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He then decided to resurrect his work of a decade earlier on the player piano because he continued to be obsessed (as he writes in a letter to John Seelye) with expanding prospects of programmed society & automation in the arts.
The following summer, Gaddis made his first appearance in a national magazine with Stop Player. Previously, it took real talent and dedication to play the piano, but with this invention anyone could play.
There was an ad in a 1925 Saturday Evening Post for the player piano (which Gaddis saw and later quoted) that even elevated its operator above true pianists: You can play better by roll than many who play by hand, it promised.
He was crushed by the commercial failure of The Recognitions in 1955, which he probably thought would set him up in the same way that Ralph Ellison was set for life after the publication in 1953 of Invisible Man.
Gaddis got married later in 1955 and had to get a job, and within a few years had two kids to support.
In fact, a page of Gaddiss notes for the year 1920 is reproduced on page 587 of J R, and one look at that and you can see what he was up against.
To go back a little bit, it should be remembered the late fifties were a difficult time for Gaddis.
Now both the player piano and the computer adapted this technology from the automated loom invented by Jacquard at the beginning of the 19 century, which also used punched cards, which were taken up in 1835 by Charles Babbage for an early calculator, and further modified in 1890 by Herman Hollerith for a tabulating machine, another forerunner of the modern computer.
As Gaddis realized the player piano was only a chapter in the long history of mechanization and automation, his researched broadened to the point where he was overwhelmed by the logistics of integrating all this material into a coherent narrative.
When he did begin writing again, he had trouble settling on the right project.
He began then abandoned a novel on business in 1957, then started a novel on the Civil War, which he changed to a play entitled Once at Antietam, then shelved it in 1960 after failing to find a producer for it.