below). To the contrary, we're not all vain, ignorant barbarians. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and particularly the scathing satire directed at certain members of my chosen profession. I can assure you...
Published on July 26, 1999
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Technique Used to Little Effect
This is the first book by Gaddis that I have read. While the plot, characters, and technique are all promising in themselves, the book's whole is less than the sum of its parts.
This is the result of Gaddis's decision to apply a post-modernist literary technique to a narrative that doesn't benefit from it. As many other reviewers have noted, the bulk of the...
Published on September 29, 2005 by Andrew M. St Laurent
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I thought it was great, and I'm a lawyer!,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)I am always amused when someone posts a review implying that lawyers should not read a book because it's critical of them and they presumably wouldn't like it (see below). To the contrary, we're not all vain, ignorant barbarians. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and particularly the scathing satire directed at certain members of my chosen profession. I can assure you based upon my several years of private practice that, technical quibbles aside (who honestly cares if Gaddis didn't understand preemption?), this book is 100% dead on accurate, down to the very smallest detail, such as the covertly conniving lawyer sending the "hideous" but "expensive" potted amarylis to Christina. It is pleasurable to see my compatriots (and to a certain extent, myself) stripped of their pompous finery in such a masterful manner. It is certainly at times sobering, but meaningfully and necessarily so. And the entire book was far from a chore to read, but one of the most original, brilliantly designed novels I have ever read. It is told in a stream of consciousness style that takes some getting used to, perhaps, but is positively addictive once you get the hang of it. And the interpolation of satirical legal opinions and a deposition transcript into the novel is an original touch. Judge Crease's first "Spot" opinion is an absolute howl (no pun intended). All in all, a complex, engrossing, enriching experience.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, if occasionally tedious,
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)Despite the fact that he almost always rewards the effort it takes to get through his books, this is the only Gaddis work I've gotten through. I stalled out on JR and the Recognitions, even though I was enjoying them both . . . it just seems like . . . I dunno . . . TOO MUCH, and diminishing returns kicks in after a while. Even Tolstoy has a hard time keeping my attention for 700 pages +.
Not so in this book. The transitions between dialogue and description seem more refined; there wasn't nearly as much confusion for me in this book as there was in his other books - very little "so who's talking now? and who's this character?"
Since those hurdles were much lower, I could actually enjoy what makes Gaddis enjoyable - he's hilarious. He's bitter and mean and almost always absolutely right. And it isn't like swallowing a cup of bile on every page because you can tell that, beneath all of his disgust with the way things are, there's an undercurrent of well-reasoned humanity and hope for the way things ought to be.
The only thing that keeps this review from being a 5 is the rather tedious excerpts from the play. They have thematic resonances and all that literary garbage but, frankly, when I go back to reread the book (and it's just as funny when you read it again - and you find more and more stuff, which is the mark of a great book) I usually skip over those sections.
It's a shame that so few people can get past the challenge of his style (I always see rows of barely creased Gaddis tomes in used book stores) because those who can settle into his rhythms will enjoy this book a whole lot.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of His Own,
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)I made the "mistake" of familiarizing myself with Gaddis' work by first reading The Recognitions about six months ago. Make no mistake - The Recognitions is well worth the effort, once you understand how to read it (i.e. the dialogue and conversational effect and how to interpret who is talking and when, and what is narrative as opposed to dialogue), although toward the end, when Wyatt loses his mind in the monastery, the imagery gets a bit muddled. In any event, as I began reading A Frolic of His Own, I found myself thinking, wow, I should have started with this one, because this is much more accessible than The Recognitions. Of course, I now realize that it is more accessible simply because I had been through the wringer with The Recognitions and not because the style is so much different. Indeed, it is more structured and more coherent, but the same Gaddis black, stinging satire is there in its glory.
An amazing book. Gaddis truly listened to how we speak and interact with each other, because his dialogue is absolutely spot on with how we humans/Americans speak to each other in a familiar manner. While there are no truly sympathetic characters (all are pretentious and selfish in a way we all know far too well), one can't help but feel empathy towards each of them in some sordid way. The plot has been outlined in other reviews, so I won't go there, other than to say that just when you think Gaddis is off on some tangent and you feel a lack of cleverness in having not "got it", he brings it right back around, front and center, although it may not be where you thought it was going to be.
Unlike criticisms of The Recognitions, and even JR, which suggest too much plot, too many charachters, and many loose ends (not necessarily true), this is a tightly, albeit densely, plotted book that is at times laugh out loud funny and other times head in the oven sad. But at all times it challenges and is truly entertaining and wonderful. Maybe the best book I've ever read.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Technique Used to Little Effect,
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)This is the first book by Gaddis that I have read. While the plot, characters, and technique are all promising in themselves, the book's whole is less than the sum of its parts.
This is the result of Gaddis's decision to apply a post-modernist literary technique to a narrative that doesn't benefit from it. As many other reviewers have noted, the bulk of the book is written as pure dialogue, without quotations and without attribution. While this creates some problems in the beginning, it becomes surprisingly easy to follow. The rest of the book is made up of excerpts from texts, mainly a play, legal briefs, and court documents, with a very few brief stretches of interior monologue or description.
The problems with this technique are two. First, it is monotonous. Writers generally vary the pacing and tone of their writing for dramatic effect. Gaddis can't do that. Second, the technique flattens out the narrative: no part of the text is given more importance than any other. The end result is that the reading the book feels like taking a drive over a flat highway in a car stuck in third gear, and, at almost six hundred pages, it's a very long drive.
Gaddis's choice is unfortunate, because the substance of the book, including a long-simmering battle over the rights to a play and movie about the American Civil War, an accident in which a driver runs himself over, and a running family feud, could have made for an entertaining book.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the perspective of a lawyer/copyright professor,
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)I'm writing this review not as a general reader who likes everything from Umberto Eco (the sublime) to Douglas Adams (the ridiculous), but as someone with a particular interest in copyright to others with a similar interest (assuming you are not already a Gaddis fan). For such a reader, Gaddis's book is an incredible journey through the world of law in general, and copyright law in particular. A lawyer with any perspective ought to love this. Some of the materials are taken almost verbatim from actual cases, but with just enough twists to make it sometimes hilarious. I too noticed what I thought was a flaw in the analysis between federal and state law, but it turns out later that the purported flaw was intentional and plays an important part in the development of the plot!
The book is certainly not an easy read (with no quotation marks, and everyone annoyingly interrupting each other and not finishing sentences), and it takes 50-100 pages to learn how to read the book without getting too bogged down. But this is ultimately a brilliant work, and I recommend that any lawyer or professor or student interested in the field will ultimately get a lot out of it.
-Edward Samuels, author of The Illustrated Story of Copyright
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading, out of the ordinary style,
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)William Gaddis writes like no other author, and his work is refreshing to read in a market that is simply clotted with bad and substandard writers that somehow manage to get published. He is truly original.
The book follows a motley cast of characters, none of them really likeable, but unswervingly human (and might I say American) if a tad over the top in obsessive behavior. But literature should stretch the human condition a bit to make characters interesting, especially when the goal is satire. The main character, Oscar Crease, is involved in a few lawsuits, the main one being a dispute over a play he wrote that may or may not have been stolen for a big budget Hollywood film.
I am truly not worthy to try to discuss the myriad facets of law, philosophy, literary value, and general twists the book takes, but I will say on finishing this novel I was consistently amazed at how Gaddis fills the characters with depth and turns the story in new ways.
If you haven't gleaned it already from the other reviews, Gaddis writes in a style that is almost all dialogue. Whatever is not dialogue turns into a kind of stream of consciousness prose that takes us from one scene into another, and really doesn't do more to describe action than what the dialogue already does. There are no quotation marks, no "he said's" or "she said's", and no identification of characters except occasional name dropping--you have to know who is speaking through the mannerism and word choice. And really, it only takes about 20 pages to get into the swing of things, and when you start reading it as though you were in the middle of the conversation the book really flows.
Also, Gaddis throws in some legal briefs, a couple of acts of a play, and a deposition--but don't be scared off by the legal jargon and change of style, because when you stick with it you realize in the middle of these events you are getting a glimpse into the ridiculousness of the whole issue and you can see the true humor of the situations.
Highly recommended if you like some originality and unique qualities to your literature. Plus it's just genuinely interesting and funny.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Legal Tenderness,
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This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)I read Frolic after JR and The Recognitions of which I was more impressed than Frolic. It's amusing to watch Gaddis skewer the legal profession -- I can think of few professions more worthy of it -- but while he addresses the national feeding frenzy of greed associated with litigation his characters fail to capture much empathy as they were more hideous in many cases than their legal representatives. Consequently, I found myself detached from main characters and unsymapthetic to their sordid fates. In JR and The Recognitions I found characters whose destinies in the story lines mattered to me -- not so in Frolic. Gaddis has his finger on the pulse of a national disgrace in the need for tort reform but, since the reformers are self-regulating lawyers, it isn't likely to happen anytime soon. This novel is very finely written with powerful, pithy observations expressed in breathtaking jabs and poetic riffs. Frolic isn't as densely packed with intellect as JR or The Recognitions but is more accessible than either as his style is more accommodating in Frolic. This novel is just shy of great compared to the high standards set by his other works, which are among the best brace of American novels of the late 20th century. The great novels of Gaddis are destined to be discovered by wider readerships, to radiate brilliantly on America's literary landscape and to endure.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whole-Brain Reading,
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)This book, like Gaddis' other masterpiece, JR, made me repeatedly laugh out loud. While Gaddis is brilliant and innovative, the really important thing is that his best novels -- of which this is one -- are great fun to read. As for the reviewers who complain "why doesn't he use quotation marks?"; the answer is because the book wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable. Enjoying Gaddis comes from going with the frenetic flow of his rhythms. The reviewer who finds it "annoying" that characters keep interrupting each other is, with all due respect, missing the point. What's brilliant, and fun, about Gaddis, is the way the cumulative effect of those interruptions mirrors the sensation of certain real-life conversations. If you read a transcription of a spirited debate at a family dinner, or a tense business meeting, or whatever, you won't find many complete sentences. What you'll find is a collection of false starts, interruptions, and apparent non-sequiturs that resemble Gaddis' prose. In my experience, Gaddis's books are the type to which you need to surrender your consciousness and detachment to really enjoy them. To a certain extent, we've all been taught that to be truly intelligent or sophisticated readers, we need to hold part of our mind back to remain "critical" and to analyze the author's technique, and our own reactions, as we read. But if you read Gaddis while carefully searching for his "tricks" or "methods" and trying to discern the key to his authorial voice, you're doing yourself a disservice. It's all about immersion. If you just go with the flow, I don't think it's nearly as "difficult" as many people suggest, and it's as rewarding as reading can be.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gaddis genius strikes again!,
By A Customer
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)I'm afraid I had to offer my own review after being appalled that other customers had rated this novel beneath the five stars its due. While others bring Pynchon's name to the top of the list, I don't believe it possible to deny Gaddis' status as the top author in American letters. Brilliantly innovative, with a minute eye for both the sublime and the mundane, and the threads which bind the two in existence, this book is a must read. And if you read it twice, perhaps you'll come away chuckling at the realization of the true measure of the frolic.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars guide to reading gaddis,
This review is from: A Frolic of His Own (Paperback)just to burden you with my opinion and to disagree with joshua below (done with trepidation given his impressive reading list)--this is a pretty damn fine book. for a committed gaddis-ite, 'jr' or 'the recognitions' may have been better, but i'm not sure that isn't because they're less accessible and we gaddis-ites like to shun accessibility. for the non gaddis-ite, 'a frolic of his own' should stand alone as a fine piece of work that rewards patience easily. u-who-have-not-read-this-book-yet: persevere. unlike the other gaddis books, u will get used to his style more quickly here. do not read in short bursts because you will have to relearn to read gaddis each time; read in long stretches, you learn to recognize the voices and don't need to search for who's talking (the non-verbal bits even become a little irritating). if it doesn't work out after 20-30 pages, put it aside for a year or two and come back to it (maybe after reading joyce). good luck.
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A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis (Paperback - February 10, 1995)