Tag Archives: William Gass

wonderful metaphors

In Russia, . . . Chekhov attracts a kind of sickening piety. You utter the name ‘Chekhov’ and people arrange their features as if a baby deer had come into the room.”

Janet Malcolm, Reading Chekhov, A Critical Journey 

William Gass reviewing Susan Sontag’s On Photography in The New York Times,

 . . . . the book is a thoughtful meditation, not a treatise, and its ideas are grouped more nearly like a gang of keys upon a ring than a run of onions on a sting.

(from here) 

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Wonderful similes

‘Among the specimens of tastelessness lodged in the book like the threepenny coins in a Christmas pudding, none may surpass . . . .’

Janet Malcolm, ‘A Very Sadistic Man’, review of Ted Hughes:The Unauthorised Life by Jonathon Bate, 11/2/2016 The NY Review of Books (from here) 

‘Similes dangle like baubles from me.’

William Gass, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country

“We were not afraid of outside though this was the time of year when snowdrifts curled around our house like sleeping whales and the wind harassed us all night… We were afraid of inside, the room where we slept.”

Alice Munro, Boys and Girls 

‘The lane looks empty of all life like a road in a painting of a dream.’

William Gass, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country

People often ask me when I came out, generalizing from the experience of many young people who announce themselves to the world on a particular afternoon. But I did not divorce my reticence in a single sharp break. Rather, I seeped out like a spreading wine stain.

People still ask my husband and me which of us is the mom—which, as one lesbian friend pointed out to me, is like asking which chopstick is the fork.

Andrew Solomon On Gay Parenting , The Threepenny Review (from here) 

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The process of association

Once I went to a lavish dinner party given by a most particular and most obstinate lady. The maid forgot to serve the beans and my most particular dear friend, rapt in a recollection of her youth that lasted seven courses, overlooked them. I did not nor did the other guests. We were furtive, catching eyes, but we were careful. Was it asparagus or broccoli or brussels sprouts or beans? Was she covering up the maid’s mistake like the coolest actress, as if to make the tipped table and the broken vase a part of every evening’s business? She enjoyed the glory of the long hours of her beauty. The final fork of cake was in her mouth when her jaws snapped. I would have given any sum, then, performed any knavery, to know what it was that led her from gay love and light you to French-cut green beans and the irrevocable breach of order. She had just said: “We were dancing. I was wearing my most daring gown and I was cold.” She went on a word or two before turning grim and silent. By what Proustian process was the thing accomplished? I suppose it was something matter-of-fact. She shivered — and there in her mind were the missing beans. She rose at once and served them herself, cold, in silver, before the coffee. The hollandaise had doubtless separated so we were spared that. But only that. We ate those beans without a word, though some of us were, on most occasions, loquacious, outspoken, ragging types. Our hostess neglected her own portion and rushed sternly back to glory. Of her sins that evening I never forgave the last.

William Gass, In The Heart of The Heart of The Country

    (from here) 


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Laugh like frightened crystal

Thus they flee: [the four children]:Ames, Nancy, Toll and Tim. They pick the flowers next door to me, They tramp the garden down the street. They run through Mr Wallace’s hedge, and while Mr. Wallace bellows like a burnt blind Polyphemus, they laugh like frightened crystl.

William Gass, In the Heart of The Heart of the Country

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Stories not spoken

Few of the stories one has it in one’s self to speak get spoken, because the heart rarely confesses to intelligence its deeper needs: and few of the stories one has at the top of one’s head to tell get told, because the mind does not always possess the voice for them. Even when the voice is there, and the tongue is limber as if with liquor or with love, where is that sensitive, admiring, other pair of ears?

Preface to In The Heart of the Heart of The Country, William Gass

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On not wanting to be like one’s father

Good little clerk, my father hated workers, blacks, and Jews, the way he expected women to hate worms. There wasn’t a faith to embrace or an ideology to spurn, unless perhaps it was the general suggestion of something poisonously Republican, or a periodical’s respect for certain Trade Marks. And I remember resolving, while on long walks or during summer reveries or while deep in the night’s bed, not to be like that, when that was whatever was around me: Warren, Ohio—factory smoke, depression, household gloom, resentments, illness, ugliness, despair, etcetera, and littleness, above all, smallness, the encroachment of the lean and meager. I won’t be like that, I said, and naturally I grew in special hidden ways to be more like that than anyone could possibly imagine, or myself admit. Even as a grown man I was still desperately boasting that I’d choose another cunt to come from.

Preface to In The Heart of the Heart of The Country, William Gass (from here) 


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Stalking ones demons

Getting even is one great reason for writing. I write because I hate. A lot. Hard. And if someone asks me the inevitable next dumb question, ‘Why do you write the way you do?’ I must answer that I wish to make my hatred acceptable because my hatred is much of me, if not the best part. Writing is a way of making the writer acceptable to the world — every cheap, dumb, nasty thought, every despicable desire, every noble sentiment, every expensive taste.

At a time when people are encouraged to follow their bliss, to pursue whatever makes them feel good, I suggest you stalk your demons. Embrace them. If you are a writer, especially one who has been unable to make your work count or stick, you must grab your demons by the neck and face them down. And whatever you do, don’t censor yourself. There’s always time and editors for that.

Writers take note: your struggle to produce a piece of writing of interest and value means nothing to the reader. The reader doesn’t care what you went through to produce your work. He only cares if the piece succeeds, if it looks as if it arrived whole. William Gass

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