Category Archives: Gass

The Tunnel: Herschel Honey

“Yet when I talk to him sometimes, I hear my voice returning to me larger than it left: I find my thinking clarified, my mistakes disclosed, just by being spoken into him, because he naturally knows how to echo: first from this surface of consideration, then from that; each time differently, bending, shaping the conception, allowing all its holes to fill with further holes until it comes back hollow as a shell, and you are left with only your memory of how it once reverberated; how before, when it departed your sunny solicitous shore, your thought was vital, energetic, sea deep, insistent as surf, and how now it is tiny, tinny, thin, an alien husk, a brittle bit of calcified skin some worm’s worn.”
W. Gass, The Tunnel, Dalkey Archive Press, 1999, p. 415.

The Tunnel is: William H. Gass showing his ID, showing it, et al. (this is a plural), with super-egotistic condescension to his Herschel Honey readers – to nobodies like me. With 250 pages to go Herschel is, as I always am, the latecomer who – as the voice of reason popping up in your head just after sending the annoying  mail that will haunt you until the unreasonableness of its reply has been registered – is dumb enough not to feel disappointed at being too late to make the difference.

The article makes a difference (two can play at that).

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The Tunnel

“Poets are the bees of the invisible, Rilke said.”
William H. Gass, The Tunnel, Dalkey Archive Press, 1999, p. 110.

It should have been: ‘Poets are the bees of the not yet visible.”  Flowers that are not yet visible are invisible. And so are you. Am I. Some things remain invisible though & as such are not not yet visible. Maybe that accounts for Maeterlinck’s fascination with bees.

Was Rilke inaccurate (did he say that?) or does the invisible only apply to what’s ultimately going to flower? Truth as yet undiscovered still truth is. No matter if the words are well ordered. Rilke said; Rilke sad. It’s to a large extent how extent tends to some extent being turned into ‘extend’. A tunnel from the dark side to a more truthful state, of affairs.


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The Test of Time

“So conceived and supported, the Test of Time is nevertheless made ineffective by the intractable naiveté of its assumptions. For isn’t it naive to suppose that history will allow only the best to survive? (..)
(..) Considering the frequency of natural calamities, our treatment of warfare as a seasonal sport, and the insatiable squirrelliness of human greed, it should be an occasion for surprise when anything excellent survives.”
W. Gass, Tests of Time, The University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 110-111.

As is his habit, Gass approaches his topic as one who out of curiosity approaches a body lying on the ground only to skirt it and skid away at a 90° angle from his incoming trajectory without even having ascertained whether the person whose body was near inspected was still alive.

The question isn’t whether what survives is excellent but whether who excels is, can be, mortal. The answer is that the excellent cannot perish. The cause of all confusion is that the Test of Time is thought to hold with respect to works and names of personalities whereas any real test of time merely applies to who lives on – however anonymously – as a source of something that had not existed if she had not contributed to that something.

Let me explain:

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