It’s a school of fiction that I loved in college, when I was an ambitious little shit trying to make himself get smart or seem smart or be smart by reading the books everyone knows are “smart”: , and so on.
As a fellow technician of sentences, I’m dazzled by his chops, but it frankly turns me off as a human being. Gass I especially adore—I think he really a genius—but I mostly just adore his criticism. I got confused sometimes in Roberto Bolaño’s , but I didn’t mind, because I was otherwise riveted.
Like Sontag, Gass is a writer whose nonfiction is so much more alive than his fiction. has the obfuscatory impulses of Pynchon, the snideness of Gaddis, the meanness of Gass, and the hipster cred of Barthelme, but unlike those writers, he is not funny, beautiful, brilliant, or interesting. The sentences aren’t beautiful, the story is repetitive and utterly uninteresting, and the characters are impossible to invest any emotion in whatsoever. I was fascinated, haunted, horrified; that is, I cared.
At some point in the more than six months it’s taken me to get this far into the book, I started forcing myself to read it by taking it to the gym with me.
It made sense for the task of reading this book to accompany my trying to lose weight on the stationary cycle: both are joyless, laborious, repetitive chores done in a state of squinty-eyed perspiration and only in the distant hope that, eventually, I will finally get rid of something heavy.
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