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In the Heart of the Heart of the Country & Other Stories (Nonpareil Book) Paperback – June 3, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In these short stories…everything is described, carefully, astonishingly….You never know what’s going to come next in a Gass piece, except that it will be a surprise that bends the mind….This collection was first published in 1968, but it’s timeless. It suggests the milieux of Edward Hopper paintings, ones in which the paint itself writhes under your gaze." —Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

In the Heart of the Heart of the Country defines Gass not as a special but as a major voice. We read about the becalmed Midwest, about farmers mired in their dailiness, and realize too late that we’ve been exposed to a deadly poetry. It says that America is lost. No writer I’ve ever read, not even Joyce, can celebrate his world with a more piercing sadness.” —Frederic Morton,The New York Times 
 
“The man has never written a sentence that isn’t astonishing.” —Benjamin Weissman, Los Angeles Review of Books

“These stories scrape nerve and pierce the heart. They also replenish the language. They are told sparely, hauntingly, with compassion and a remarkable exploratory courage.” —The New York Times

“William H. Gass has recreated a mythical Midwest that overpowers all his characters and has a palpable, frightening presence...[he] makes us doubt everything in the story—Jorge, the Pedersen kid and our very existence—as he lulls us to sleep with his crisp, hallucinatory prose.” —Jerome Charyn, The Wall Street Journal 
 
Omensetter’s Luck seemed the kind of astonishing total performance that might not lead to another book. But this new volume shows a growth and an exploration of imaginative power suggesting that Mr. Gass’s work is here to continue, as well as to stay. In the title piece, as throughout, the treatment of the relation between self and things is unique in American writing.” —John Hollander 
 
“William Gass is, in his own way, quite as successful as Joyce or Faulkner.” —Shaun O’Connell,The Nation

“[He is] one of the important writers of his generation. This collection...serves to focus the distinctive qualities of his sensibility and style...Gass is “old-fashioned” in his insistence that language is an immediate extension of human feeling and cognition. But what makes him modern is how much he knows—like John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, and Walker Percy, he is one of the philosopher-novelists who bring a new intellectual power to the basically transcendental American sensibility. It is writing like this that will achieve, if it is at all possible, a saving continuity with tradition as it attempts to save human feeling and individuality for art.” —Newsweek 
 
“Sentences sweet as Godiva Chocolate, turns of phrase so luscious they verge on the lubricious, paragraphs one could live on—anyone who savored the prose of William Gass will remember it with pleasure or heartburn.”
—The Washington Post Book World --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

'These stories scrape the nerve and pierce the heart. They also replenish the language. The are told sparely, hauntingly, with compassion and a remarkable exploratory courage.' -- Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times

'. . . makes clear the rewards of an imagination which clings to the concrete world like a lover and makes of it, through near-perfect language, a renewed mystery.' --Jack Richardson, The New York Review of Books

'Gass has written a short story as dense as a novel, lyrical as a poem. . . . If he had not written before or since, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country would be enough -- all that readers and writers could ask of him. Being Gass he has done much more.' -- Frederick Busch, Modern Fiction Studies

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Product Details

  • Series: Nonpareil Book (Book 21)
  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine; Reissue edition (June 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879233745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879233747
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,320,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
It seems impossible that a collection of stories as ground breaking as these could disappear from the bookshelves, but here it is. I came on to find out about ordering a copy but found the publisher was out! Then let me say, having read it a few times already that while In the Heart of the Heart of the Country gets and deserves much praise in this collection, The Pederson Kid is MASTERFul in its language, pacing and style. Order of Insects also is rumination as short story. I am in love with this book and like your true love, it will always be there.
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34 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Carra R Lane on January 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Early William H. Gass is essential. This fairly straightforward book is early Gass. Gass after Omensetter is a very personal taste. Fame, even the tiny minor academic variety, infects human beings oddly. Gass only had a few stories to tell. This book matters. Please keep the great early Gass alive/available & do not worry much about the later still quite interesting but arrogant blatting.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dick Johnson VINE VOICE on March 4, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of long short stories will not let you relax while you read. As with the other Gass I've read, he wants to make you think deeply. There are no clear cut endings, but these aren't clear cut stories.

The best thing about this edition (ISBN 0879233745) is the preface by Gass himself. I usually save such for reading as an afterword (too many prefaces and introductions have too many spoilers). This can be read first or last, but lets you a little more into his thoughts.

His use of language lets you enjoy stories that wouldn't normally hold your interest.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Smallridge on September 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
The only way I can describe reading this book is to compare it to catching a lightening bug (or, as Gass would describe it, as capturing a piece of light on a dark Midwestern night). The bugs are beautiful on their own, but they often are hard to grab and hold. Gass writes sentences that are amazing on their own. Try this from "Mrs. Mean," a story in this collection: "Evil that is everyday is lost in life." Sentences as perfectly constructed such as this appear frequently in this collection, but reading the work as a collective becomes tricky because his words can be difficult to snag through the the endless stream of consciousness, or to remember because so many brilliant sentences appear mixed in throughout.

This collection confirmed for me that Gass is a terrific writer and the works here stand up because of his excellent opening essay on the craft of writing (and thinking) and solid stories such as "The Pederson Kid," "Mrs. Mean," and "In the Heart of the Heart of the Country." It is a shame it is so expensive and so hard to find, but it is worth the effort it takes to track this down.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L on January 30, 2015
Format: Paperback
After being blown away by Omensetter's Luck, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country seemed like the logical next step. I was not disappointed. Gass is an absolute treasure and each story in this collection is marvelous (Mrs. Mean and In the Heart of the Heart of the Country are now my two favorite short stories that I've encountered). Stunning language, piercing yet beautiful sadness, and heartfelt compassion shine through each page. The preface written by Gass even gives you a taste of his renowned brilliance in the essay form. As I move on to his horrifying masterpiece The Tunnel, it is becoming apparent that William H. Gass may very well become my favorite author. Highly recommended.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rian on March 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thanks to John Gardner, I have stumbled upon William Gass. I only regret that it took me this long to discover him. One of the best arguments that I know of in support of a philosophically motivated approach to short fiction.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Beth on February 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It changed my views on writing and literature -- William Glass has a very unique writing style. I love this book. Especially the title story -- definitely worth a read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read "Order of Insects" as an English major undergrad, and the story has stuck with me ever since. I ordered this book specifically so I could read that short story again, and was not disappointed. In fact, I found myself very drawn in by Gass's explicit voice and masterful style, and am now enjoying the rest of the book's contents. I was especially touched by his sometimes sorrowful, piercingly honest, and definitely relatable prologue, and would recommend this purchase to all aspiring-but-self-doubting writers for the prologue alone.

Gass is a truly passionate writer who, one can tell, feels the human meaning of recent American history very acutely, and tries to make sense of it for his readers. Absolutely worth the read!
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