Speaking in Tongues

Nonstop chatter makes light of the law's dark side

Built as they are almost entirely from dialogue, the novels of William Gaddis are like those scenes in a Robert Altman movie where everyone talks over everyone else while each tongue is tripping on itself. For A Frolic of His Own (Poseidon Press; 586 pages; $25), Gaddis practically rebuilds the Tower of Babel from the sounds and furies of the late 20th century. Drunken soliloquies, air-brained chatter and large, heavy blocks of legal gibberish are piled atop one another. One character is haunted by the thought that "reality may not exist at all except in the words in which it presents...

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