Most helpful positive review
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Brilliance can be hard to look at...
on June 4, 2009
--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.
--Part of the thrill of reading these essays is in how beautifully they're written, but also in being treated to the breadth of Gass's eclectic and astounding intellect. There are always detours, segues, surprises, and even non-sequiturs...often the sidetrips and dead-ends prove more rewarding than the scheduled destination. So it is that an essay that examines the abuse of the present tense in contemporary literature, for instance, roams far afield into areas of philosophy and psychology and the politics of self-identity. Personal anecdotes pop up, fresh interpretations of mythology, musings on near and ancient history...basically anything can turn the essay enroute towards a new direction.
--As Gass proposes in the final essay of this collection, the best sort of writing encourages a communion between author and reader, in which the former extends an invitation into his mind and the latter finds the invitation enticing enough to accept. Together, they set off on a shared journey of discovery that lasts until interest flags, the writing sags, or the pages run out.
--I cracked this book open to the essay on Wittgenstein and before I'd even finished it I got online and bought the other available collections of Gass's essays, as well as his novel *The Tunnel.* I had a feeling I wouldn't regret it; and so far, I was right.