Where I live the mail is very slow, and I've just now received the February 20 issue of the Times Literary Supplement. Not that the belatedness of this post matters that much, since the item in question, "Famously Obscure," an omnibus review of William Gaddis by Stephen Burn, was not available on the TLS website, anyway.
The review is a very good introduction to Gaddis's work for those unfamiliar with it or who have shied away from it. (Burn is also the author of a book on David Foster Wallace.) Gaddis is perhaps the poster boy for "difficult" and "experimental" fiction (most likely a "Wanted" poster), but as Burn points out, "Gaddis's gift for capturing the clipped patterns of American speech is unparalleled among contemporary writers, and although his novels are undeniably complex, his eruditon is mixed with his characteristically dark humor."
Gaddis is precisely the sort of writer whose books require reading, slow and deliberate, not the kind of scanning (looking for the elements that might make the novel in hand a really nifty movie) that unfortunately much current fiction practically encourages. His books may even seem confusing, at least at first, but staying with them really pays off. They are not merely formally complex, but their complexity serves their material, which is ultimately the sheer babble and noise of American culture.
Although The Recognitions is perhaps the most impressive debut novel in postwar American fiction, I would start by reading JR, published in 1975. As Burn says of it, "the atmosphere of the novel may be anarchic, but the narrative is clear and the book is extremely readable." At least after you've caught on to Gaddis's method of revealing everything--everything--through dialogue. But in addition to its formal challenges, JR is the most incisive and at the same time most savage dissection of the American commercial/financial culture you'll likely ever read. In my opinion it's one of the greatest American novels ever written.
The review's title refers to Gaddis's penchant for staying out of the limelight. However, it is somehow telling that discussions of Gaddis's fiction must usually work in some mention of this idiosyncrasy, as if even in avoiding publicity Gaddis manages to elicit commentary in which publicity takes center stage, so to speak.
There's a very thorough Gaddis website, overseen by the perhaps foremost Gaddis scholar Steven Moore, at www.williamgaddis.org. Several books on Gaddis have been published, among the ones I own being Carnival of Repetition, by John Johnson, and The Ethics of Indeterminacy in the Novels of William Gaddis, by Gregory Comnes. The chapters on Gaddis in Tom LeClair's The Art of Excess and Susan Strehle's Fiction in the Quantum Universe are also very good. The jargon factor in all four of these books is not that pronounced, but it would probably be most useful to read them after reading at least JR and The Recognitions.