A Temple of Texts: Essays
From one of the most admired essayists and novelists at work today: a new collection of essays—his first sinceTests of Time, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
These twenty-five essays speak to the nature and value of writing and to the books that result from a deep commitment to the word. Here is Gass on Rilke and Gertrude Stein; on friends such as Stanley Elkin, Robert Coover, and William Gaddis; and on a company of “healthy dissidents,” among them Rabelais, Elias Canetti, John Hawkes, and Gabriel García Márquez.
In the title essay, Gass offers an annotated list of the fifty books that have most influenced his thinking and his work and writes about his first reaction to reading each. Among the books: Ludwig Wittgenstein’sTractatus Logico-Philosophicus(“A lightning bolt,” Gass writes. “Philosophy was not dead after all. Philosophical ambitions were not extinguished. Philosophical beauty had not fled prose.”) . . . Ben Jonson’sThe Alchemist(“A man after my own heart. He is capable of the simplest lyrical stroke, as bold and direct as a line by Matisse, but he can be complex in a manner that could cast Nabokov in the shade . . . Shakespeare may have been smarter, but he did not know as much.”) . . . Gustave Flaubert’s letters (“Here I learned—and learned—and learned.”) And after reading Malory’sLe Morte d’Arthur, Gass writes “I began to eat books like an alien worm.”
In the concluding essay, “Evil,” Gass enlarges upon the themes of artistic quality and cultural values that are central to the books he has considered, many of which seek to reveal the worst in people while admiring what they do best.
As Gass writes, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold, they change the world into words.”
A Temple of Textsis Gass at his most alchemical.
What people are saying - Write a review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - stillatim - LibraryThing
My first experience of Gass was his introduction to Gaddis' The Recognitions, back when I just liked buying and reading immensely long books which were proclaimed under-rated masterpieces or had been ... Read full review
A TEMPLE OF TEXTS: EssaysUser Review - Jane Doe - Kirkus
A learned potpourri of fulminations and enthusiasms from the indefatigably stylish novelist, teacher and critic.If Gass's first three essays don't hook you, you probably aren't an inveterate work ... Read full review
Fifty Literary Pillars
The Blessed Company The Book of Prefaces
13 other sections not shown