William Gaddis at the L.A. Review of Books

BILL GADDIS was my brother’s best friend of all time. When he first me him, Bill was rather undersized and scrawny — I secretly thought he resembled Freddie Bartholomew — fortunately for the sake of my own hide I kept this thought strictly to myself. Perhaps they drew together because of a mutual shyness — the type of person who is sufficient unto himself and forces himself to participate in things that draw attention but actually not relishing the spotlight at all. Being undersized and a new pupil to public school, Bill was immediately at a disadvantage — and the fact that he was intellectual by nature would have been enough alone to make him “different” and thus put him in for some little persecution. Henry had gone to school with the group since early grades and had already established himself as one of the crowd. Not so with Bill. As I have said, Bill was intellectual, and he was also creative — Henry was not an intellectual but he was intelligent and, I’ve always felt, had the sensitivity of an artist to some degree. He wasn’t creative in a true artistic sense, but he could “do” things — and I believe that both he and Bill recognized things in each other that they admired. For one thing, Henry could swing a mean punch — Bill could not, but had great need of such a capability. Bill could think of funny things to do and say, whereas Henry didn’t attract much attention with his savoir faire and wit. So they complemented each other remarkably well. When Bill was menaced by a bully, Henry was there to menace right back — when girls were around, Bill could be the gay sophisticated wit and Henry profited by just being with him. But the girls came later — first came the early years of adolescent foolery, or perhaps I should say folly.

Click here to read “A Previously Unpublished Memoir” at the LARB

Click here to read “New Details Emerge About the Young William Gaddis” at the LARB

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