The Tunnel

( 4 )

Overview

Thirty years in the making, William Gass's second novel first appeared on the literary scene in 1995, at which time it was promptly hailed as an indisputable masterpiece. The story of a middle aged professor who, upon completion of his massive historical study, Guilt and Innocence in Hitler's Germany, finds himself writing a novel about his own life instead of the introduction to his magnum opus. The Tunnel meditates on history, hatred, ...

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Overview

Thirty years in the making, William Gass's second novel first appeared on the literary scene in 1995, at which time it was promptly hailed as an indisputable masterpiece. The story of a middle aged professor who, upon completion of his massive historical study, Guilt and Innocence in Hitler's Germany, finds himself writing a novel about his own life instead of the introduction to his magnum opus. The Tunnel meditates on history, hatred, unhappiness, and, above all, language.

Dalkey Archive Press

A professor has just completed a massive history of Hitler's Germany. All that remains is to write the introduction--which soon becomes a secret, imaginative work he even hides from his wife. Now he is engaged in another secret: digging a tunnel out of his own basement. Thirty years in the works, here is the long-awaited novel from the author of Omensetter's Luck.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This long-awaited magnum opus by the dean of American prose modernists, 30 years in the making, is a terrible disappointment. In this endless ramble of a novel, Gass Omensetter's Luck; In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, though here, as always, possessed of a bewitching and spectacularly fluid and allusive style, fails to find a suitable home for his narrator's wickedly dyspeptic views of history, marriage and culture. William Kohler is a Midwestern academic historian working on an introduction to his life's work-a massive study of ``guilt and innocence in Hitler's Germany.'' This, however, and the fact that Kohler begins to secretly dig a tunnel out of his basement, are the only shards of plot in this otherwise formless book. Gass, as readers of his fiction and gorgeous literary essays will know On Being Blue, can turn a phrase and render lyrical descriptions that have not only music to them, but also shape and weight. But in portraying the failed career and life of Kohler, these gifts are brought to bear on such a litany of sour rant-about his aging body, his wife's widening girth, the fatuous enthusiasms of his colleagues and mentors-that the reader will beg for a way out of this dark and airless space. Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of The Tunnel, and the promise of a new perspective on our century's most heinous crime-the Holocaust-is very much a forgotten vow. Feb.
Library Journal
Here, Gass presents William Kohler, a professor of history who sits in his basement study trying to write a preface to his monumental work, Guilt and Innocence in Hitler's Germany, but instead finds himself writing his autobiography. Historical objectivity eludes him, as old wounds and resentments obscure the facts. He broods over an unhappy childhood and a loveless marriage and regrets "a life spent in a chair." The result is a sort of Mein Kampf from this self-described Fhrer of the Party of Disappointed People. Between chapters, Kohler pauses to dig an escape tunnel through the basement wall as his wife waits patiently upstairs. Like Gass's best-known metafictional work, Willie Master's Lonesome Wife LJ 12/1/71, this book is filled with puns, limericks, illustrations, and unusual typefaces. In marked contrast to the earlier work, this playful design seems completely at odds with the ponderous text. For larger fiction collections.-Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
From the Publisher
"Gass has produced a book that burrows inside us then wails like a beast, a book that mainlines a century's terror direct to the brain."— Voice Literary Supplement

Dalkey Archive Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564782137
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Series: American Literature Series
  • Edition description: 2nd Edition
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 427,031
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.90 (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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 13, 2011

    This is not actually hard-cover

    I ordered this last week, clearly labeled hardcover, yet the book I received was definitely paperback. They admitted it was a listing error, but I see it hasn't been changed yet. Just letting you know before you order that they'll be shipping you a paperback, too.

    Haven't read it yet, though, so the rating has nothing to do with the content.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2006

    Masterpiece of American Metafiction

    Consider that William Gass created this masterpiece over roughly the same time frame it takes to pay off the average mortgage -- 652 pages in 30 years. One has to respect such care in crafting The Tunnel. How many times was this draft edited to create in essence a final draft written at the plodding, prodding pace of 22 pages per annum? Gass took more time crafting The Tunnel than Joyce did Ulysses. And it shows. The syntax is not of this world. His use of metaphor is off the charts in its creativity. There are worlds, even galaxies, in his words. The writing is sheer poetry in places -- a pure joy to read. He is honest, pithy, probing, penetrating and very often hilarious in his Notes from Underground. Like Proust I recommend that you read Gass slowly to revel in the world in his every well-placed word. There is unquestionable genius in this work as evident as the genius of William Gaddis or Joyce or Proust. Gass and Gaddis redeem the contemporary American novel and Dalkey Archive should be congratulated for its devotion to publishing American masters whom America has not yet properly recognized as such. I really can't say enough in praise of this substantive literary novel, which is profoundly wise and brilliantly crafted and even luminous as a literary legacy sure to render Gass prominent, permanent billing among the American masters of the late 20th century. Savor the writing of William Gass: real genius resides underground in The Tunnel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2001

    My Classic !

    I Love, Love, Love this Book.. it is a shimmering book of total Beauty.. and a master of words at his peak... A work-in-progress for around 30years and Now finally completed.. Very Dark.. Maybe the definitive Book about unhappiness--Gass is a Genius and it is obvious on every Page--there is no need for a story--a 650page monologue about every aspect of human life--one the 10 Great books of alltime.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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