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Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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A Frolic of His Own Paperback – February 10, 1995

3.9 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Perhaps William Gaddis' most accessible novel--though a dense and imposing book--A Frolic of His Own is a masterful work that mocks the folly of a litigious society. The story centers around Oscar Crease, the grandson of a Confederate soldier who avoided a deadly battle by invoking a legal clause that allowed him to hire a substitute and who later became a Supreme Court judge. Oscar writes a play about his grandfather that goes unproduced yet appears as the story behind a big-budget Hollywood film. Oscar sues and is tossed into the vortex of litigation. Meanwhile, almost 20 other lawsuits of varying frivolity swirl about, adding to this satirical and philosophical treat, which won the National Book Award for 1994.

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Carpenter's Gothic (and winner of a 1993 Lannan Award) takes a brash, entertaining swipe at the legal profession in his fourth novel. Oscar Crease is a quiet, middle-aged history professor whose father and grandfather were both high-ranking judges. The story begins as Oscar contemplates two lawsuits: one against the Japanese manufacturer of the car that ran over him; the other against a filmmaker Oscar claims stole his play, Once at Antietam , and turned it into a gory, lavish movie. Before long, the legal wranglings, strategic maneuvering and--of course--the whopping bills dominate Oscar's life and wreak havoc on his relationships. There is no description or third-person narrative. Like Carpenter's Gothic , which is rendered wholly in dialogue, this narrative is a cacophony of heard and found voices: Oscar's conversations with his myriad lawyers, his flighty girlfriend, his patient sister and her lawyer husband are all spliced with phone calls, readings from Oscar's play and various legal documents. Rather than slow the action down, these documents add to the grim melee. This is a wonderful novel, aswirl with the everyday inanity of life; it may also be the most scathing attack ever published on our society's litigious ways.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (February 10, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684800527
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684800523
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #964,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Justice, we are told in the opening lines of this vast, fast moving novel, is what you get in the next life. In this life, you get the law.

If the law is ubiquitous in A Frolic of His Own, it is because, as the characters in Gaddis’ novel demonstrate, we are a deeply litigious people.

Oscar Crease, the novel’s main character, sues himself, leaving his vehicle as defendant, after his driverless car runs over him while he is under the hood adjusting the vehicle’s ignition switch.

Oscar sues a production company for stealing and degrading his screenplay to make a sex, and violence infused movie of the Civil War.

A sculptor seeks an injunction against a city to preserve his unpopular structure, Cyclone Seven, against citizens seeking to destroy the thing in an effort to liberate Spot, a hapless, adorable puppy hopelessly ensnared within the artistic expression.

There’s a lawsuit involving catsup splattered on a fur coat by animal rights activists; a lawsuit, cited by one Judge Crease, Oscar’s father, involving a drowning during a baptism in the Pee Dee River, and so it goes.

And why are we a deeply litigious people? Harry Lutz, a prominent, even sympathetic character in the novel is an ambitious and accomplished young lawyer who refuses to concede that lawsuits are undertaken in a quest for justice. “It’s the money,” according to Lutz, “The rest of it is nothing but opera.”

This extraordinary and powerful novel appeared over twenty years ago. It could have been published yesterday. Age has not, to borrow Shakespeare, withered its message in the slightest. Alas, there is no sign that it will anytime soon.
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