Oodles of Odes to Gass

As painted by Philip Guston

In celebration of William Gass’s birthday week I have rounded up all six odes/celebrations/appreciations I have written about Gass and his work in the last year. I’ve also included an excerpt from a forthcoming essay on Gass and influence, referring to the novella “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.”

Happy 87th, dear Master!

As Gass himself said, one does not read a masterwork the first time in order to read it, but to ready oneself to read it. On subsequent rereadings I could smell the stain life had made in my psyche more freely, could set my stare on those trees outside my reading window which had once meant something very different and find them still the same trees—it was my stare that had succumbed and now saw with skills that once had no public course to prove themselves, but were now myriad inside the brain and body of one (myself) who tripped while trying to circle a star with a square. The sentences (“A…haze turns the summer sky milky, and the air muffles your head and shoulders like a sweater you’ve got caught in.”) themselves clung to me like burrs—Gass being the trusted Medicine Man who knew I should not remove them but glory their steely beauty into clusters, as I would have to cluster my own sentences before a discerning eye to realize my own fullness of vision sorely lacking in the lackluster, minimalista prose that had been my primary practice.


Heart of Gass – detailing a love affair with Gass’s novella “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country”

“Fat, too, fool, hey? – The Mind in Morning (Snow in Film) – detailing dialogue in “The Petersen Kid,” the use of snow in it and cinema, as well as other miscellany

Worthy Words – recounting three conjunctions in one week with his essay “The Soul Inside the Sentence,” his story “Mrs. Mean,” and meeting the man himself at the Strand Bookstore.

Beginning to Dig into Gass’s The Tunnel – close reading of sections with transcriptions from audio interviews

Joy to the Reader when Reading Gass’s The Tunnel – as above, with emphasis on vulgarity and how the beautiful and horrible coalesce

Gass-X – appreciating his book Reading Rilke

In honor of the release of William H. Gass’s new book, Life Sentences, I wrote this article about reading, “How to Live, What to Read Next”


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