William H. Gass
American fiction writer, critic, philosophy professor
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- Getting even is one great reason for writing. The precise statement of the motive is tricky, but the clearest expression of my unwholesome nature and my mean motives (apart from trying to write well) appears in a line I like in “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.” The character says, “I want to rise so high that when I shit I won’t miss anybody.” But maybe I say it’s a motive because I like the line. Anyway, my work proceeds almost always from a sense of aggression. And usually I am in my best working mood when I am, on the page, very combative, very hostile. That’s true even when I write to praise, as is often the case.
The Tunnel (1995)Edit
- So she drank to the point of suicide, because a life which not only lacked love, but couldn't even catch a little indifference, like a net to contain air, was intolerable; because she hadn't a single god, or goddamn thing to do, or anything she could look back on as done—completed or accomplished—only one pleasureless screw which produced an ingrate and a monster upon whom she nevertheless pinned her hopes with exactly the same chance for success as anyone would who tried to drive a nail into a passing cloud—a son to whom she threw her soul at considerable peril, like a stone in a paper boat.
- pgs 136-137
- Great undulating banners red as blood. And the brass bands. And the manly thud of uniformly set-down boots. And the rage inside the happy shouts. A hundred thousand spleens have found a mouth. Curtains of sperm are flung up the side of the sky. Hell has fertilized heaven. And now the hero comes—the trumpet of his people. And his voice is enlarged like a movie's lion. He roars, he screams so well for everyone, his tantrums tame a people. He is the Son of God, if God is Resentment. And God is Resentment—a pharaoh for the disappointed people.
- But if you want to think about something really funny, consider how the titles of tyrants change. We shall suffer no more Emperors, Kings, Czars, Shahs, or Caesars, to lop off our limbs and burn our homes, kiddo, defile our women and bugger our boys; the masses make such appointments now; the masses love tyranny; they demand it; they dance to it; they feel that their hand is forming the First Citizen's Fist; so we shall murder more modestly in future: beneath the banners of Il Duce, Der Führer, the General Secretary or the Party Chairman, the CEO of something. I suspect that the first dictator of this country will be called Coach. -
- O, Koh, the limerick is the unrefiner's fire. It is as false and lifeless, as anonymous, as a rubber snake, a Dixie cup. It is indeed the dildo of desire! No one ever found a thought in one. No one ever found a helpful hint concerning life, a consoling sense. The feelings it harbors are the cold, the bitter, dry ones: scorn contempt, disdain, disgust. Yes. Yet for that reason, nothing is more civilized than this simple form. -pg 177
- The devil does not sign contracts with just anyone. Upon the tens of millions, no judgment is pronounced. For them there is death, of course, but no doom. The trouble with history is its incorrigible and horrifying honesty. Only the truly doomed matter a damn to it. History is the abyss of the doomed.
- So city a man he seldom freed his feet to feel the country.
- p. 217
- I wonder how many men and women, kids and dogs, go through life in a state of modest misery; how much communal coldness there is, how much extinguished hope.
- p. 226
- My illness is alive, the threats to my life are real; yet it is only my death I feel, only the lessening made by my own loss. I am gone, Kohler, right now; and who is so dead as one so dead to a moment of life that life can't raise him up? Not to be here, not to see tomorrow—which, when I see it I shall find as stupid and empty as I found today—is appalling, Kohler, appalling... to slip into the insignificance of history like a thought held in a dream...
- p. 250
- If the study of history is the study of language in one form or another, and if we really fabricate our past, not merely—weakly—live it; then we can begin to see how the world was Greek once, or was Roman, since every page of consciousness was written in these tongues then. All the central documents—laws, plays, poems, reports, abiding wisdoms, letters, scientific learning, news—were couched in Greek or Latin phrases, and the chief historians consulted them, composed their chronicles from the same speech, in the same words. Don't you see that when a man writes the history of your country in another mother-language, he is bent on conquest?
- p. 271
- Tunneling : A Resource for Readers of William H. Gass
- Interview in The Paris Review Issue 70, (Summer 1977)
- 1985 audio interview by Don Swaim
- 1998 interview from Gadfly magazine
- 2000 interview from Pif Magazine
- 2004 reading and audio interview at the Lannan Foundation Audio Archive
- 2005 interview from The Believer
- 2006 interview from The Bard Observer
- A long review of The Tunnel in Arizona Quarterly, 48.1 (Spring 1992)
- Review of the audiobook version of The Tunnel by Stephen Schenkenberg in The Quarterly Conversation