Cartesian Sonata And Other Novellas
09 August 2013, 05:40
2013 | EPUB | 956.98KB
Reading William H. Gass's fiction is a little like looking at oneself in a fractured mirror: the usual components are all there, but not necessarily in the right places. Take, for example, the title novella of Cartesian Sonata and Other Novellas: here Gass introduces us to Ella Bend, a sensitive clairvoyant married to a rather burdensome husband. But no sooner does Gass get us started with a very conventional opening, ("This is the story of Ella Bend Hess, of how she became clairvoyant and what she was able to see") than he injects himself into it ("Her gift was the gift of the gods … inexplicable and merciless. Marvelous is what I mean. Miraculous. Mysterious? Surely not a word so weak. Yet it has to begin with an m"). It isn't long before Ella becomes a bit player in her own story, the starring role having been appropriated by artful digressions, dizzying streams of consciousness, and Gass's own formidable wordsmithing talents.
The other three novellas in this collection are equally high-concept: a traveling salesman falls in love with his hotel room and refuses to leave; an aging spinster literally loses herself in a line from an Elizabeth Bishop poem; a young boy inexplicably decides to live for revenge. The plots, such as they are, are offbeat enough to catch the interest--what holds it, however, is Gass at play in the fields of the word. Cartesian Sonata will not be to every reader's taste--those who are impatient with absurdity, non sequiturs, and pages and pages of verbal pyrotechnics may want to steer toward more conventional literature. Those who like their fiction liberally laced with equal measures of philosophy and anarchy, however, should give William H. Gass a try.
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