by Jonathan Bayliss
Reviewers have compared
Jonathan Bayliss's groundbreaking fiction - the
tetralogy GLOUCESTERMAN - to the
works of Sterne, Melville, Joyce, Broch, and Musil.
The four expansive, inventive, good-humored, thought-provoking
novels explore Bayliss's wide-ranging interests including
history, liturgy, tragedy, systems, nature,
engineering, ships, railroads, geography, and
politics - as well as the challenges of friendship, love,
domestic life, responsibility, and work.
The tetralogy GLOUCESTERMAN
is headed by Prologos
and includes the trilogy
The novels may be read in any order.
The foreground of Prologos is California's Bay Area
about a decade after the end of World War 2; its narrative
background is transcontinental and transPacific. The
protagonist, Michael Chapman, is torn three ways -- by
domestic love, by the practical matters of his livelihood,
and by the internal conflicts of intellectual life.
The ingenious format of the 1083-page novel allows the
reader to proceed sequentially or according to theme.
among the most significant experiments in narrative form in
the last fifty years of American fiction."
- Gary Grieve-Carlson
"The English novel has been
restored in this fucking book by Bayliss."
- Charles Olson, 1966, commenting on an early
version of the manuscript
Bayliss in 1965
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Bayliss (1926-2009), novelist and
playwright, grew up during the Great Depression in
Cambridge, Massachuetts, and Vermont. He began
college at Harvard, leaving after his freshman year
to enlist in the Navy during World War 2. After the
War he graduated from the University of California
at Berkeley. While writing his novels and Gilgamesh
plays, Bayliss earned a livelihood in sales analysis
and management, beginning in 1950 at a Berkeley
bookstore. He was controller of Gorton's of
Gloucester and had two stints as a manager for the
City of Gloucester, Massachusetts.
The three Gloucester novels
- in which the East Coast fishing
port is called "Dogtown" - are the creation of the West
Coast "Controller," Michael Chapman of
Prologos. Though Gloucesterbook begins
in 1960 and Gloucestermas ends in the
1980s, and the cluster of friends of main characters
Rafe Opsimath and Caleb Karcist changes,
the novels may be read in any order. Interspersed are Bayliss's Gilgamesh plays (The Tower of
Gilgamesh in Gloucestertide; The Acts of Gilgamesh in
"..... a learned, intellectual, and demanding work -
although it is never obscure, opaque, or capricious. The
author is not trying to puzzle us. He takes us, rather, on a
highly controlled exploration . . . There's a vivacity, a
profusion of intellect, style, detail, an exuberance and
plenitude that recall Melville's or, at other moments,
- Stuart Miller
is a genuine achievement, a literary work of true
originality. The real hero here is Place."
- Gerrit Lansing
"James Joyce gave us the living, breathing Dublin through
the prism of myth; Jonathan Bayliss’s “counterfactual” Gloucester is
no less vital, and his understanding of local and national political
life is equally profound."
"Groundbreaking European fictions, such as
Hermann Broch's The Sleepwalkers and Musil's
The Man without Qualities, come to mind as comparisons
. . . It returns the novel in English to its experimental
roots, with the wit and outrageous inventiveness of
Tristram Shandy. Jonathan Bayliss uses language in a
way that makes our native tongue come alive for us as though
we were experiencing it for the first time in all its
freshness and hard-edge originality.
- Peter Anastas