Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Parse a William Gaddis monologue or dialogue, tracing the strands of thoughts that develop. What does this exercise tell about communication and how people relate to one another?

Gaddis was a scathing critic of capitalism but also believed that it is the best system humankind has created. Explore how this tension is expressed in his work, showing both capitalism’s excesses and its advantages.

Consider the role of inaction in a Gaddis novel. What characters resist actingz? What are the results? Is action always the best option? Why or why not?

Explore anger and frustration as the defining mood of Gaddis’s work.

Gaddis often uses puns and wordplay in his books. Explore specific examples of this and how they serve the story thematically.

Discuss techniques of transition in Gaddis’s work, such as the telephone in J.R. or passages marking time in Carpenter’s Gothic. How do they influence the reading of his work? How are they unique stylistic choices?