“He was a glutton for books who treated each text as a plate he was required to clean.” Author and critic William Gass died this week at 93, reports The Washington Post. The recipient of three National Book Critics Circle awards for criticism and four Pushcart prizes, Gass was awarded the PEN/Nabakov Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. See our reviews of Middle C, a novel that took Gass almost 20 years to finish, and his most recent essay collection Life Sentences, which amply demonstrated his background as “a former philosophy professor, but more appropriately a philosopher of the word and an esthete.” We were also lucky enough to have him pen a Year in Reading entry for us back in 2009: “I miss the leisure that let me read just for fun, not to critique, or pronounce, or even to put on a list, but simply to savor,” Gass lamented. Nonetheless, he continued,“I do, from time to time, pick up old friends who never disappoint but will promise me a page or two of pleasure between art and ordinary life.”
Ian Crouch writes for The New Yorker about a new version of The Sun Also Rises, which gives readers a peak into Hemingway‘s drafts and revisions. Crouch believes that by reading these drafts carefully, one can pick out a “minor manifesto” that “conceives of a book with greater intellectual and artistic ambitions than Hemingway ever produced.” In the words of Hemingway’s character Jake Barnes, “Isn”t it pretty to think so?” Pair with our own review of the latest edition of The Sun Also Rises.
“You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing. … The enthusiasm, the joy itself draws me. So that means every day of my life I’ve written. When the joy stops, I’ll stop writing.” Recommended viewing: an animated interview with Ray Bradbury.
“How is it possible that a smallish army of discerning readers agree that Jim Harrison is one of the few truly great living American writers, yet he has not gotten the wider audience—or the widespread praise—he so plainly deserves?” Our own Bill Morris has some theories.