The Recognitions

William Gaddis (Author) William H. Gass (Introduction by)
& 1 more
Pre-Order   Ships Nov 24, 2020


A postmodern masterpiece about fraud and forgery by one of the most venerated novelists of the last century.

The Recognitions is a sweeping depiction of a world in which everything that anyone recognizes as beautiful or true or good emerges as anything but: our world. The book is a masquerade, moving from New England to New York to Madrid, from the art world to the underworld, but it centers on the story of Wyatt Gwyon, the son of a New England pastor, who forsakes religion to devote himself to painting, only to despair of his inspiration. In expiation, he will paint nothing but flawless copies of revered old masters--copies, however, that find their way into the hands of a sinister financial wizard by the name of Recktall Brown, who sells them as the real thing. Gwyon's story is only one of many that fill the pages of a novel that is as monstrously populated as the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. Throughout, William Gaddis's characters preen and scheme and party and toil, pursuing salvation through the debasement of desire.

Dismissed uncomprehendingly by the critics on publication in 1955 and ignored by the literary world for decades after, The Recognitions is now recognized as one of the great American novels.

Product Details

$29.95  $27.55
New York Review of Books
Publish Date
November 24, 2020

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About the Author

A 1982 MacArthur Fellow and two-time winner of the National Book Award, William Gaddis (1922-1998) was the author of five novels: The Recognitions, J R, Carpenter's Gothic, A Frolic of His Own, and, published posthumously, Agapē Agape.

Tom McCarthy is the author of four novels and several works of criticism, including a collection of essays, Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish, which was published in 2017 by NYRB. He lives in London.

William H. Gass (1924-2017) was a novelist, short-story writer, essayist, critic, and professor of philosophy. NYRB Classics reissued his book-length essay On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry and his short-story collection In the Heart of the Heart of the Country in 2014.


"[The Recognitions] seems as relevant as ever. For who would dare say that we no longer live in a world in which people 'exchange forgeries of what the heart dare not surrender?' The problem of authenticity in all its forms is always with us, and in reading this extraordinary book we are constantly freed into recognitions -- re‐cognitions -- of many aspects, of the problem, which have deteriorated into non‐cognitions in our mass media age. William Gaddis detects forgery at all levels, but in doing so he has forged a classic."--Tony Tanner, The New York Times
"The novel is like a huge landscape painting of modern New York, peopled with hundreds of doomed but energetic little figures, executed on wood panels by Brueghel or Bosch, and looking incongruously ancient beneath layers of yellowed lacquer. Even the blue skies in the book (the phrase "Another blue day" recurs as a despair-inducing leitmotiv) glow like oil-paint skies in an art museum..."--Jonathan Franzen, The New Yorker
"The Recognitions is always spoken of as the most overlooked important work of the last several literary generations... Through the famous obscurity of The Recognitions, Mr. Gaddis has become famous for not being famous enough."--Cynthia Ozick