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In the Heart of the Heart of the Country (NYRB Classics)

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In the Heart of the Heart of the Country is vintage William H. Gass: two novellas and three short stories, set in the Midwest, exhibiting Gass’s characteristic and wildly original verbal brilliance and philosophical acuity. The volume includes The Pedersen Kid, a story originally published a few years before the 1965 publication of Gass’s first novel Omensetter’s Luck. Word In the Heart of the Heart of the Country is vintage William H. Gass: two novellas and three short stories, set in the Midwest, exhibiting Gass’s characteristic and wildly original verbal brilliance and philosophical acuity. The volume includes The Pedersen Kid, a story originally published a few years before the 1965 publication of Gass’s first novel Omensetter’s Luck. Words populate these stories, as squirming, regal, and unexpected as the roaches, boys, icicles, neighbors, neuroses, and properties they describe. No matter how strange or estranged the human consciousness directing each symphony of words, his or her fear, delight, and disgust is uncanny and familiar.


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In the Heart of the Heart of the Country is vintage William H. Gass: two novellas and three short stories, set in the Midwest, exhibiting Gass’s characteristic and wildly original verbal brilliance and philosophical acuity. The volume includes The Pedersen Kid, a story originally published a few years before the 1965 publication of Gass’s first novel Omensetter’s Luck. Word In the Heart of the Heart of the Country is vintage William H. Gass: two novellas and three short stories, set in the Midwest, exhibiting Gass’s characteristic and wildly original verbal brilliance and philosophical acuity. The volume includes The Pedersen Kid, a story originally published a few years before the 1965 publication of Gass’s first novel Omensetter’s Luck. Words populate these stories, as squirming, regal, and unexpected as the roaches, boys, icicles, neighbors, neuroses, and properties they describe. No matter how strange or estranged the human consciousness directing each symphony of words, his or her fear, delight, and disgust is uncanny and familiar.

30 review for In the Heart of the Heart of the Country (NYRB Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Gass and me (or Gass and “I”) are having a fallout. And “I” use the word fallout in the nuclear sense. This is the first Gass product that has elicited outright shrugging. Yawns. Page scans. Meandering thoughts. Derisive snorts. ‘The Pedersen Kid’ is exempt from these complaints. This novella is a startling creation and one of Gass’s finest fictions (proving “straight” narrative was not outwith his grasp). The remaining four pieces find Gass experimenting with the modernist toolbox in ways this Gass and me (or Gass and “I”) are having a fallout. And “I” use the word fallout in the nuclear sense. This is the first Gass product that has elicited outright shrugging. Yawns. Page scans. Meandering thoughts. Derisive snorts. ‘The Pedersen Kid’ is exempt from these complaints. This novella is a startling creation and one of Gass’s finest fictions (proving “straight” narrative was not outwith his grasp). The remaining four pieces find Gass experimenting with the modernist toolbox in ways this 2013 reader found interminable. In ‘Mrs. Mean’ (the most tolerable of the four) the narrator is pure Gass floating brain—POV a shy outsider whose detachment from the lives of the titular tyrant renders the tale disturbing but too flippant to impact (upon me), but reminds me of the scorching (and better) Red the Fiend from Gil. I outright loathed ‘Icicles.’ The reasons are not 98.6% clear to me other than I feel Gass is straining hard in the modernist mode (chop-chop reported speech, realtor-speak, opaque narration), ‘Order of Insects’ was awkward and the title piece was too literary-literary in its style, containing some laughable howler sentences far too amateur to be published under the good Gass name. Where is that Gass music in these fumbling, staccato apprentice pieces? This young man could barely scrape a middle C on his violalele. “I” am off for a wee Willy weep.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    I don't know for literary movements, so I don't know what this is called. I know that few people can write an English sentence with as much brilliance as William H. Gass. And he's plenty inventive. He is not formulaic. He gives us here five stories, each a remarkably different slice of 20th Century Midwestern America. They are about Place: In the Midwest, around the lower Lakes, the sky in winter is heavy and close, and it is a rare day, a day to remark on, when the sky lifts and allows the heart I don't know for literary movements, so I don't know what this is called. I know that few people can write an English sentence with as much brilliance as William H. Gass. And he's plenty inventive. He is not formulaic. He gives us here five stories, each a remarkably different slice of 20th Century Midwestern America. They are about Place: In the Midwest, around the lower Lakes, the sky in winter is heavy and close, and it is a rare day, a day to remark on, when the sky lifts and allows the heart up. I am keeping count, and as I write this page, it is eleven days since I have seen the sun. And People: Billy closes his door and carries coal or wood to his fire and closes his eyes, and there's simply no way of knowing how lonely and empty he is or whether he's as vacant and barren and loveless as the rest of us are -- here in the heart of the country. Oh, it's cold there, and gray, very gray. Gass is watching all of it. The houses, where the windows never open. The back door bangs but the breeze is metaphorical. The neighbors: Mrs. Mean could out-Christ Pius. Or telephone wires by a house which, in Gass' description, make me think of a certain culture-changing corporation with designs on absorbing an entire market: These wires offend me. Three trees were maimed on their account, and now these wires deface the sky. They cross like a fence in front of me, enclosing the crows with the clouds. I can't reach in, but like a stick, I throw my feelings over. What is it that offends me? I am on my stump, I've built a platform there and the wires prevent my going out. The cut trees, the black wires, all the beyond birds therefore anger me. When I've wormed through a fence to reach a meadow, do I ever feel the same about the field? I know, hunh? And hovering over all this voyeured detail, intertwined in each uniquely imagined story, is this feeling of Love, inchoate or lost. Everything else is what Gass sees. Love's ache is what he feels. Very first person, that. That too, I suppose is the Heart in the heart of the country. Now, there's also this about Gass. You can be reading one of his stories and thinking Oh, this is Genius and Jesus, this is good and This has the chance to be the greatest thing I've ever read. And then whatever he was doing and whatever he was saying morphs into dissonance. So there's that. But I will be thinking about this for a long, long time. I will go back to it to recapture the magic of his language.

  3. 4 out of 5

    L.S. Popovich

    I think I am going to like this Gass, I thought, and here I am, at the end of it, hovering between four and five stars, as I so often do, but settling for that generous bedizening – the whole roster of stellar units. Linked only by nefariously complex sentences, riddled with the kind of chewy phrases boys on the ballpark lawn would work with their chapped lips to pull and prod between clenched teeth, the stories here are fascinating, jewel-like run-on spasms through form and essence, like a sun- I think I am going to like this Gass, I thought, and here I am, at the end of it, hovering between four and five stars, as I so often do, but settling for that generous bedizening – the whole roster of stellar units. Linked only by nefariously complex sentences, riddled with the kind of chewy phrases boys on the ballpark lawn would work with their chapped lips to pull and prod between clenched teeth, the stories here are fascinating, jewel-like run-on spasms through form and essence, like a sun-drenched day, like houses standing in rows, staring at some horizon you are too short to see, like a moon in the sky at midday, defying reason, but lingering like some pendant over blasted landscapes of ghost-peopled towns, where sunk in lazy fiddling, meandering maws squawk and fingers rummage pocket lint, where schooled but not well-reasoned kids resuscitate Caesar within the abstract labyrinths of their somnambulism. The setting is fashioned after some sort of dioramic blend of gothic minimalism, which somehow isn’t hollow. Like a fruit, well-full of rind and insect-swarming seeds, peeled open to reveal a glint of golden nectar. It’s nostalgic headway into dream. It’s a slow slackening of all the reeled strictures of noveled, inflexible fiction. We’ve walked these roads, met these stunted Shakespeares, but we seldom paid attention to the blinding patter of their paws, to the struggles they wield in their wild tunneling toward death. Little stories come and ungainly go, but certain stories capture in their amber, hallowed moments of crystal life, refracting the essence of that unknowable divine back into our double-mirrored minds. Snatch what you can from Gass’ gaseous brand of madness.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rayroy

    The U.S. of Gass William H. Gass writes with high literary value, higher than most actually and if I had to categorize his writing in particular the short story collection “In The Heart of The Heart of The Country”, I would call it Midwestern gothic, stream of consciousness , philosophy of isolation, but alas I’m barley an expert on literature , the English language and writing, but William H. Gass is an expert, one that besides from writing teaches philosophy at Purdue University , got his PhD a The U.S. of Gass William H. Gass writes with high literary value, higher than most actually and if I had to categorize his writing in particular the short story collection “In The Heart of The Heart of The Country”, I would call it Midwestern gothic, stream of consciousness , philosophy of isolation, but alas I’m barley an expert on literature , the English language and writing, but William H. Gass is an expert, one that besides from writing teaches philosophy at Purdue University , got his PhD at Cornell, he understands all facets of writing and literature and could write circles around his peers it's not so much that he understands the English Language so well, it’s just he breaks all perceived notions of what a writer can do it with. This collection contains five stories that challenge your notion on what the American novel can be. Snow and More Snow, Than Just in Case More Snow, a quick review of “The Pedersen Kid” One of them stories in which it’s better going in blind. Going in snow blind. All you need to know is that it’s the only story in the collection that has any form of plot, it’s a story from start to finish the curdles the readers blood and at the same time sends the brain on over time. A philosophy suspense thriller, perhaps. Would You Please Shut-Up, Please! A quick review of Mrs. Mean Here is where William Gass abandons plot and shatters notions, you may think you know in the first few pages what is what, but I’ll bet the American Post Legion you are wrong. Nothing much happens expect for jaw dropping genius prose. A man sits on his porch and observes a woman with four children, and some of his other neighbors. He does not know her name calls her Mrs. Mean because she yells at her four children all of the time. Here is an example of what Gass writes. “Ames. You little snot. Nancy. Witch. Here now. Look where you are now. Look now will you? God almighty. Move. Get. Oh jesus why do I trouble myself. It’ll die now, you little care. Squashed. That grass ain’t ants. Toll I warn you. God, god, how did you do that? Why, why, tell me that. Toll, what’s that now? Toll I warn you now. Pike. Shit. Get. What am I going to do with you? Step on you like that? Squash. Like that? Why try to make it nice. Why? Ames. Damn. Oh damn. You little snot. Wait’ll I get hold of you. Tim. You are so little, Tim. You are so snotty, so dirty snotty, so nasty dirty snotty. Where did you get that? What is that? What’s it now? Drop that. Don’t bring it here. Put it back. Nancy. Witch. Oh jesus, jesus, sweet, sweet jesus. Get. Did you piss in the flowers? Timmy? Timmy, Timmy , Timmy, did you? By god, I’ll beat your bottom flat. Come here. You’re so sweet, so sweet, so nice, so dear. Yes. Come here. All of you. Nancy. Toll. Ames. Tim. Get in here. Now, now I say. Now. Get. I’ll whale you all." Thoughts In Isolation, a quick review of the rest. In “Icicles” a realtor is sick of winter and his job; he becomes obsessed with the icicles that form on his house they get bigger, at the office his fellow realtors tell about the awful truths of man and Property, “Prop-purr-tee” his co-worker calls it. Once more William H Gass wows us with his words “…but property, property endures. Sure, sure cars go to junk before the people in them do sometimes, but there’s all sorts of property, that’s all and a house will outlast it’s builder usually. Lots of things out last us, Fender. Lots of things. Lots do. Hah hah. Well. That’s it. Land’s damn dear immortal. Land lasts forever. That’s why it’s called real, see? oh it makes sense, Fender, old fellow and friend, it makes sense! The last two stories continue in the vain of the first two, but each stand out on their own and break notions. I leave with more of Gass’s writing a short example to ride out the cold grey days “Living alas, among men and their marvels, the city man supposes that his happiness depends on establishing somehow, a special kind of harmonious accord with others. The novelists of the city, of slums and crowds. They call it love-and break their pens” Better Then Middle C and Middle C was Phenomenal I just want add that I find myself still thinking back to this collection, this book needs to be read more readers, it may be the Best Book Ever!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    The Pedersen Kid in the strange way reminded me of Erskine Caldwell. Mrs. Mean is a suburban fabliau in John Cheever’s style but more pessimistic than ironic. “Recently, while I’ve been loitering at the end of the alley, taking my last look around, I’ve felt I’ve mixed up all my starts and endings, that the future is over and the past has just begun.” Icicles is a dreary office tale: if one’s life is absolutely empty then icicles become a spectacular event – a bit of Donald Barthelme, probably. Orde The Pedersen Kid in the strange way reminded me of Erskine Caldwell. Mrs. Mean is a suburban fabliau in John Cheever’s style but more pessimistic than ironic. “Recently, while I’ve been loitering at the end of the alley, taking my last look around, I’ve felt I’ve mixed up all my starts and endings, that the future is over and the past has just begun.” Icicles is a dreary office tale: if one’s life is absolutely empty then icicles become a spectacular event – a bit of Donald Barthelme, probably. Order of Insects is a piece of Franz Kafka’s cockroach Gothic but on the funny side. In the Heart of the Heart of the Country is a small town’s small person’s chronicles a la Sherwood Anderson gone sour. “I want to rise so high, I said, that when I shit I won’t miss anybody.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Weber

    This book just kicked my ass. Holy fuck. I MUST reread Omensetters Luck... Mrs. Mean is a thing of absolute glory. Note: the last time I rated a book of fiction 5 stars was 2014...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    Call it Midwestern Gothic. I know this is heresy to most everyone here, but this is the Gass I will return to the most in my life. For some indefinable reason, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country always seems like an existence formerly lived. Maybe it’s the atrociousness of recognizing one’s insignificance or the overriding theme that life’s connection to the sublime is trivial at best. I just feel that I have been here before. The Pedersen Kid: Nothing short of a marvel. Haunting and sparse Call it Midwestern Gothic. I know this is heresy to most everyone here, but this is the Gass I will return to the most in my life. For some indefinable reason, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country always seems like an existence formerly lived. Maybe it’s the atrociousness of recognizing one’s insignificance or the overriding theme that life’s connection to the sublime is trivial at best. I just feel that I have been here before. The Pedersen Kid: Nothing short of a marvel. Haunting and sparse, with a heart of maliciousness that must be read. Far and away the masterpiece of the collection and worth the price of admission alone. In my opinion, one of the best pieces of short fiction to come out of post-War America. Mrs. Mean: Dandelion Wine refracted through a postmodernist lens. Although I prefer Bradbury’s version of small town hobgoblins, the last line continues the strange and wonderfully dark intentions of the everyman challenged to action against the mundane limitations of living in the absence of the supernatural. Icicles: As someone that failed spectacularly at the same job as the protagonist, I can vet that Gass nails the weariness of someone in the wrong place surrounded by the right people. I used to work for a ‘Pearson’ and I was the guy thinking about peas in the pie. Nothing like realizing you are obsolete and appraising your own soul. The Order of Insects: A real heartbreaker. Again, the ordinary is transubstantiated into the beautiful; something to anesthetize. A wonderful metaphor for the inequity of gender mores in 1968 and, sadly, just as relevant in 2016. Oh, and this: “I suspect if we were as familiar with our bones as with our skin, we’d never bury dead but shrine them in their rooms, arranged as we might like to find them on a visit; and our enemies, if we could steal their bodies from the battle sites, would be museumed as they died, the steel still eloquent in their sides, their metal hats askew, the protective toes of their shoes unworn, and friend and enemy would be so wondrously historical that in a hundred years we’d find the jaws still hung for the same speech and all the parts we spent our life with tilted as they always were—rib cage, collar, skull—still repetitious, still defiant, angel light, still worthy of memorial and affection.” In the Heart of the Heart of the Country: Where Gass pulls back the curtain and lays bare the machinations of small town life in all its mendacity. A tragic litany of love lost and the husk of the past supine on the bed. “Sports, politics, and religion are the three passions of the badly educated.” Wonderful, wonderful.

  8. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    A reread. I've been inspired for a few years to reread Gass's older books. His death late last year has given the inspiration a new thrust. I've decided to start with In the Heart of the Heart of the Country in this edition of 2014, 1st read many years ago. I don't remember when I first read this. Long ago. I do know the decision to revisit it was a right one because this is incredibly rich fiction. It's 3 short stories framed by the novellas The Pedersen Kid to begin the volume and In the Heart A reread. I've been inspired for a few years to reread Gass's older books. His death late last year has given the inspiration a new thrust. I've decided to start with In the Heart of the Heart of the Country in this edition of 2014, 1st read many years ago. I don't remember when I first read this. Long ago. I do know the decision to revisit it was a right one because this is incredibly rich fiction. It's 3 short stories framed by the novellas The Pedersen Kid to begin the volume and In the Heart of the Heart of the Country to complete it. These are stories of an emotional desolation to match their midwestern landscapes. A sentence in In the Heart of the Heart of the Country serves to highlight its prevalent atmosphere: "Billy closes his door and carries coal or wood to his fire and closes his eyes, and there's simply no way of knowing how lonely and empty he is or whether he's as vacant and barren and loveless as the rest of us are--here in the heart of the country." Gass can see a snowy landscape as wasteland in The Pedersen Kid with its characters mirroring the cold, lifeless country. Or he can write In the Heart of the Heart of the Country so beautifully it practically becomes a poem, each section a stanza speaking the bleakness of the small town of B, in Indiana. Gass writes a midwest of ruin, sterility, and failure that will break your heart. This was Gass's 2d book, published in 1968. The 1st had been the masterpiece Omensetter's Luck. Most critics recognize 1995's The Tunnel as his most important work--and masterpiece. Perhaps 2013's Middle C also deserves that distinction. Certainly In the Heart of the Heart of the Country deserves the same renown and label. I most probably didn't recognize its eminent status when I read it long ago, but I call it a masterpiece today.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    In hindsight, I wouldn't have picked this book by the "godfather of experimental writing" as the first selection of our fledgling book club. That being said, I still personally liked the book overall. The first story, "The Pedersen Kid" was my favorite. It felt to me like a southern gothic tale moved to the snowy midwest. I'm not entirely sure what happened, but I thought Gass crafted a scary, mysterious, and bizarre story. In general Gass is undoubtedly a gifted writer and utilizes poetic langu In hindsight, I wouldn't have picked this book by the "godfather of experimental writing" as the first selection of our fledgling book club. That being said, I still personally liked the book overall. The first story, "The Pedersen Kid" was my favorite. It felt to me like a southern gothic tale moved to the snowy midwest. I'm not entirely sure what happened, but I thought Gass crafted a scary, mysterious, and bizarre story. In general Gass is undoubtedly a gifted writer and utilizes poetic language in a successful manner, even though in a few of the other stories it just feels like showing off. The title story cannot really be called a story, but rather a snarky collection of observations about "real Americans" which I at times laughed aloud reading. The very short story about a woman's obsession with insects in her house was probably my second favorite, but probably influenced by my simultaneous discovery of Isabella Rossellini's "Green Porno" short films about the reproductive habits of bugs. I can easily recommend "The Pedersen Kid" to just about anyone, but would have many reservations in recommending the rest of this collection to most people. However, Im glad that I've been exposed to it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    George

    Gotta love Gass. The novellas and short stores within are great. “The Pedersen Kid” was my favorite. It read like a southern gothic story. Others have labeled it Midwestern gothic. I agree. I felt the cold that was chilling from the words in the story. I could taste the whiskey being administered to the Pedersen kid to warm him from the insides. I walked through the drifts looking for the whiskey bottle that was dropped. The atmosphere of the piece was outstanding. Then I met Mrs. Mean. “Mrs. Mea Gotta love Gass. The novellas and short stores within are great. “The Pedersen Kid” was my favorite. It read like a southern gothic story. Others have labeled it Midwestern gothic. I agree. I felt the cold that was chilling from the words in the story. I could taste the whiskey being administered to the Pedersen kid to warm him from the insides. I walked through the drifts looking for the whiskey bottle that was dropped. The atmosphere of the piece was outstanding. Then I met Mrs. Mean. “Mrs. Mean”=Mrs. Meh. I did not like the story. (Please enlighten me to what I missed) “Icicles” was pretty cool. I think I read another review, or got it from somewhere cause I sure as hell didn’t come up with it, stating that it was like Glengarry Glen Ross. The quick dialogue was good. Reminded me of JR, or the little I have read of it. “Order of Insects” felt creepy. Read it in bed before going to sleep and was concerned I would have nightmares of damn bugs crawling on me. EEK. “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country” was almost as good as “The Pedersen Kid”. Very Winesburg, Ohio. I end with a quote from it: ”Sports, politics, and religion are the three passions of the badly educated. They are the Midwest’s open sores. Ugly to see, a source of constant discontent, they sap the body’s strength. Appalling quantities of money, time, and energy are wasted on them. The rural mind is narrow, passionate, and reckless on these matters. Greed, however shortsighted and direct, will not alone account for it. I have known men, for instance, who for years have voted squarely against their interests. Nor have I ever noticed that their surly Christian views prevented them from urging forward the smithereening, say, of Russia, China, Cuba, or Korea. And they tend to back their country like they back their local team: they have a fanatical desire to win; yelling is their forte; and if things go badly, they are inclined to sack the coach. All in all, then, Birch is a good name. It stands for the bigot’s stick, the wild-child-tamer’s cane.” (p.197) I feel this in the south, too.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Review #6 of "Year of the Review All Read Books" Gassing Up For numerous reasons (none of them good) I've failed to read Omensetter's Luck, Gass' first book, sitting comfortably on the second floor of my local library. I am 100% convinced I am the only one to have checked it out in the last three years. This book fell to me by way of this website (either recommendation or someone elses reading list I can't remember). The book was at the top of my Christmas list after NYRB new edition was released Review #6 of "Year of the Review All Read Books" Gassing Up For numerous reasons (none of them good) I've failed to read Omensetter's Luck, Gass' first book, sitting comfortably on the second floor of my local library. I am 100% convinced I am the only one to have checked it out in the last three years. This book fell to me by way of this website (either recommendation or someone elses reading list I can't remember). The book was at the top of my Christmas list after NYRB new edition was released. I'm sure the books of essays will interest me as I get older, and The Tunnel, to this point, is one of those many other fat texts that I will get around to just as soon as I finish dealing with others of its ilk. Combined with the elusiveness of this text these factors gave rise to an overly-anticipated wait and desire for me to read. I was told Gass was a master wordsmith, unparalleled in the English language, strongly evocative of place and it all warmed my heart cockles and balls. The Pynchon Connection The first text I ever read by William Gass, was actually his introductory note to Gaddis' The Recognitions. In it he addresses some of the rumors about Gaddis' identity, including the one that he and Gaddis are the same man, an amalgamation of their near-names and/or their postmodern talent. Also postulated, apparently that he started writing under the nom de plume Thomas Pynchon. I bring this up because I have been concurrently reading Pynchon's Slow Learner. In ways these texts are not merely stories, but autobiographical understandings. Each has an introduction/foreword by their author discussing their work, particularly amongst their oevre. The short story is the kind of de facto proving grounds for American fictionists. The difference for me in these two readings is that I have read a decent chunk of Pynchon and none of Gass. So what I had entering this reading was an expectation of craftsmanship, but also a blank slate in experience. Sinusoid The shape of my opinions for this book. I really liked stories 1,3,5 and roundly disliked 2 and 4. "The Pederson Kid" is the most unlike anything else in length and in narrative drive. That kind of Faulknerian, McCarthy Gothic. The main character is a Buster Keaton character (my favorite kinds of characters for sure) in that he is constantly abused by the action and keeps going forward. "Mrs. Mean" was a practice in style that simply failed to grab me by the lapels. "Icicles" was like a sad Office meets Glengarry Glen Ross setting plus lonely obsessive Punch Drunk Love Adam Sandler character. It made me feel things. "Order of Insects" seemed like a shorter less stylistic rehash of a few of the themes in Icicles. Storywise not that interesting but interesting in the witnessing-an-authors-younger-work kind of way. "In The Heart of the Heart of the Country" was the most interesting way of dealing with plotlessness. Making little vignettes that tied together by the narrator's voice as cold and bitter as Midwestern winters. The kind of writing I was expecting all along. Alternative Energies I'll have to explore more of Gass. It seems unlikely that I'll get to much of his work for a while, especially since I'm trying to read books I actually own this year. I could conceivably see myself picking up Omensetter. If you have read it I would love to hear your opinions (long prairie winded or one word gustos) on it. I'll have to consider reading some of his non-fiction as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Gager

    Starting today/tonight perhaps. My library hardbound cover is not represented here. Coincidentally I just finished reading the title story in R. Ford's Granta American Short story collection. This experience tells me it could be a problem to finish this book. The title story is mostly prose-poetry and to call it a story is a stretch. It's a kind of a story I guess. Tuesday... I finally got into it this morning with the opening of "The Pederson Kid". Grim yet lyrical... Kind of reminds me of "Hon Starting today/tonight perhaps. My library hardbound cover is not represented here. Coincidentally I just finished reading the title story in R. Ford's Granta American Short story collection. This experience tells me it could be a problem to finish this book. The title story is mostly prose-poetry and to call it a story is a stretch. It's a kind of a story I guess. Tuesday... I finally got into it this morning with the opening of "The Pederson Kid". Grim yet lyrical... Kind of reminds me of "Honey in the Horn". Saturday... not getting very far due to my work schedule. Tonight! Still not getting very far very fast but I did finish that first story. Reading 80 pages of Mr. Gass is like reading 200 of Elmore Leonard. He doesn't exactly push the pace of storytelling. The "story" in this case could have been told in 20 pages. What matters to the author is the whole psychic insides of things and people. His writing reminds me of Cormac McCarthy, Jim Harrison and Faulkner(of course). I'd say he does a pretty compelling job of putting us inside the life of Jorge: crazy, desperate, pain-filled and hanging on in the face of environmental, social and emotional pummelling. His escape/reprieve at the end is realistically pathetic and understandable. Reminded me of the Kid in "Blood Meridian". In my opinion WHG succeeds in word-picturing the mental insides of young lad in physical and emotional extremis. Now in the middle of "Mrs. Mean". At first it seems like an account of the author's role as neighborhood psychic investigator. Haven't we all encountered adjacent hardcore terrorists and obsessed lunatics like the titular woman? My parents had to move once because of it. The abuse of the kids is hard to take. Then the narrative takes a turn and becomes more about the author as writer of lives he's semi-secretly trying to exploit and explore. Very interesting. Read the story and understand that he has indeed been the alien outsider who used them. On Mr. Wallace: "... his eyes run, his ears ring, his teeth rot. His nose clogs. His lips pale and bleed. His knees, his hips, his neck and arms, are stiff. His feet are sore, the ankles swollen. His back, head and legs ache. His throat is raw, his chest constricted, and all his inner organs - heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and bowels - are weak. Hands shake. Hair is falling. His flesh lies slack. ... But Mr. Wallace has a strong belly, it is taut and smooth and round, like a baby's..." Willam Congreve - English playwright and poet 100 yrs. after Shakespeare. Started "Icicles" last night but didn't get too far. Reminds me of "Glengarry Glen Ross", the part of "The Pale King" I read in The New Yorker, Richard Ford's realtor hero Frank Bascombe, and "And Then We came to the End". Mr. Gass definitely likes to get into the psychic insides if things and people. In this case a man living on the edge of despair/existential boredom. ... Finished "Icicles" and "Order of Insects" but skipped the title story since I read it recently in another book. So, what about William Gass? Some G'reads reviewers claim that reading him requires too much work, a la McCarthy, Faulkner and Nabokov at their most orotund, poetic, wordy, convoluted "best". He makes up words! I can see that point but say that for me it's been worth the effort. He certainly gets at and exposes the soul in extremis. Very personal... THAT said, I probably won't go looking for another book by WHG for a good while.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    Gass is an evocative writer, describing people, their habits, the weather, small towns in such detail and with real attention to the range of elements that make up the thing that he is trying to narrate. As such, it is often introspective prose and tends to concentrate on minutiae of daily life. There is often also an undercurrent of threat or uncertainty to these stories which really made me question what exactly I was reading about and how much I really knew about the characters being presente Gass is an evocative writer, describing people, their habits, the weather, small towns in such detail and with real attention to the range of elements that make up the thing that he is trying to narrate. As such, it is often introspective prose and tends to concentrate on minutiae of daily life. There is often also an undercurrent of threat or uncertainty to these stories which really made me question what exactly I was reading about and how much I really knew about the characters being presented. This worked very well. 'Icicles' was the most moving story, following the daily routine of a failed estate agent whose loneliness causes him to fixate with real tenderness on the icicles on his house. Whilst it sounds bizarre, it works so well and subtly meditates on solitude, the inability to connect with people and the fear of real intimacy. The final story, In the Hear of the Heart of the Country, is also brilliant in its depiction of a dissatisfied writer, not sure how to move on from a lost love. The book is worth reading for the preface alone, which is a thought-provoking account of what it means to be a writer, especially its emotional terrain.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    I find myself sympathetic to MJ’s disappointment reaction to In the Heart of the Heart of the Country ; but not quite to the same degree. It is Gass, but even more than Gass it feels like near average American 1950’s short fiction. I miss the Gass of The Tunnel and of the essays. The Pederson Kid :: I am not as enraptured with this one as are most readers. It felt to me like a Faulknerian gothic, if I can say that having not read Faulkner in many an age. But it does make me feel less bad that Bar I find myself sympathetic to MJ’s disappointment reaction to In the Heart of the Heart of the Country ; but not quite to the same degree. It is Gass, but even more than Gass it feels like near average American 1950’s short fiction. I miss the Gass of The Tunnel and of the essays. The Pederson Kid :: I am not as enraptured with this one as are most readers. It felt to me like a Faulknerian gothic, if I can say that having not read Faulkner in many an age. But it does make me feel less bad that Barth’s Faulknerian novel was lost to/stolen from the stacks at John Hopkins. Mrs. Mean -- A nice touch of the Gassian misanthropy we have come to treasure. Icicles -- Would be my favorite of the collection. Here we see a little of the Gassian love of language ; the way he can make dance the jargon of the rat-bastard realtors, ringing my ear with a touch of Glengarry Glen Ross. Order of Insects -- Would that it were expanded to a forty page chapter of The Tunnel. In the Heart of the Heart of the Country -- This is where I grew up. By no means should In the Heart of the Heart of the Country be relegated to Completionist-Only status. It has served well as an introduction to the fiction and prose of Gass ; but from a retrospective perspective it is merely on-the-way to greatness, and at its publication one may have been hard-set to predict what was to come, that Gass would rise above the average of fictioning. But isn’t that always the situation with first fictions?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    Yeah. So, I would regard this book as being, line by line, one of the more difficult things I ever read. Gass writes like I imagine people who don’t really like literature imagine everyone writes, a stream of consciousness ramble which obfuscates basic facts, tends towards little by way of narrative, and doubles back on itself endlessly. I don’t regard any of those as being bad things, to be clear, it’s a style like any other style, sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t, depending on its execut Yeah. So, I would regard this book as being, line by line, one of the more difficult things I ever read. Gass writes like I imagine people who don’t really like literature imagine everyone writes, a stream of consciousness ramble which obfuscates basic facts, tends towards little by way of narrative, and doubles back on itself endlessly. I don’t regard any of those as being bad things, to be clear, it’s a style like any other style, sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t, depending on its execution--though of course, in practice it’s so difficult a ‘genre’ that only enormously talented writers can manage it with even a pretense of competence. Gass manages it. He has an enormously rare gift for striking and unexpected sentences; you will not find, in its 200 pages, I think a single familiar metaphor. When this works it works fabulously, and already some of his lines – ‘lonely as overshoes, or someone else’s cough’—have wormed their way into my memory. I will admit that not all of the stories punched for me, and there were a lot of annoying bits where you have spend an amount of mental effort to deduce some quotidian detail. But the last two stories; one about bugs, basically, I can’t put it better than that, and the eponymous finale, were really, really masterful. Keep.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Thanks so much to Olly and Hilary for introducing me to William H. Gass! I am ashamed to say, I had never read him before. This collection of novellas and short stories is haunting, lovlely, and spare. Gass's writing engages the reader in such a unique, profound way. He seems to have taken Hemingway's "iceberg technique" and gone him one better: His prose is simultaneously spare and rich. He conceals and forces the reader to fill in all kinds of gaps for herself, but unlike Hemingway there is no Thanks so much to Olly and Hilary for introducing me to William H. Gass! I am ashamed to say, I had never read him before. This collection of novellas and short stories is haunting, lovlely, and spare. Gass's writing engages the reader in such a unique, profound way. He seems to have taken Hemingway's "iceberg technique" and gone him one better: His prose is simultaneously spare and rich. He conceals and forces the reader to fill in all kinds of gaps for herself, but unlike Hemingway there is nothing macho or cold about his prose. And not since I first encountered Nabokov have I been this enchanted by an author's ability to play with and make me rethink the English language. All of the stories here are wonderful -- "Mrs. Mean," a suburban man's musings on the inner life of his next door neighbor who is abusive to her bratty brood of kids, "Icicles," which details the breakdown of failed real estate agent, due mostly to the fact that his job forces him to view everything as property, "Order of Insects," the tale of a bored, frustrated housewife who finds a sort of solace in the corpses of strange insects that she finds littering the floor of her new home, and "In the Heart of the Heart of the Country," a peek at the innner workings of a small town in Indiana and the interior life of a lonely, lovelorn man who lives there -- but the real standout is the novella that opens the collection, "The Pedersen Kid." Told from the perspective of a young boy living on a farm, the story begins with a farmhand's discovery of a neighbor boy -- the Pedersen kid of the title -- frozen nearly to death in a field during a raging blizzard. As the farmhand and the narrator's mother struggle to revive him, the narrator's hatred for the kid mounts because his presence forces the narrator to awaken his angry, alcoholic father and forces his mother to admit that she knows the location of his hidden stash of whiskey. When the kid comes to he mutters something about a man in a green mackinaw , a black stocking cap, and yellow gloves with a gun who forced his family into the root cellar. After much argument about the potential veracity of the claim, the men in the house set off toward the Pedersen farm. The journey is fraught with tension, as intricate layers of antipathy between the three men are exposed and the blizzard becomes more and more of a problem. They reach the farm and the story's climax is one of the most eerie, lovely bits of prose I have read in a work of short fiction; chilling in every sense of the word, yet oddly redemptive. I feel I can't really do it justice, but it is a wholely unique and resounding medetation on evil. Also (and I can't stress this enough) this is a collection where you must, must, must read the author's introduction. It is one of the most insightful pieces of writing-about-writing you will ever come across. I think it should be required reading for all young writers.

  17. 4 out of 5

    James Ferrett

    “I want to rise so high that when I shit I won’t miss anybody.” Some authors examine characters; Gass dissects them. His writing cuts into the inner workings of the human mind like a scalpel, and even if you don’t enjoy what’s being shown you will recognise it as similar to something deep within yourself. Reading In The Heart of the Heart of the Country is like staring at a house-fire: the spectacle may be aesthetically beautiful, but it's ultimately just depressing as it's the cause of so much mi “I want to rise so high that when I shit I won’t miss anybody.” Some authors examine characters; Gass dissects them. His writing cuts into the inner workings of the human mind like a scalpel, and even if you don’t enjoy what’s being shown you will recognise it as similar to something deep within yourself. Reading In The Heart of the Heart of the Country is like staring at a house-fire: the spectacle may be aesthetically beautiful, but it's ultimately just depressing as it's the cause of so much misery. Kafka said that "we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” Normally, I would agree. This short story collection went too far away from trying to provide narrative satisfaction, though; Gass doesn't just illuminate the disgusting elements of life, he wallows in them. The result is emotionally numbing. The prose is intricately written, with complex sentence structures and occasionally confusing dialect (although Gass knows how to temper his own intelligence based on whether it is appropriate for his characters; many authors lack this self-awareness). A number of the stories here fall into the dreaded short story trope of "middle aged man contemplates the meaning of clouds," although the first — "The Pedersen Kid" — has an interesting set-up and multiple engaging characters. Things soon settle into monotony, however. Three hundred pages of nihilism is going to be dull no matter how intricate the writing. Gass said that “these stories emerged from my blank insides to die in another darkness.” Regardless of its lack of commercial success, and even if its grotesqueness makes it difficult to love, it's hard to deny that In The Heart of the Heart of the Country is extraordinarily well written. It will make readers gag, but still feels true to the despicable parts of our world. However, the stories are so relentlessly ugly and cynical that I couldn't escape the feeling that it was written out of pure spite rather than a desire to engage the reader in a truly meaningful way.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lee Foust

    This was my first reading of a Gass text so how could it be anything other than a revelation, like looking into that idealized mirror in which one sees oneself not as one is but as one has always imagined oneself to be. This book appears to have been written by the writer that I myself have been trying to be for 30 years now. It's probably a good thing (for me) that i didn't read Gass 30 years ago as I might have spent all of these years merely imitating that ebb and flow--instead I simply nod t This was my first reading of a Gass text so how could it be anything other than a revelation, like looking into that idealized mirror in which one sees oneself not as one is but as one has always imagined oneself to be. This book appears to have been written by the writer that I myself have been trying to be for 30 years now. It's probably a good thing (for me) that i didn't read Gass 30 years ago as I might have spent all of these years merely imitating that ebb and flow--instead I simply nod to a fellow scorer of prose measures, of tempo and tone, and offer up my gratitude for the pep talk, the feeling that I'm not alone in the pursuit of the music buried in the freeway pile-up of the English language in the telling of a tale; and that tales need to be told, tales that re-invent, break down, and rebuild anew the very concept of narrative. Yes, Gass has done all that here. I just might begin again at the beginning and keep on reading into the heart of the heart of my country as long as I need to.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chuck LoPresti

    Rhubarb pie, Ass Ponys, White Castle, Groucho's Farm, Limburger cheese, Ed Gein, the DesPlaines river, red tail hawks, New Glarus beer and William H. Gass. Rhubarb pie, Ass Ponys, White Castle, Groucho's Farm, Limburger cheese, Ed Gein, the DesPlaines river, red tail hawks, New Glarus beer and William H. Gass.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Seeing as how the last William H. Gass book I read (The Tunnel) helped drive me into the single deepest depressive episode of my life some years back, I approached this with some... caution. Gass's obsession with hatred in its numerous, appalling forms is all over these stories, albiet in a more minor key than his novels. Contempt for ones neighbors, family, community, town, region etc. Everyone in these stories seethes in their own ways. But seething is, alas, a sign of life. And each of these Seeing as how the last William H. Gass book I read (The Tunnel) helped drive me into the single deepest depressive episode of my life some years back, I approached this with some... caution. Gass's obsession with hatred in its numerous, appalling forms is all over these stories, albiet in a more minor key than his novels. Contempt for ones neighbors, family, community, town, region etc. Everyone in these stories seethes in their own ways. But seething is, alas, a sign of life. And each of these pieces is fashioned around people whose perceptions and imaginations are straining mightily against the numerous constricting mores of middle America. Gass just blows right past the smarmy niceness of midwestern life and wriggles around, aestheticizing all of the ugly resentment, bitterness and isolation that lurk deeper down. There are gorgeous, incredibly wrought passages in almost each story in this book. And even though these writings don't really showcase Gass at his full strength (which can be literally terrifying to behold) they are still shot through with enough snark, humor, and gleeful word play to be worth the time. Personally, I prefer his novels.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Deacon Tom F

    2 1/2 stars If I had to sum this book up in one word it would be eat, “confusing. “ Admittedly l, the writing was exquisite that’s why didn’t get fewer stars from me but the plots of the stories just seemed to spin in the mud--they didn’t go anywhere for me. I know Gass is well known in the literary community for being a free thinker and a new wave of writing but that wave just didn’t wet my appetite for the book. Being hardheaded I finished them anyway. I kept thinking that maybe the next story wo 2 1/2 stars If I had to sum this book up in one word it would be eat, “confusing. “ Admittedly l, the writing was exquisite that’s why didn’t get fewer stars from me but the plots of the stories just seemed to spin in the mud--they didn’t go anywhere for me. I know Gass is well known in the literary community for being a free thinker and a new wave of writing but that wave just didn’t wet my appetite for the book. Being hardheaded I finished them anyway. I kept thinking that maybe the next story would be the one that would get me on track with the rest of the people who thought Gass was Amazing. Well I waited by the track but the train never came in. No recommendation - take a chance you might like it or hate it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Brown

    The best book I've read in a long, long time. This collection of long short stories (apparently there is such a thing) range from the plot-driven (the sinister "The Pedersen Kid") to the more experimental ("In the Heart of the Heart of the Country"), but never suffers a spat of boring language. Gass captures the hard, unforgiving American Midwest -- its provincialism, its bleak winters, and its small, simple pleasures (the way winter light illuminates an icicle, for instance) -- through a series The best book I've read in a long, long time. This collection of long short stories (apparently there is such a thing) range from the plot-driven (the sinister "The Pedersen Kid") to the more experimental ("In the Heart of the Heart of the Country"), but never suffers a spat of boring language. Gass captures the hard, unforgiving American Midwest -- its provincialism, its bleak winters, and its small, simple pleasures (the way winter light illuminates an icicle, for instance) -- through a series of different and fully-realized consciousnesses. An incredible achievement. Since I'm sometimes a poor salesman, I give you a sentence from "In the Heart of the Heart of the Country": "It's true there are moments--foolish moments, ecstasy on a tree stump--when I'm all but gone, scattered I like to think like seed, for I'm the sort now in the fool's position of having love left over which I'd like to lose; what good is it now to me, candy ungiven after Halloween?"

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Hurley

    a tragedy to see its author pass. The prose gives a sense of subdued neuroticism, more an indicting of a society than any flawed individual, and then the set of brief, sharp portraits, no louder than they need to be, and all through a concise set of stories. Look forward to the Tunnel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jim Howell

    I'm not usually unkind to depressing Lit; in fact, I generally revel in it, but I did find this a depressing book of stories full of, primarily, loneliness, but also despair, missing loves, and neurosis. It is my first Gass; although, I am 100 pages into The Tunnel, and I did not finish the book feeling as if I had read a great book, nor did I come away with high regard for the author. I was so bothered by these feelings that I read several articles on Gass and found 2 interviews as well, in whic I'm not usually unkind to depressing Lit; in fact, I generally revel in it, but I did find this a depressing book of stories full of, primarily, loneliness, but also despair, missing loves, and neurosis. It is my first Gass; although, I am 100 pages into The Tunnel, and I did not finish the book feeling as if I had read a great book, nor did I come away with high regard for the author. I was so bothered by these feelings that I read several articles on Gass and found 2 interviews as well, in which I found him delightful. Then I found this quote on his relationship with William Gaddis: "We had great times. We both had the same views: Mankind, augh hsdgahahga!!!!. And he would read the paper and make clippings out of it. He was always saying, “Did you read…!?” We would both exalt in our gloom. Then it came to me. I had just read two works by Thomas Bernhard. I have been just smothered in misanthropy. I'm drowning in it, and this was not the lifeline I needed. Seriously, I do not see this as a great book of short stories, but I do find Gass intriguing and not the ogre I had presumed, so I am still looking forward to finishing The Tunnel.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Levi

    3.5* When reading Gass, one gets the impression that he’s communicating various ideas at once – as if each sentence is merely a proxy or placeholder for some other thought. As a result, this collection feels like it’s comprised of about twelve stories, five of which I was able to consciously grasp at. At times Gass’ philosophical sensibilities and ambiguous tone get in the way of the stories, I feel—are these stories even stories at all? How much is Gass trying to expand the boundaries of the sho 3.5* When reading Gass, one gets the impression that he’s communicating various ideas at once – as if each sentence is merely a proxy or placeholder for some other thought. As a result, this collection feels like it’s comprised of about twelve stories, five of which I was able to consciously grasp at. At times Gass’ philosophical sensibilities and ambiguous tone get in the way of the stories, I feel—are these stories even stories at all? How much is Gass trying to expand the boundaries of the short story genre?—but like Omensetter’s Luck, the writing here is evidence of Gass’ profound way with words.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jayden McComiskie

    Very good. Here's my favourite quote: “it’s not surprising that the novelists of the slums, the cities, and the crowds, should find that sex is but a scratch to ease a tickle, that we’re most human when we’re sitting on the john, and that the justest image of our life is in full passage through the plumbing.” Very good. Here's my favourite quote: “it’s not surprising that the novelists of the slums, the cities, and the crowds, should find that sex is but a scratch to ease a tickle, that we’re most human when we’re sitting on the john, and that the justest image of our life is in full passage through the plumbing.”

  27. 5 out of 5

    MickthePaddy

    "I read with the hungry rage of a forest blaze." THE PEDERSEN KID - cold and bleak and tense; this is cormac mccarthy times ten... MRS.MEAN - just pretty much perfect; this would fit nicely alongside anything in Oblivion by DFW. in awe... "I read with the hungry rage of a forest blaze." THE PEDERSEN KID - cold and bleak and tense; this is cormac mccarthy times ten... MRS.MEAN - just pretty much perfect; this would fit nicely alongside anything in Oblivion by DFW. in awe...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Facundo Melillo

    "I waited. The ankles were painful. I said I had a mole that itched. A bad sign, Mr. Wallace said, and I saw the thought of cancer fly in his ear. Moles are special marks, he said. I was aware, I said, of how they were, but the places of my own were fortunate and I divined from them a long life. Moles go deep, I said. They tunnel to the heart. Mr. Wallace grinned and wished me well and with great effort turned away. It was a good start. Wonder and fear began in him and twitched his face. When ag "I waited. The ankles were painful. I said I had a mole that itched. A bad sign, Mr. Wallace said, and I saw the thought of cancer fly in his ear. Moles are special marks, he said. I was aware, I said, of how they were, but the places of my own were fortunate and I divined from them a long life. Moles go deep, I said. They tunnel to the heart. Mr. Wallace grinned and wished me well and with great effort turned away. It was a good start. Wonder and fear began in him and twitched his face. When again he came he thought aloud of moles and I discoursed upon them: causes, underflesh connections, cosmic parallels, relations to divinity. There was a fever in him, dew on his lip, brightness in his eye. Moles. Every day. At last there was no art in how he brought the subject up. I spoke of the mark of Cain. I mentioned the deformities of the devil. I talked of toads and warts. I discussed the placing of blemishes and the ordering of stars. Stigmata. The world of air is like the skin and signs without are only symbols of the world within. I referred to the moles of beauty, to those of avarice, cunning, gluttony and lust, to those which, when touched, made the eyes water, the ears itch, or caused the prick to stand and the shyest maid to flower. My fancy soared. I related moles and maps, moles and mountains, moles and the elements of interior earth. Oh it was wondrous done! How he shook and warmed his lips like an old roué and trembled and put anxiety in every place! I was everywhere specific and detailed. This may correspond to that. The region of the spine is like unto the polar axis. But I was at all times indeterminate and vague as well. A certain horn-shaped mole upon a certain place may signify a certain spiritual malignity. I informed him of everything and yet of nothing. I moved his sight from heaven to hell and drew from him the most naïve response of bliss, followed first by a childlike disappointment as our viewpoint fell, then a childlike fright. His cane quivered against the pavement. He was in the grip. To be so near, continually, to dying; to feel within yourself the chemistry of death; to see in the glass, day by day, your skull emerging; to rot while walking and to fear the sun; to pick over the folds of your loosening flesh like infested clothing; to know, not merely by the logician’s definition or the statistician’s count that men are mortal, but through the limpsting of your own blood—to know so surely so directly so immediately this, I thought, would be a burden needing, if a man were to bear up under it, a staff of self-deceiving hope as sturdy and leveling as the truth was not: an unquenchable, blasphemous, magical hope that the last gasp when it came would last forever, death’s rattle an eternity."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    To be honest, I was legit not impressed with the opening story -- which contained the germ of something great -- but I adored the rest. Gass was far and away the most lyrical of the big-dick American postmodernists of the mid-20th Century, and even at his most venomous in The Tunnel, he could still manage a serene lyricism matched by few other American writers. That being said, perhaps I fucked up by reading The Tunnel before any other Gass, and everything seems to only exist in its shadow -- al To be honest, I was legit not impressed with the opening story -- which contained the germ of something great -- but I adored the rest. Gass was far and away the most lyrical of the big-dick American postmodernists of the mid-20th Century, and even at his most venomous in The Tunnel, he could still manage a serene lyricism matched by few other American writers. That being said, perhaps I fucked up by reading The Tunnel before any other Gass, and everything seems to only exist in its shadow -- all of these stories seem like etudes before that masterpiece.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Iredell

    "The Pederson Kid" has elements of the Western, as well as the oft-cited Southern Gothic transplanted to the Midwest. The pervasiveness of the snow and descriptions thereof are striking and build into a drift themselves and make of the story a bleak and unforgiving landscape out of which Jorge finds unexpected happiness. This is pretty brilliant. "Mrs. Mean" is one of the weirdest stories of the bunch. I liked how at the end the narrator starts thinking about his penis and sex and Mr. Wallace al "The Pederson Kid" has elements of the Western, as well as the oft-cited Southern Gothic transplanted to the Midwest. The pervasiveness of the snow and descriptions thereof are striking and build into a drift themselves and make of the story a bleak and unforgiving landscape out of which Jorge finds unexpected happiness. This is pretty brilliant. "Mrs. Mean" is one of the weirdest stories of the bunch. I liked how at the end the narrator starts thinking about his penis and sex and Mr. Wallace all blue and round. It's fucking weird. Suburban hell in the Depression/Post-Depression era. I guess that's pre-suburb, but it sure as hell felt suburban. "Icicles" is sad. Aging Fender sitting alone in his house counting peas in his pot pie. Losing his sale, chasing the kid who comes to the empty house to peel away an enormous icicle, falling in the chase, returning only to find his prospective sale returning to their car and driving off. The real estate office's close, and Fender, again back at home, in his chair, thinking of his aging, his dying, body, while outside the children play. Jesus. "Order of Insects": I like how the mother goes from abhorring the roaches to being obsessed with them and collecting them. The only story here with a female narrator/protagonist. Also the shortest story in the collection. I like how it starts with her talking about having just moved in, right after we've left the real estate broker in "Icicles." Nice movement there. Otherwise the story sticks out a little bit.

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