So, I’m about 200 pages into The Recognitions; with luck and determination, I’ll be through part one today; and with a lot more luck and a lot more determination, I’ll be out entirely within a month. I don’t know how much of the book I’ll really get, but if my current stats hold up, I will have at least enjoyed a majority of the book.
Of course, things can change.
The thing about reading a book like this, full of allusions and foreign languages, is that you sort of have to (I mean, if you are me) read it like you’re a little bit immortal; like time is on your side. I’m reading it the way I read Infinite Jest; like I had all the time in the world to come back and study it and burrow into the details. Like, I already know I’d like to come back to this book again, they way there are so many books I could spend the rest of my life re-reading, re-learning. It’s only by giving myself permission to assume I someday will that I can give myself the permission I need to take the immediate pleasures I can while glossing over the pleasures I can’t. Someday, though. (Ten years later, and I’m a little bit away from finally re-reading Infinite Jest. It will almost be like reading it again for the first time. Almost.)
What’s great though is that The Recognitions really can be immediately enjoyable. (Which feels like a bit of a theme for the year; gosh, these big books can be good, too! Which isn’t a particularly interesting theme. But. I’m not exactly in the term paper business this year.) Watching Otto unfold has been in particular a trip; if a somewhat squirm-in-the-seat trip. (Who doesn’t want to make more of their own story to others than there is to make? Who isn’t tempted to show off their own arm sling, whatever it may be for them, to wait for the questions it will fail to prompt? Unless that really is just me. Then, move along, please.) It’s also been fascinating, witnessing the rise and fall of the marriage of Esther and Wyatt; at the rate this book moves, we’re either going to cross several generations of characters, or everybody is going to live until they’re well past a hundred.
I will admit to feeling a little uneasy with regards to the question of what this book all adds up to, which is obviously a premature question to tackle, and one that’s probably foolish to discuss in any case; 950 page books about art, society, religion, and money should not be reduced to bullet-point summaries. Still, I would currently have a hard time filtering out a thesis statement, or even a necessary point, to the book, to what it’s saying about anything, if anything. But, it’s early, of course.