WHO: William H. Gass
WHAT: THE WILLIAM H. GASS READER
WHEN: Published by Knopf November 8, 2018
WHERE: The author was born in Fargo ND, and he died in St, Louis MO in December 2017.
WHY: “This compendious, literary extravaganza
should spark a William Gass revival.
“A 900-page Gass-ian celebration. This massive selection of writings by the late Gass, chosen by the author shortly before he died in 2017, is a fitting grand finale to an impressive and influential career.
“The 50 selections in the book, the oldest from 1958, are divided into four categories: Introduction, Fiction, Artists, and Theory. In ‘Fifty Literary Pillars,’ about literature that influenced his own, his description of Jorge Luis Borges could also describe Gass: ‘Another amazing mind. Here is the consciousness of a devoted, playful, skeptical intelligence, a man made civilized by the library, as if to prove it can be done.’ In ‘Philosophy and the Form of Fiction’ (1970), Gass writes that ‘forms of fiction serve as the material upon which further forms can be imposed. Indeed, many of the so-called anti-novels are really metafictions.’
“A whole generation of writers practiced metafiction: William Gaddis’ The Recognitions was a ‘thunderclap,’ and Gass also explores John Hawkes, John Barth, Donald Barthelme, and Robert Coover. As a philosophy professor at Washington University, metafiction was a wellspring for his criticism. As he writes at the end of ‘The Book as a Container of Consciousness,’ it ‘remains for the reader to realize the text, not only by re-achieving the consciousness some works create… but by appreciating the unity of book/body and book/mind that the best books bring about.’
“Literature is finally catching up with him, and this compendious, literary extravaganza should spark a Gass revival.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS
. . . . .
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
“Don’t look back,” Satchel Paige is supposed to have said; “someone may be gaining on you.” Don’t look back, Orpheus was advised; you may find your earlier poems better than the ones you will write tomorrow. Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and was so shaken by the sight of the Red Sea swallowing the city she became salt. Look back only if the mess you have made of your life leaves you eager to reach a future that will offer a fairer prospect. Otherwise cover your eyes before blame blinds them the way Oedipus’s pin put out his. However, Paul Valéry warns us that no one “can deliberately walk away from any object without casting a backward glance to make sure he is walking away from it.”
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