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Aug 8, 2019
Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife
William GassIn this paean to the pleasures of language, Gass equates his text with the body of Babs Masters, the lonesome wife of the title, to advance the conceit that a parallel should exist between a woman and her lover and a book and its reader. Disappointed by her inattentive husband/reader, Babs engages in an exuberant display of the physical charms of language to entice an illicit new lover: a man named Gelvin in one sense, but more importantly, the reader of this "essay-novella" which, in the years since its first appearance in 1968 as a supplement to TriQuarterly, has attained the status of a postmodernist classic.

Like Laurence Sterne and Lewis Carroll before him, Gass uses a variety of visual devices: photographs, comic-strip balloons, different typefaces, parallel story lines (sometimes three or four to the page), even coffee stains. As Larry McCaffery has pointed out, "the lonesome lady of the book's title, who is gradually revealed to be lady language herself, creates an elaborate series of devices which she hopes will draw attention to her slighted charms [and] force the reader to confront what she literally is: a physically exciting literary text."
Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts
William H GassA dazzling new collection of essays—on reading, writing, form, and thought—from one of America’s master writers.
 
It begins with the personal, both past and present. It emphasizes Gass’s lifelong attachment to books and moves on to the more analytical, as he ponders the work of some of his favorite writers (among them Kafka, Nietzsche, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, Proust). He writes about a few topics equally burning but less loved (the Nobel Prize–winner and Nazi sympathizer Knut Hamsun; the Holocaust).
 
Finally, Gass ponders theoretical matters connected with literature: form and metaphor, and specifically, one of its genetic parts—the sentence.
 
Gass embraces the avant-garde but applies a classic standard of writing to all literature, which is clear in these essays, or, as he describes them, literary judgments and accounts.
 
Life Sentences is William Gass at his Gassian best.
Middle C
William H GassA literary event—the long-awaited novel, almost two decades in work, by the acclaimed author of The Tunnel (“The most beautiful, most complex, most disturbing novel to be published in my lifetime.”—Michael Silverblatt, Los Angeles Times; “An extraordinary achievement”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post); Omensetter’s Luck (“The most important work of fiction by an American in this literary generation”—Richard Gilman, The New Republic); Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife; and In the Heart of the Heart of the Country (“These stories scrape the nerve and pierce the heart. They also replenish the language.”—Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times).

Gass’s new novel moves from World War II Europe to a small town in postwar Ohio. In a series of variations, Gass gives us a mosaic of a life—futile, comic, anarchic—arranged in an array of vocabularies, altered rhythms, forms and tones, and broken pieces with music as both theme and structure, set in the key of middle C.

It begins in Graz, Austria, 1938. Joseph Skizzen's father, pretending to be Jewish, leaves his country for England with his wife and two children to avoid any connection with the Nazis, who he foresees will soon take over his homeland. In London with his family for the duration of the war, he disappears under mysterious circumstances. The family is relocated to a small town in Ohio, where Joseph Skizzen grows up, becomes a decent amateur piano player, in part to cope with the abandonment of his father, and creates as well a fantasy self—a professor with a fantasy goal: to establish the Inhumanity Museum . . . as Skizzen alternately feels wrongly accused (of what?) and is transported by his music. Skizzen is able to accept guilt for crimes against humanity and is protected by a secret self that remains sinless.

Middle C tells the story of this journey, an investigation into the nature of human identity and the ways in which each of us is several selves, and whether any one self is more genuine than another.

William Gass set out to write a novel that breaks traditional rules and denies itself easy solutions, cliff-edge suspense, and conventional surprises . . . Middle C is that book; a masterpiece by a beloved master.
Cartesian Sonata and Other Novellas
William H. GassFrom the award-winning author of The Tunnel and A Temple of Texts, come four interrelated novellas that explore good and evil, action and thought, redemption and possession. The reader will encounter here a traveling salesman who gets lost in the kitschy clutter of a small town in Illinois, a young woman in rural Iowa who loses touch with the outside world and turns to the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop as anchor, and the coming-of-age story of a devilish young man named Luther (who might as well be called Lucifer). These stories are filled with the familiar style, brilliance, philosophy, and wit that fans of William Gass have come to expect and cherish.
Eyes: Novellas and Stories
William H. GassA dazzling new collection—two novellas and four short stories from one of the most revered writers of our time, author of seven books of fiction, among them The Tunnel (“An extraordinary achievement”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post); Middle C (“Exhilaratingly ingenious”—Cynthia Ozick, The New York Times Book Review, cover); and Cartesian Sonata (“The finest prose stylist in America”—The Washington Post).

It begins with "In Camera," the first of the two novellas, and tells the story, which grows darker and dustier by the speck, of a Mr. Gab (who doesn’t have the gift) and his photography shop (in a part of town so drab even robbers wouldn’t visit), a shop stuffed with gray-white, gray-bleach photographs, each in its own cellophane sheet, loosely side-filed in cardboard boxes, tag attached . . . an inner sanctum where little happens beyond the fulsome, deep reverence for Mr. Gab’s images and vast collection, a homemade museum in the midst of the outer maelstrom . . . until a Mr. Stu (as in u-stew-pid) enters the shop, inspecting the extraordinary collection, and Mr. Gab’s treasure-filled, dust-laden, meticulously contained universe begins to implode . . .

In the story “Don’t Even Try, Sam,” the upright piano from the 1942 Warner Bros. classic Casablanca is interviewed (“I know why you want to talk to me,” the piano says. “It’s because everybody else is dead. Stars go out. Directors die. Companies fold. But some of the props get preserved. I’ve seen my friend the Vichy water bottle in the storeroom as wrapped up as the Maltese Falcon. We’d fetch a price now”) . . .

In another story, “Charity,” a young lawyer, whose business it is to keep hospital equipment honestly produced, offers a simple gift and is brought to the ambiguous heart of charity itself. In “Soliloquy for a Chair,” a folding chair does just that—talks in a barbershop that is ultimately bombed . . . and in “The Toy Chest,” Disneylike creatures take on human roles and concerns and live in an atmosphere of a child’s imagination.

An enchanting Gassian journey; a glorious fantasia; a virtuoso delight.
In the Heart of the Heart of the Country: And Other Stories
William H. GassFirst published in 1968, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country established William Gass as one of America’s finest and boldest writers of fiction, and nearly fifty years later, the book still stands as a landmark of contemporary fiction. The two novellas and three short stories it contains are all set in the Midwest, and together they offer  a mythical reimagining of America’s heartland, with its punishing extremes of heat and cold, its endless spaces and claustrophobic households, its hidden and baffled desires, its lurking threat of violence. Exploring and expanding the limits of the short story, Gass works magic with words, words that are as squirming, regal, and unexpected as the roaches, boys, icicles, neighbors, and neuroses that fill these pages, words that shock, dazzle, illumine, and delight.
On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry
William H. GassOn Being Blue is a book about everything blue—sex and sleaze and sadness, among other things—and about everything else. It brings us the world in a word as only William H. Gass, among contemporary American writers, can do.

Gass writes:
Of the colors, blue and green have the greatest emotional range. Sad reds and melancholy yellows are difficult to turn up. Among the ancient elements, blue occurs everywhere: in ice and water, in the flame as purely as in the flower, overhead and inside caves, covering fruit and oozing out of clay. Although green enlivens the earth and mixes in the ocean, and we find it, copperish, in fire; green air, green skies, are rare. Gray and brown are widely distributed, but there are no joyful swatches of either, or any of exuberant black, sullen pink, or acquiescent orange. Blue is therefore most suitable as the color of interior life. Whether slick light sharp high bright thin quick sour new and cool or low deep sweet dark soft slow smooth heavy old and warm: blue moves easily among them all, and all profoundly qualify our states of feeling.
A Temple of Texts
William H. GassWinner of the 2007 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, A Temple of Texts is the latest critical collection from one of America's greatest essayists and novelists. Here, William H. Gass pays homage to the readerly side of the literary experience by turning his critical sensibility upon all the books that shaped his own development as a reader, writer, and human being. With essays on figures ranging from William Shakespeare and Gertrude Stein to Flann O'Brien and Robert Burton, Gass creates a "temple" of readerly devotion, a collection of critical explorations as brilliant and incisive as readers have come to expect from this literary master, but also a surprisingly personal window into the author's own literary development.
The Tunnel
William H. Gass