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Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 17, 2012
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“Gass [is] a first-rate essayist and something of a classicist . . . a major talent [and] an intrepid critic . . . Life Sentences is a roaming collection . . . incisive . . . elegant.”
—Larry McMurtry, Harper’s Magazine
“Life Sentences is much more than occasion to regrind old axes…It’s a moving testimony that, for all his abstract theorizing, Gass, now 87, still knows his way to the heart of a story.”
—Larry Hardesty, The Boston Globe
“Let’s just get it out of the way: William H. Gass can write. I know: That’s not breaking news. Over the course of a half-century, Gass’ beautifully constructed prose has drawn raves, earning him an American Book award, a PEN / Nabokov Lifetime Achievement award and three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism . . . Gass’ skills haven’t waned with age, either. His new collection of essays written over the past decade, Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts is so agile and well-written it seems to demand a round of appreciative applause every few pages, as if he were a leotard-clad acrobat swinging high overhead.”
—Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Other than praising the book and urging people to read it—and quoting as many elegantly constructed passages as one can get away with—there isn’t much for a book reviewer to do. I can’t even resign myself to giving advice on where to start and what to skip, because Life Sentences is that rare book of essays that has no low points and can be read straight through.”
—Troy Jollimore, The Barnes & Noble Review
“Mr. Gass is an ironist of the highest caliber, a metafictional novelist of the Coover, Barth, Pynchon and Gaddis school. At 87, he is an improbable éminence grise of American letters, festooned with accolades; if there is any justice in the world he will one day get his Nobel prize. When he is not deathly serious with his sly, avuncular delivery of 3-in-the-morning-crisis existential epiphanies, he is hilariously subversive . . . Though he is also a masterful novelist—Omensetter’s Luck (1966) is widely considered a classic—his reputation rests on his criticism and essays . . . As an essayist, his prose is gorgeously musical, ticking along smoothly as if measured out by metronome. He composes miniature fugues and conducts cadenzas while meandering around his subjects . . . [Life Sentences] is a literary miracle.”
—Vladislav Davidzon, The New York Observer
“The pleasures in Gass’ new powerhouse essay collection are heady, varied, and many . . . the philosopher-writer is more frolicsome than ever in his fathoms-deep erudition and purring, stalking, and fencing prose. Gass writes so cogently, robustly, and puckishly about literary, metaphysical, and moral matters because he knows his subjects down to their subatomic particles . . . The brainy, ethical, artistic, and ebullient fun Gass has in this brimming volume will exalt every ardent reader.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred
Top Customer Reviews
I say "odd quote" because Gass seems to take good-humored umbrage at Gardner's assessment, though I can't believe his intent was malicious, nor can I understand how William Gass can disagree: he is a master stylist, and he can just plain write. About the "nothing to say" part; well, that can't be helped - that's just Gass living up to his surname, to an extent.
William Gass is not every(wo)man's writer, and while there is certainly something in this collection for everyone, only those resolved to read the sentences to their finish will be rewarded. In the age of Twitter, even the pithiest Gassian metaphor will tax the 140-symbol limit. His lexical perambulations will test your patience. His insistence that the Classics matter and that a modern liberal education that excludes them is a waste of time will be passed off as the grumblings of a curmudgeon. He will irritate, flabbergast, pontificate. But one thing William Gass will never do: confuse. He is perspicuity personified (and he would hate the alliteration). You know where he stands because he is tenacious in his quest to allow every thought to resolve itself syntactically, grammatically, and logically. Even if it pushes the paragraph to the near-breaking point. This may seem like a negative criticism, but it is not.Read more ›
He is a great writer, witty, profound, a page turner
read. This is the first book of his I have purchased
but I will be adding more to my library.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is vintage Bill Gass with terrific insights into the lives and works of many great writers... his "old favorites, and fresh enemies"Published 17 months ago by bojo
Gass is beginning to seem to me a self infatuated stylistic show-off, an "effete esthete," if you will. Perhaps he's received too much unquestioning undergraduate adulation. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Margaret Langstaff
William Gass' latest collection of essays is generally an excellent contribution to his growing body of letters. Read morePublished on October 5, 2012 by Steiner