Gaddis' Agape Agape: Dead Man Micturates On Masses' Delight (Complete With Annotated Bibliography).

2039 words - 8 pages

Gaddis' Agape Agape: Dead Man Micturates onto Masses' DelightThe publication posthumous of Agape Agape by the estate of William Gaddis gave closureto - if one believe in phantoms and shadows bumping in the night - an obsession by Gaddisof some half-century with the idea of writing a social history of the player piano (orpianola by which term it shall be mentioned in this paper) and expanded when he found avoice in the mouth of a dying, fragile, emphyzemic man. The novel is written in the formof an exhaustive bombardment of images, sentences lasting for pages, a lack of a singleparagraph break, and centered upon an obsessive repetition that the soul (also called a'doppelganger', 'detachable self', or 'belly-talker') has been killed. Essentially, Gaddisasserts that technology built for the masses' mindless enjoyment - such as the pianola andtelevision - leads to the deterioration of truly brilliant minds and magnificent souls such asWagner and Tolstoy, culminating in a 'collapse of everything, of meaning, of language, ofvalues, of art, disorder and dislocation wherever you look,' and that the only chance forpuropose that a sane man or woman - the artist - possesses is to separate his or her selffrom the masses and to allow this 'belly-talker' to compose of its own accord.The pianola, the advent of which was perceived as the cause of so much misery to Gaddis'narrator, was 'perfected' into the form by which it became popular by Edwin Votey ofDetroit in 1896. Though it is not relevant to make a detailed explanation of itsmachinations, the device is powered by suction, and the 'operator' can attain the illusionof playing skillfuully by applying pressure to the foot-pedals. He or she may also add notesto the piece with the conventional keyboard. Because Gaddis never states that hisobjection is to the availability of music to the greater populace but rather to the idea thatthe makers of the pianola profited from exploiting great masterpieces and then cheapeningartwork by allowing every housewife and businessman with disposable income to receivethe illusion that he or she can rival the great composers like Schubert and musicians suchas Sarasate. In his typical 'stream-of-conscious', prednisone-induced manner, Gaddis orhis narrator (one must remember that these are still somehow two separate entities) waxesbitter over this capture and prostitution of magni opera.'[M]ob out there crash bang storming the gates seeking pleasure democracy scaling the wallsterrifying the elite who've had a corner on high class entertainment back to marie Antoinettestorming the Bastille with here yes, here's one yes, here's a German ad 1926 holding the line forthe class act against here they come, here they come, "a still larger class of people who cannotsuccessfully operate the usual type of player, because they lack a true sense of musical values.They have no 'ear for music', and for that reason they play atrociously upon pianos equippedwith even high grade player actions"...

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