I’ve always dug long-form works. The first album I can remember buying with “my own money” was Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, which I definitely got because the “we don’t need no education” line pissed off parental types (as an aside, that line is a lot more clever than it first appears to be), but was then dragged into this lengthy work, of which I understood very little (I mean, I would have been like 11 or so, and The Wall doesn’t go out of its way to be clear). But something about the idea that the 90 minutes of the album were meant to be one cohesive thing fascinated me, and I’ve never let go of that.
If someone releases a song that goes on for 11 hours, or a string quartet that lasts for six, or a movie that runs for 2 and a half hours but only contains about 30 shots, I’m all in. Not everything earns its length, but I am willing to at least attempt the ride.
So, I’m at 75% of “The Recognitions”, which is normally a point where I sit down and finish, preferably in as few sittings as possible, but given it’s overall length is going to take me a bit longer, and it’ll be a few days before I get to the end.
Does it earn its length? Weirdly, that’s hard to say. There are huge chunks that don’t really ‘advance the plot’, but they are some of the most arch parts, and the parts I enjoy the most. I am also certain that for every reference I get, I am missing 100 more. Gaddis seems to have taken a lot of pleasure in referencing classical music, poetry, a knowledge of art, etc. I don’t even know if it’s possible for one person to get them all without serious reference material. But the journey continues to interest me, even while I continue to find nearly every character vaguely loathsome. I’ve not read anything quite like it.