rip William H. Gass

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I won't claim to be a big fan of his doorstoppier novels but he could be a pretty enjoyable essayist.

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Friday, 8 December 2017 14:44 (three years ago) link

my reaction too

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 8 December 2017 14:46 (three years ago) link


I saw him lecture once and he told a story about having a manuscript stolen from his office and the thief published it as his own work. I've always wondered what that book was.

President Keyes, Friday, 8 December 2017 14:47 (three years ago) link

just Googled it-- apparrently it was the only manuscript of Omensetter's Luck. Thief tried to adapt it into a play and publish it. Gass had to reconstruct the book from notes and memory.

President Keyes, Friday, 8 December 2017 14:50 (three years ago) link


I loved his essays. Can't say I read the novels, or am that inclined to try.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 8 December 2017 15:18 (three years ago) link

I dimly recall giving some of them a decent try, but I can't remember ever having finished one. Much of _Heart of the Heart of the Country_ is okay by me, though.

Sidenote: there was apparently a time in which William Gaddis was rumored to not actually exist, and one of the rumors was that William H. Gass had written _The Recognitions_. At least, this is so according to Gass's introduction to the Penguin edition of _The Recognitions_.

Had that been true, I'd have been immensely relieved because that would mean I had finished a William H. Gass novel. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Friday, 8 December 2017 16:22 (three years ago) link

He only wrote one doorstoppy novel

sonnet by a wite kid, "On Æolian Grief" (wins), Friday, 8 December 2017 16:28 (three years ago) link

The dominant rumour about Gaddis was that he was secretly a Pynchon alter ego, iirc in that essay gass is just joking around the fact that people always mixed to their names

sonnet by a wite kid, "On Æolian Grief" (wins), Friday, 8 December 2017 16:31 (three years ago) link

In fact it's a Gass

Akdov Telmig (Ward Fowler), Friday, 8 December 2017 16:46 (three years ago) link

Read the first part of Omensetter's Luck which was excellent. Gave up somewhere in the middle part. I will never read The Tunnel.

alimosina, Friday, 8 December 2017 19:16 (three years ago) link

I read The Tunnel in college! I asked to write about it for a seminar paper. The main thing I remember about the whole thing now is (I looked this up) this sentiment from Robert Kelly' NYTBR review:

We first strike steady narrative with a splendid bravura chapter on the childhood town. We follow page after page of nostalgic detail through beautifully circumstanced streets, until slowly we realize that in all this Joycean summoning there is no one present except a plump little lonely boy, all alone in an unpeopled town. And that sets the measure of the book. This is a book about a monstrously lonely man, and how he makes himself so.

In this respect some remarks collected here, like "You don't write for anybody," seem appropriate. It seems like there's an almost willful solipsism at work, but maybe that's just aestheticism. Or they're the same thing. He also advises people to stay away from pop music, which in fact I tried (not at Gass's urging, as such) for a while when I was in college. This proved unsustainable, but it was at the time I was most invested in literature and my own writing.

eatandoph (Neue Jesse Schule), Friday, 8 December 2017 20:05 (three years ago) link

I believe I've reached the age where if an octogenarian urged me away from pop music, I would be like "too late, gramps, that ship has sailed for both of us."

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Friday, 8 December 2017 20:28 (three years ago) link

Those childhood passages of the tunnel, which are beautiful, were like a life raft for me the first time I read it. I'm a huge fan of all of his work (the essays are always a pure pleasure to read) but honestly that one didn't really click with me despite being his decades-in-the-work magnum opus - UNTIL I got the audiobook read by gass. Now I love it. There's a quote from, I think, his Paris Review interview that was used as a title for a collection of his interviews: "the ear's mouth must move."

Re pop music, he definitely has some silly Old Guy quirks, such as a reflexive & snobby dislike of movies - *all* movies! I remember loaning a friend middle c, thinking I had a p good sense of where our tastes overlapped and being surprised how much he HATED it; what made him finally gave up in disgust were the egregious errors re pop music, eg the protagonist works in a record shop in the 1950s and customers come in asking for grunge lol

sonnet by a wite kid, "On Æolian Grief" (wins), Friday, 8 December 2017 20:29 (three years ago) link

he's against swearing, who the fuck is against swearing

j., Saturday, 9 December 2017 01:28 (three years ago) link

Gass, Seinfeld, that's it

sonnet by a wite kid, "On Æolian Grief" (wins), Saturday, 9 December 2017 10:15 (three years ago) link

that accursed copy of Middle C now lies on my bookshelf. I suppose I'd best read it now :P

imago, Saturday, 9 December 2017 11:36 (three years ago) link

Think I enjoyed the first 3 or 4 chapters - just wasn't really reading much of anything at that time

imago, Saturday, 9 December 2017 11:37 (three years ago) link

Oh it's much less of a bummer when I loan/gift someone a book and they just never get around to reading it! This is what I tend to do; I only just got around to parade's end which was a present (from that same friend who couldn't stand middle c) from two birthdays ago

sonnet by a wite kid, "On Æolian Grief" (wins), Saturday, 9 December 2017 11:51 (three years ago) link

So where should I start with Gass? Judging by the excerpted Paris Review essay on In The Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories near the top of my google Gass results, I'm thinking that collection might be a good gateway, but maybe there are better?

dow, Sunday, 10 December 2017 00:10 (three years ago) link

I've only read Omensetter's Luck (often great, difficult in the middle, short tho) and The World Within the Word (essays, very good). Would recommend either pretty much (he was at least as much a nonfiction as fiction writer) but yeah, seeing a lot of recommendations for Heart of the Heart and wanting to pick it up myself.

albvivertine, Sunday, 10 December 2017 23:44 (three years ago) link

what are some good essays?

flopson, Monday, 11 December 2017 02:01 (three years ago) link

I like Habitations of the Word (particularly "And") and Heart of the Heart.

didgeridon't (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 11 December 2017 13:26 (three years ago) link

two years pass...

His 50 books. I like this list, it doesn't do one per author

Wrong to have The Magic Mountain (should be Musil instead). Death of Virgil is the best Broch.

Don't like Maddox Ford.

Latin America-wise: like that Lezama Lima's Paradiso is in. Cortazar should not.

Any list worth its salt should have A Notebook, Diary and a collection of Letters.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 12:25 (seven months ago) link

Not a single Italian. This is wrong.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 12:29 (seven months ago) link

Nah, he was otm about Mann. It's a good list!

Le Bateau Ivre, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 12:36 (seven months ago) link

It says these are books that influenced him, not the best books

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 14:43 (seven months ago) link

The original temple of texts piece is really good, you read it for the blurbs. Medium dot com is weird. I love parade’s end tbh - gass’s bit on that is about talking to students at Leeds university and mentioning fmf and they all go “who dat” and he says something like “no wonder the empire is crumbling”

What fash heil is this? (wins), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 15:31 (seven months ago) link

& he also lists a ton more Latin American authors that he could/should have included iirc

What fash heil is this? (wins), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 15:33 (seven months ago) link

(I also could have sworn musil was in there)

What fash heil is this? (wins), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 15:34 (seven months ago) link

President Keyes - yes, I didn't say it was his best, just that it was his 50.

He wrote a piece on Mudil when the new translation came out

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 15:45 (seven months ago) link

good list

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 15:52 (seven months ago) link

I will try and dig out my copy at some point (not now - I have done too much digging out already and my flat is now stressing me out) and post some of the choice blurbs

What fash heil is this? (wins), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 16:02 (seven months ago) link

please, though i think i should just buy temple of texts

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 16:04 (seven months ago) link

Found an extract:

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 16:09 (seven months ago) link

Very good list. Should be Eupalinos btw – I wonder if the misspelling is Gass's or not.

pomenitul, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 16:13 (seven months ago) link

It isn’t (I found my copy)

What fash heil is this? (wins), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 16:19 (seven months ago) link

Re “not a single Italian”

(He does this a couple of times, using the blurb to essentially put a whole seam of literature in one slot)

What fash heil is this? (wins), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 16:33 (seven months ago) link

A long time ago I used go through essays by Gass (and Eliot Weinberger) just collecting the names of authors and books to check out. A lot of these were on my list.

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 21:37 (seven months ago) link

Thanks wins - don't really consider Svevo Italian in my head because he was from Trieste (more Austria-Hungary).

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 22:40 (seven months ago) link

Loving his writing about his reading, but that last bit was a reminder not to take even your coolest professors too much at their word, guidance-wise. Mann could deploy a lighter touch than in Gass's impression: for inst, in Man and Dog and The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man---but maybe Gass hadn't read those? Can't read 'em all, and he was a busy man.

dow, Thursday, 28 May 2020 01:58 (seven months ago) link

gass was a busy man and could not read all manns incl. man and dog and confidence man

crystal-brained yogahead (map), Thursday, 28 May 2020 02:01 (seven months ago) link

Mann bites dog

Muswell Hillbilly Elegy (President Keyes), Thursday, 28 May 2020 15:12 (seven months ago) link

i just read omensetter's luck and was sortof shocked by how gentle it was, i read the pederson kid during a really bad patch where i couldn't sleep or leave the house and it was increadibly gruelling but i loved its wickedness. omensetters luck bared its fangs but then ultimately was far more gentle about 'life and the human spirit' than i'd hoped. amazing prose stylist though, i'm not sure about getting into middle c/the tunnel etc, i suspect i might get bored midway and i'm worried there's a lot of people talking about art in a mid-sized university humanities professor sort of way. prefer the pettiness of gaddis, but he never really lights you on fire like the best bits of the gass i've read, maybe i should be more generous.

plax (ico), Thursday, 28 May 2020 19:16 (seven months ago) link

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