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JR Paperback – September 10, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-1843541653 ISBN-10: 1843541653

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 726 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (September 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843541653
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843541653
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,889,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

WILLIAM GADDIS (1922-98) was one of the greatest writers in twentieth-century America. He wrote five novels and won two National Book Awards, for JR (1976) and for A Frolic of His Own (1995). His other landmark novels include: The Recognitions (1955) and Carpenter's Gothic (1985). Agapc Agape was published by Atlantic in 2002.

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Customer Reviews

If you are a serious reader of literary novels, then you owe it to yourself to read Gaddis.
Wordsworth
It also helps to have an MBA or some business background, as the business deals it describes, to hilarious effect, are sometimes very intricate.
Richard A. Ellis
One amazing aspect of this book is that it isn't until you're 400+ pages into it before it really starts to blow your mind.
A customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Ellis on April 14, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gaddis' 'JR' has my nomination for the best American novel of the last half of the 20th century. It is also one of the two or three funniest American novels I can remember reading, right up there with 'Lolita'. It is composed entirely in dialogue, without any breaks at all, and it is sometimes difficult to tell who is talking, but once into the rhythm of the talk, it becomes clearer. It also helps to have an MBA or some business background, as the business deals it describes, to hilarious effect, are sometimes very intricate. It is the story of an 11-year old school kid wheeler-dealer who builds a gigantic paper empire 'bubble' from some army surplus items ordered from a comic book. He manages to involve various adults, including his teacher, in his capitalist schemes. It is a savage and entirely prescient view of America, foreseeing much of the present stock market madness (and it fact its comic hyperbole does not seem so wild now in light of our own real world stock market 'irrational exuberence'). It is unequalled as a depiction of the warping influences in people's lives caused by the capitalist ethic, where serious artists are devalued by the dictates of the market. If you enjoy Pynchon, Barth, or Joseph McElroy (another undeservedly unknown American writer) you will like Gaddis. This is a book to come back to again---read it now before our stock market bubble bursts!
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Damian Kelleher on September 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
On a school excursion to New York, a small group of eleven year old children are introduced to the American way of life. A hurried business man, constantly on the phone or bothered by his secretary, gives a hasty explanation of the stock market, and what it means to 'purchase a piece of America'. The children are suitably awed, especially when their excursion moves from theory to practise with the purchase of one stock from a communal kitty.

One child, JR, is particularly enamoured with the whole process. He asks complicated questions about futures, buybacks, depreciations, interest, tax write-offs and more, flustering and intriguing the man in charge of the tour around the company. JR is so curious, in fact, that upon arriving home, he begins to study and plan ways to make his piece of America work for him.

He meets up with Edward Bast, a struggling composer, and they strike a deal. JR will be the thinking man of the operation, Bast - as an adult - will be the face of the company. Soon, Bast is traveling back and forth from paper mill to Indian reserve to banquet to meeting room as JR creates an empire from 'worthless' stock and inventory obtained through mail order and telephone deals.

JR is written almost entirely in dialogue. People speak, radios chatter, conversations begin and end and trail off, some in the main focus of the novel, such as Rhoda and Bast's discussions in the increasingly cluttered apartment he lives in, some off to the side, little snippets finding their way into the book, shedding light on minor characters or putting a different perspective on what is currently happening.
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101 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Laing on July 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'd suggest to anyone reading this "because its a masterpiece", to get over it. That's no reason to read, or worse, recommend a book. Read it because you want to try out Gaddis' style which is quite a change from the norm.
The reviewer who equated it to listening to the radio is pretty close, in my opinion, although I feel its more like listening to other people talking on the train (or perhaps watching a Robert Altman movie with a blindfold on) in that conversations can be broken off just when you think they are getting interesting.
Reading Gaddis can be like watching television, with someone else holding the remote. If you can't watch movies that way, you'll hate this book.
If you haven't read any Gaddis, read "A Frolic of His Own" first - I was astonished at the way he managed to manipulate my impressions of people solely on the way he let me hear them talk, and then as time went on, I discovered that I actually quite liked those despicable characters after all - and the beating the legal profession gets is far easier to understand (and sympathise with) than the capitalists in JR.
If you find Frolic heavy going, you probably won't like JR. If you find JR heavy going, don't touch The Recognitions. The only reason I bothered with JR, after reading Recognitions, was because I had read Frolic first.
Don't read JR because you're expecting a savage attack on capitalism, although it is that. Don't read it because you want to see how schools are becoming profit-centers first, and educators second, although it shows that. Don't read it because someone said its a picture of an America that was (is?), although perhaps it is.
Read it because its a good book.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Wordsworth on May 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have long been struck by the irony that the most avid readers of literary novels seem to have been virtually ignored by American publishers who cater to the mainstream. Sad to say but American publishing's mindless fixation with mediocre mainstream fiction has had an obliterating effect on American literary culture. So God Bless Penguin for having the good sense to bring to light, even belatedly, this breakthrough literary novel by a supremely gifted writer. I haven't read a more challenging novel by such a first-rate mind in ages. The style of the novel is based upon stream-of-voice: it's akin to walking down 5th Avenue and overhearing parts of conversations of passersby. The net effect is that the reader is compelled to become engaged by virtue of the context, style and story line of unidentified speakers until their voices become familiar. Until the reader succeeds in identifying the voices, the novel seems absurdly abstract. Like many great 20th century novels JR does appear incomprehensible at the outset until the reader discovers a roadmap to navigate this vast stream of voices. If life is order disguised as chaos, then JR is the very height of verisimilitude as there is a reality inherent in this novel that is breakthrough by virute of its style and intricately woven in its storyline. This stream-of-voice in a sense captures the fine art of the ancient oral tradition of story-telling starting with Homer. Jose Saramago in Blindness experimented in a similar way in his novel of discovery and so does Joyce in Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. JR is an important novel by a relatively obscure literary novelist worthy of the small but devoted readership of which it has become my privilege to join. In fact, I have just begun to read The Recognitions. If you are a serious reader of literary novels, then you owe it to yourself to read Gaddis. His novels are a national treasure: one only hopes that some day soon the nation will properly recognize it.
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