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A Temple of Texts Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 14, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0307262868 ISBN-10: 0307262863 Edition: 1st

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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (February 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307262863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307262868
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,702,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gass loves words. His prose is extravagant, lush, sometimes overly florid (as when he talks of Flann O'Brien's death on "the first Fools' Day of April, 1966"), and in this new collection, his words have a tendency to get in the way of his subject matter. Which is a shame, because Gass, a novelist and award-winning critic, writes about books and authors often ignored by mainstream readers: Rabelais, Robert Burton, Elias Canetti. Then again, Gass doesn't write for the mainstream. He is the strangest of academic amalgams: a self-professed lover of the avant-garde as represented by Gertrude Stein, Flann O'Brien and Robert Coover, while at the same time he extols the virtues of what he calls "the classics." His definition of classic is, to be sure, expansive, but he applies an old-fashioned standard to all literature, declaring the need for those classics as the basis for a varied literary diet. Despite the occasional gem, such as a touching, if rambling, tribute to William Gaddis, the essays often devolve into little more than a brief synopsis of plot. This volume is appropriately titled, because Gass approaches his subjects reverently, but as in a temple, the service depends as much on the ritual of devotion as on innovation in thought. (Feb. 20)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

It's unfortunate that the term critic often connotes negativity and sniping. What novelist and professor of philosophy William Gass practices in his critical essays is more in the line of learned appreciation or ecstatic advocacy. Though many of these pieces first appeared in other books as forwards, afterwards, and introductions, reviewers feel that A Temple of Texts may be his most cohesive collection yet. Gass's allusions and elaborate metaphors don't make for skimming. But for these willing to dig in, the author fulfills his mission "to provide suggestions of where best to start, what to expect, how to look or read or listen; and to give reasons why the work should be treated with seriousness and respect."

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. T. MORRISSEY on January 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Temple of Texts William H. Gass is one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century, and luckily for us he's also one of the great writers. In this collection of essays, Gass tackles a variety of topics related to literature and culture. He writes about complex ideas in prose that is easy and enjoyable to read. His sarcastic wit is often laugh-outloud funny. Each essay is a reprint from a previously published article or book introduction. I recall reading his very humorous and insightful introduction, which is included here, to William Gass's novel The Recognitions, and it was fun to read it again in this new context. Anyone interested in major writers of the Twentieth Century should include Gass's collection on her reading list.
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31 of 41 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This collects introductions to new editions of literary works, musings on books and ideas, and a variety of book reviews, some brief, some-- as with that of Susan Neiman's philosophical study of evil, extended. The high style Gass favors, and which the Washington Post's Michael Dirnda pours/pores over, does demand concentration. It will reward effort, but the amounts of inspiration that I gained proved inconsistent. It's like chewing through a slice of dense fruit cake. Most hate it, some tolerate it, and only a few long for it. But all can admire, if often from a safe distance, the craft with which the cherries are glazed and the citron positioned. Embedded in the middle, one may find a tasty bit suddenly within a lot of compacted mass. The opening essay, to move to Gass' own analogy, is addressed to a young person encountering the classic works, typifies Gass' approach: you will not become a better chess player unless you pit yourself against your betters, and unless you learn from your subsequent losses.

His essays tend to repeat key points in the actual novels he introduces, and this tendency can be either instructive in serving as a reminder of your own past readings of the work under scrutiny, or dull, if you have little interest in the work Gass is analyzing. Many of these entries are wrenched out of their original contexts, and the assortment of short pieces probably will reveal to you what I found: a lot of them you skim, fewer you pause over, and once in a while you stop and dive in deep, the prose washing over you. It's hard to stay afloat for long: you either rush out of this book and never look back, or you wear yourself out as you attempt to keep up with Gass' marathon mental stamina.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steiner VINE VOICE on October 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
William Gass proves his remarkable erudition in this expansive collection of reviews and reflections. Although this book is a bit unfocused at time-particularly in Gass' meandering discussion of the history of the spectacle-there are still extraordinary essays on Rilke, Gaddis, Rodin, as well are more abstract commentaries on the nature of evil and sacred literature. Mr. Gass' personal temple of texts is an interesting look at his aesthetic and philosophic influences, without the oracular and hierarchical tone of critics like Harold Bloom. Still, this collection is a bit rich at times-like biting into an overly sweet, strawberry chocolate. However, Gass nevertheless proves his intimidating knowledge of literature and culture without ever losing touch with his own creative commitments.
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