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Finding a Form: Essays Hardcover – August 27, 1996

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (August 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679446621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679446620
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his first gathering of essays in several years, novelist and critic Gass's commitment to ideas, concentrated energy and originality shine through on every page. The title essay, an exploration of how writers navigate complex, refractory reality, discloses how his childhood with an abusive father and alcoholic mother influenced his escape into writing and shaped his fictional characters, symbols and preoccupations. "Nature, Culture, and Cosmos" pessimistically gauges the "immense indifference" of the universe to our moral values and our deaths. Other pieces deal with Ezra Pound as a failed modernist; the lives of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein in relation to their thought; various species of the avant-garde from Pierre de Ronsard to Degas, Beckett and the Bauhaus; the exacting demands of autobiography; the Pulitzer Prize Committee's "banal and hokey" choices in fiction; and the abyss between the moral viewpoints expressed in works of art and the lives of their creators. Gass's deeply felt essays, reprinted from the New York Times Book Review, Antaeus, etc., are quotable, flecked with fertile insights and a pleasure to read. On stoicism: "If we have to accept what we get, why not imagine that it's just what we want?" On Impressionism: "It allows subversion to go on with the approval of the subverted."
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Gass (The Tunnel, LJ 1/95), the head of the International Writers Center at Washington University, is "as obdurate as nails" when it comes to the best possible use of the written word. Each essay in this wide-ranging book (be it titled "Ezra Pound," "Nietzche: The Polemical Philosopher," "Robert Walser," "Nature, Culture, and Cosmos," "Pulitzer, The People Prize," or "The Music of Prose") offers evidence for such a conclusion. Gass is concerned with how best to use a phrase or word and believes we should be tough-minded when it comes to reading. He reveals a sardonic sense of humor as well, for example, in discussing the winners of the Pulitzer prize, and he dislikes the fact that anyone would enjoy his/her own writing. His compound sentences?"little shimmied stretches of human awareness"?are utterly unique and perfectly difficult. This collection succeeds in his aim to arrest and inform persuasively. For literature collections.?Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nadja on June 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
--difficult to see, and not always comfortable to read. But make no mistake about it, Wm Gass is a brilliant writer and *Finding a Form* a book of essays that give off light with the profligacy of a sun on steroids.

--How many times in how many reviews must I feel it incumbent upon me to warn prospective readers: this book isn't for everyone.

--Sadly, quite a lot. And this is indeed one of those books.

--Where Gass might say something in a sentence of eight words he'll say it in eighty; where he might get his meaning across concretely, he prefers instead a suggestive metaphor. These are not faults, as far as he's concerned, but the play of an intellect that loves language, that caresses words and sentences until they waken, breathe, and sing.

--And this is not a fault as far as I'm concerned either.

--Gass is an unabashed sensualist when it comes to words. He believes passionately that the sentence, properly fashioned, lives the way Adam lived when created by God. He believes that a sentence is a living piece of the author's very consciousness--joyful, mournful, pensive, playful, intense and intent upon discovery and expression.

--Many of these essays are about the act of writing and the complimentary act of reading themselves; two are semi-biographical musings on the philosophers Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. Trained as a philosopher, Gass has a philosophically-inclined mind himself and a particularly interesting and cogent insight on the subject. Other essays take as their starting point a review of a particular book or author Gass has read. But as you can't judge a book by its cover, it's not easy to deduce what a Gass essay is by its title.
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By Steiner VINE VOICE on September 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
A supremely enjoyable and intelligent collection of essays by the novelist, philosopher, and man of letters, William Gass. `Finding a Form' proceeds as its sounds-it is a journey through the aesthetic imagination and complex itinerary that is the mind of the author. I particularly enjoyed the essays on Ford, Pound and the Book, but there is more on literature in this text than in most college English courses. Gass has the gift of delivering us creative brilliance with clarity-he hates obscurantism but blithely critiques some of Nietzsche's most astonishing commentators. There are plenty of old fashioned philosophical questions in here as well, the divide between aesthetics and ethics, the role of truth in fiction, the nature of knowledge and poetic creation, etc. Yet there is no denying the work that has gone into Gass' formidable intellect. He has indeed read everything and this collection is a testament to his remarkable commitment to the text.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The essays are interesting, varied, well thought out as is always the case with Gass. Certainly a collection was not a a bad idea; thoughts on Robert Walser, Ezra Pound, Nietzsche and more, but the essays were first published as reviews, magazine pieces etc. and so are, on the whole, brief and bright, bits and pieces. One is left feeling a bit undernourished.
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