Finding a Form

Overview

"No one is better than William H. Gass at communicating the sublime and rapturous excitement of reading."—Washington Post
Scathing, lyrical, and hilarious by turns, this collection of essays by William H. Gass—perhaps our greatest critic and author—sounds a rallying cry against the steady encroachment of the banal ("the Pulitzer Prize in fiction," he claims, "takes dead aim at mediocrity and almost never misses") and the lazy (on minimalist realism: "The advantage to writing this slack is that the writer can't ...

See more details below
Paperback
$13.40
BN.com price
(Save 15%)$15.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $6.00   
  • New (7) from $9.83   
  • Used (10) from $6.00   
Finding a Form: Essays

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$18.99
BN.com price

Overview

"No one is better than William H. Gass at communicating the sublime and rapturous excitement of reading."—Washington Post
Scathing, lyrical, and hilarious by turns, this collection of essays by William H. Gass—perhaps our greatest critic and author—sounds a rallying cry against the steady encroachment of the banal ("the Pulitzer Prize in fiction," he claims, "takes dead aim at mediocrity and almost never misses") and the lazy (on minimalist realism: "The advantage to writing this slack is that the writer can't hang himself with any length of it") into the fields of fiction. It also provides two of the most dazzling statements of purpose a writer has ever set down about his own art ("Finding a Form," and "The Book as a Container of Consciousness"); makes a thorough and entertaining examination of what, exactly, ought to be called "avant-garde"; examines the work of a number of other great thinker-stylists (Ford Madox Ford, Robert Walser, Wittgenstein); and provides a concise, playful history of the art of narrative as a whole. An indispensable roadmap to the language that shapes our books and our lives, Finding a Form is a milestone in American letters.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
No one is better than William H. Gass at communicating the sublime and rapturous excitement of reading.
The New York Times
“William H. Gass is embattled . . . and in Finding a Form he confronts the conundrum of the writer that he has faced in previous essays: the word is sacred. Though there are no longer sacred texts, 'writing puts the writer in illusory command of the world, empowers someone otherwise powerless, but with a power no more pointed than a pencil' . . . Against the odds, William Gass, a tortured man in the attic, has empowered himself to write scripture in an unredemptive time.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his first gathering of essays in several years, novelist and critic Gass's commitment to ideas, concentrated energy and originality shine through on every page. The title essay, an exploration of how writers navigate complex, refractory reality, discloses how his childhood with an abusive father and alcoholic mother influenced his escape into writing and shaped his fictional characters, symbols and preoccupations. "Nature, Culture, and Cosmos" pessimistically gauges the "immense indifference" of the universe to our moral values and our deaths. Other pieces deal with Ezra Pound as a failed modernist; the lives of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein in relation to their thought; various species of the avant-garde from Pierre de Ronsard to Degas, Beckett and the Bauhaus; the exacting demands of autobiography; the Pulitzer Prize Committee's "banal and hokey" choices in fiction; and the abyss between the moral viewpoints expressed in works of art and the lives of their creators. Gass's deeply felt essays, reprinted from the New York Times Book Review, Antaeus, etc., are quotable, flecked with fertile insights and a pleasure to read. On stoicism: "If we have to accept what we get, why not imagine that it's just what we want?" On Impressionism: "It allows subversion to go on with the approval of the subverted." (Aug.)
Maureen Howard
William H. Gass is embattled . . . and in Finding a Form he confronts the conundrum of the writer that he has faced in previous essays: the word is sacred. Though there are no longer sacred texts, 'writing puts the writer in illusory command of the world, empowers someone otherwise powerless, but with a power no more pointed than a pencil' . . . Against the odds, William Gass, a tortured man in the attic, has empowered himself to write scripture in an unredemptive time.
The New York Times
Library Journal
Gass (The Tunnel, LJ 1/95), the head of the International Writers Center at Washington University, is "as obdurate as nails" when it comes to the best possible use of the written word. Each essay in this wide-ranging book (be it titled "Ezra Pound," "Nietzche: The Polemical Philosopher," "Robert Walser," "Nature, Culture, and Cosmos," "Pulitzer, The People Prize," or "The Music of Prose") offers evidence for such a conclusion. Gass is concerned with how best to use a phrase or word and believes we should be tough-minded when it comes to reading. He reveals a sardonic sense of humor as well, for example, in discussing the winners of the Pulitzer prize, and he dislikes the fact that anyone would enjoy his/her own writing. His compound sentences"little shimmied stretches of human awareness"are utterly unique and perfectly difficult. This collection succeeds in his aim to arrest and inform persuasively. For literature collections.Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind.
Kirkus Reviews
These 19 essays showcase precision intellectual workmanship, displaying intricate, multifaceted models of how writing and thinking relate to life.

Gass won the 1985 National Book Award for a previous essay collection, Habitations of the Word; most recently he authored an ingenious, gigantic novel, The Tunnel (1995). The essays reprinted here belong to a variety of genres, but all centrally consider how writing enters into the world—how writers find forms adequate for their thoughts. In an opening section Gass takes on several institutions that in his opinion mark today's writing with mediocrity; he dissects the disgraceful track record of the Pulitzer Prize for literature and the inadequacies of the minimalist prose style that emenates from academic fiction-writing programs. His main focus, however, is on conjunctions of writing with philosophy and experience. Gass offers appreciations of favorite modern authors whose works and lives are rich in philosophical meditiation, such as Robert Walser and Danilo Kis; biographical review essays treating the relationship of life to work for Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Ezra Pound; and digests of intellectual history burdened with such portentous titles as "Nature, Culture, and Cosmos." These latter can suffer from showboating and cutefying. Such faults crop up occasionally even in the best essays here. Gass's postmodern idiom at times leads him to facile would-be cleverness—informing us with regard to Nietzsche, for instance, that "of course, the superman doesn't sport blue underwear." At his best, however, when Gass puts his philosophical bent at the service of his literary gifts, singular insights emerge. This volume's finest essays shed new light on the workings of prose style—on "the music of prose"—in cases ranging from a lively piece of Middle English sermonizing to the impressionism of Ford Madox Ford.

Gass shines when he addresses the subject most befitting a self-described "Methodologist," one "for whom the medium is the muse"—his own prose medium itself.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564785299
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 8/25/2009
  • Series: Dalkey Archive Scholarly Series
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,373,248
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

William H. Gass—essayist, novelist, literary critic—was born in Fargo,
North Dakota. He has been the recipient of the first PEN/Nabokov Award,
the PEN/Spielvogel-Diamondstein Award for the Art of the Essay, three
National Book Critic Circle Awards for Criticism, a Lannan Foundation
Lifetime Achievement Award, the Award for Fiction and the Medal of Merit for Fiction from the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations. He lives in
St. Louis.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Pulitzer: The People's Prize 3
A Failing Grade for the Present Tense 14
Finding a Form 31
A Fiesta for the Form 55
Robert Walser 65
Ford's Impressionisms 77
The Language of Being and Dying 104
Nietzsche: The Polemical Philosopher 119
At Death's Door: Wittgenstein 146
Ezra Pound 160
Autobiography 177
The Vicissitudes of the Avant-Garde 199
Exile 213
The Story of the State of Nature 237
Nature, Culture, and Cosmos 262
The Baby or the Botticelli 277
Simplicities 293
The Music of Prose 313
The Book As a Container of Consciousness 327
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)