Fire The Bastards/JR/The Recognitions
REVIEW by Willard Manus
Timed with its release of new editions of JR and THE RECOGNITIONS, William Gaddis' monumental early novels, Dalkey Archive has also published FIRE THE BASTARDS! by Jack Green.
Green, a gladfly writer and pamphleteer, became a Gaddis fan when he first read THE RECOGNITIONS in 1955. Outraged at the way the 945-page novel was treated by most reviewers, he devoted the next three issues of newspaper, his mimeographed, self-published journal, to a scorching, take-no-prisoners assault on all those "phonies and insincere jobholders" who had written unfavorable things about THE RECOGNITIONS.
In FIRE THE BASTARDS! Green's three 1962 essays are reproduced in their entirety, keeping their crazily-punctuated, jaggedly-written style intact. Green's angry, scornful voice is not muffled by the jumbled grammar; on the contrary, it resounds from beginning to end, raising literary hell without fear or regrets.
Green blames the poor sales of the first edition of THE RECOGNITIONS--"a great novel, as much the novel of our generation as ulysses was of its"--on the book review media. As he points out:
"--2 critics boasted they didn't finish the book
"--one critic made 7 boners others got wrong the number of pages, year, price, publisher, author & title
"--& other incredible boners like mistaking a diabetic for a narcotics addict
"--one critic stole part of his review from the blurb, part from another review
"--one critic called the book "disgusting," "evil," foul-mouthed," needs "to have its mouth washed out with lye soap" others were contemptuous or condescending
"--2 of 55 reviews were adequate the others were amatuerish & condescending
failing to recognize the greatness of the book
failing to convey to the readers what the book is like, what its essential qualities are
counterfeiting this with stereotyped preconceptions--the standard cliches about a book that is "ambitious," "erudite," "long," negative," etc
counterfeiting competence with inhuman jargon
--constructive suggestion: fire the bastards!"