William Gaddis: Agapē Agape
So I began with Gaddis’s fifth and last novel, a concentration of his ideas or shall we say his last straw. It is not without apprehension that I’ve taken on this (less than 100 pages) book although the reading turned out gripping. Very reminiscent of Bernhard, the similarities are cunning: written with a monolith style and music as the central theme. Agapē Agape is narrated by an ailing man on his deathbed surrounded by a life-time collection of notes and information, as he desperately tries to reconstruct his ideas, somehow like Gaddis himself. Through the social history of the player piano, we are taken on a journey of a machine designed to replace natural artistic talent, which could only be a metaphor of the mechanization of the arts, the taking over of humans by machines. But it doesn’t stop here, society has come to a point where pure talent is rejected and where impostors and imitators are hailed as the new gods of the player piano era. Instead of admiring the work of art, society takes an overbearing interest in the artist’s person, ego, aura. All this is unnecessary and even frustrating. Shouldn’t the artist’s work be representative of everything he wants to convey without having to succumb under society’s inquisitive look? In this ode to the originality of the artist, Gaddis ironically copies styles and words by bombarding us with infinite references to writers, artists and philosophers. What we have here is a one breath rant against what has become of art and talent in a world that has lost its love for authenticity. It is a computer world, binary world. Yes, no. Agapē, agape.