Finding a Form

Front Cover
Dalkey Archive Press, 2009 - Literary Collections - 354 pages
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.

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User Review  - Laurenbdavis - LibraryThing

This is a deeply intelligent, often witty, book on literary craft and form. Gass adores language and plays with it throughout; I might even go so far as to say he was a little too smirkingly pleased ... Read full review


User Review  - Kirkus

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 ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

William Howard Gass was born in Fargo, North Dakota on July 30, 1924. During World War II, he served as an ensign in the Navy. He received an A.B. in philosophy from Kenyon College in 1947 and a PhD in philosophy from Cornell University in 1954. He taught at several universities including The College of Wooster, Purdue University, and Washington University in St. Louis. He wrote novels, collections of short stories and novellas, and collections of criticism. His novels included Omensetter's Luck, Middle C, and The Tunnel, which received the American Book Award. His other works of fiction included In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, Willie Master's Lonesome Wife, Cartesian Sonata and Other Novellas, and Eyes: Novellas and Stories. His collections of criticism included Tests of Time; A Temple of Texts, which won the 2007 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism; and Habitations of the Word and Finding a Form, which both won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. His essay collections included Fiction and the Figures of Life, The World Within the Word, and Reading Rilke. He died from congestive heart failure on December 6, 2017 at the age of 93.

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