In this Uproarious farce, Steve and Leo Spend a Day Together Drinking in Galway

There’s something I’m curious to know.

This might only be of interest to Gaddis fans. But if you’re keen to follow, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with Carpenter’s Gothic. You might it find it easiest to take a look through these notes or even these extracts from notes. All you’ll need is a basic grasp of setting and characters.

Now, here’s what it says on the back cover of my copy of CG:

In this tempestuous comic novel, Liz and Paul, the occupants of ‘Carpenter’s Gothic’ do battle with the Reverend Ude to preserve the African mission on which they live.

No, it’s not the missing comma before ‘do’ which bothers me. Nor is it the wildly inaccurate generic claim, even though “Tempestuous comic novel” doesn’t leap to mind when describing a terrifying portrait of marriage-death in a loveless world where all chances of connection and creation are destroyed by a capital-machine built from politics, evangelism and PR.

I want to know why it’s wrong, because that’s simply not the setting or story of CG. The right names are there (Liz, Paul, Ude), and some of the right themes (African Missions are important), but it’s like they’re in a crazy remix. How does this happen? Did someone explain the plot over the phone to someone else, then that person forgot, and sort of put it together from what they remembered?

I also want to know if anyone has other examples of this. Misleading blurbs, fine, ten-a-penny, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen another book jacket actually getting the plot substantially wrong.

(By the way, I’ve asked Atlantic, and they don’t know what happened: the editor responsible has left. And, of course, I’m not mocking them here: rather, thank you once again for these reissues; better Gaddis in print with inaccurate plot summaries on the back than Gaddis out of print.)