Friday, June 24, 2005

&NOW...William Gass

Good news, everyone: William Gass will be headlining the &NOW Festival of Innovative Writing/Lake Forest Literary Festival next year.

I was on the phone with Steve Tomasula the other day, working out the details, when Steve and I realized we'd both been at the release party reading for Gass' massive novel The Tunnel, but somehow missed each other. Actually, I think I may not have known Steve at the time: I was just a punk grad student and used bookstore clerk, and I he had a real life and was working for Bill Gates. Be that as it may, it was a hell of a reading, with a full house. Gass had started writing the novel the year I was born — meaning it was 27 years in the making, and the novel and one of its first readers were born together.

Gass is one of the great laureates of loathing: The Tunnel examines hatred better than any other book I know. I remember overhearing Gass at the Arts Club one evening, telling David Antin that he wanted his publisher to print the book in Gothic script like an old German Bible, with the sentences scarring the page "like so many strings of barbed wire." He said something about being upset that he couldn't get a limited edition made with pop-ups (really), but by then the hors d'oeuvre trays were out and I, placing appetite above intellect, left off eavesdropping and made a bee-line for the snacks.