On the occasion of William H. Gass’s birthday, I’ve cherry-picked sentences from all of his books: a publishing career spanning five decades. This was no easy task, since his fictions and essays and interviews are troves of meticulously rendered, seemingly sculpted, sentences, each one a delight to the eye, music to the ear. I’ve chosen ninety-two in honor of his birthday, but I could easily have chosen a hundred more. Thanks, Magister 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!
On William H. Gass’s “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country”
I have a strange little love affair with this story. When I was at the University of Oregon I would sit in my teacher’s office and he would read me snippets of literature. James Salter, John Berger and this story by Mr. Gass. We were talking flash fiction in those days (still we are) and Gass’s work had these perfectly enclosed sections like “Weather”, “Wires” and “My House, This Place, and Body”. The pregnant sections were so lyrical and spacious they beckoned to me like glimpses of an attractive woman-from her voice to her toes. To me, at that time, Gass’s tale was a new way of telling.