William Gaddis was born in Manhattan, New York City in 1922. In Recognition of William Gaddis (1984) is a collection of essays supporting the view that Gaddis is the Herman Melville of the twentieth century. The comparison may prove justified, not only because of artistic similarities, but also because both writers suffered from years of neglect before achieving fame. Gaddis's novel The Recognitions (1955) baffled and angered most of its initial reviewers, but it has slowly, steadily attracted a growing number of appreciative readers willing to work through its more than 900 demanding pages. Its length and encyclopedic complexity caused some critics mistakenly to hail it as the American Ulysses, but Gaddis disclaimed much knowledge of James Joyce. His central figure, Wyatt, is a painter who finds his natural talent misdirected away from original creation toward the forging of old masterpieces. Scores of other characters appear, and almost all of them are also forgers, imposters, counterfeiters, and plagiarists, for The Recognitions is essentially a deeply religious work about the nature of reality and creativity. As if to make amends for the neglect of The Recognitions, most reviewers greeted Gaddis's second novel, JR (1975), with respectful attention. Although not a popular success, it won the National Book Award. Of Carpenter's Gothic (1985). William Gaddis died in 1998.