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William H. Gass quotes (showing 1-30 of 139)

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”
William H. Gass, A Temple of Texts
“I don't know myself, what to do, where to go... I lie in the crack of a book for my comfort... it's what the world offers... please leave me alone to dream as I fancy.”
William H. Gass, Omensetter's Luck
“I write because I hate. A lot. Hard.”
William H. Gass
“We must take our sentences seriously, which means we must understand them philosophically, and the odd thing is that the few who do, who take them with utter sober seriousness, the utter sober seriousness of right-wing parsons and political saviors, the owners of Pomeranians, are the liars who want to be believed, the novelists and poets, who know that the creatures they imagine have no other being than the sounding syllables which the reader will speak into his own weary and distracted head. There are no magic words. To say the words is magical enough.”
William H. Gass, The World Within the Word
“As Rilke observed, love requires a progressive shortening of the senses: I can see you for miles; I can hear you for blocks, I can smell you, maybe, for a few feet, but I can only touch on contact, taste as I devour”
William H. Gass
“Sports, politics, and religion are the three passions of the badly educated.”
William H. Gass, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories
“Of course there is enough to stir our wonder anywhere; there's enough to love, anywhere, if one is strong enough, if one is diligent enough, if one is perceptive, patient, kind enough -- whatever it takes.”
William H. Gass
“Freud thought that a psychosis was a waking dream, and that poets were daydreamers too, but I wonder if the reverse is not as often true, and that madness is a fiction lived in like a rented house”
William H. Gass
“it is discouraging to leave the past behind only to see it coming toward you like the thunderstorm which drenched you yesterday.”
William H. Gass, The Tunnel
“The word itself has another color. It’s not a word with any resonance, although the e was once pronounced. There is only the bump now between b and l, the relief at the end, the whew. It hasn’t the sly turn which crimson takes halfway through, yellow’s deceptive jelly, or the rolled-down sound in brown. It hasn’t violet’s rapid sexual shudder or like a rough road the irregularity of ultramarine, the low puddle in mauve like a pancake covered in cream, the disapproving purse to pink, the assertive brevity of red, the whine of green.”
William H. Gass
“Works of art are meant to be lived with and loved, and if we try to understand them, we should try to understand them as we try to understand anyone—in order to know them better, not in order to know something else.”
William H. Gass, Fiction and the Figures of Life
tags: art
“And I am in retirement from love. ”
William H. Gass, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories
“For me, the short story is not a character sketch, a mouse trap, an epiphany, a slice of suburban life. It is the flowering of a symbol center. It is a poem grafted onto sturdier stock.”
William H. Gass
“It’s not the word made flesh we want in writing, in poetry and fiction, but the flesh made word”
William H. Gass
“Yes, we call it recursive, the act of reading, of looping the loop, of continually returning to an earlier group of words, behaving like Penelope by moving our mind back and forth, forth and back, reweaving what’s unwoven, undoing what’s been done; and language, which regularly returns us to its origin, which starts us off again on the same journey, older, altered, Columbus one more time, but better prepared each later voyage, knowing a bit more, ready for more, equal to a greater range of tasks, calmer, confident—after all, we’ve come this way before, have habits that help, and a favoring wind—language like that is the language which takes us inside, inside the sentence—inside—inside the mind—inside—inside, where meanings meet and are modified, reviewed and revised, where no perception, no need, no feeling or thought need be scanted or shunted aside.”
William H. Gass, A Temple of Texts
“When book and reader's furrowed brow meet, it isn't always the book that's stupid.”
William H. Gass
“So to the wretched writer I should like to say that there’s one body only whose request for your caresses is not vulgar, is not unchaste, untoward, or impolite: the body of your work itself; for you must remember that your attentions will not merely celebrate a beauty but create one; that yours is love that brings it own birth with it, just as Plato has declared, and that you should therefore give up the blue things of this world in favor of the words which say them”
William H. Gass
“If death itself were to die, would it have a ghost, and would the ghost of death visit the dead in the guise of someone alive, if only to fright them from any temptation to return?


William H. Gass
“We shall live for no reason. Then die and be done with it. What a recognition! What shall save us? Only the knowledge that we have lived without illusion, not excluding the illusion that something will save us.

—William H. Gass, “Mr. Gaddis and His Goddamn Books” (2006)”
William H. Gass, A Temple of Texts
“Wild eyes were another sign. It is something I have seldom seen — the expression of an ecstatic state — though much is foolishly written of them, as if they grew like Jerusalem artichokes along the road. The eyes are black, right enough, whatever their normal color is; they are black because their perception is condensed to a coal, because the touch and taste and perfume of the lover, the outcry of a dirty word, a welcome river, have been reduced in the heat of passion to a black ash, and this unburnt residue of oxidation, this calyx, replaces the pupil so it no longer receives but sends, and every hair is on end, though perhaps only outspread on a pillow, and the nostrils are flared, mouth agape, cheeks sucked so the whole face seems as squeezed as a juiced fruit; I know, for once Lou went into that wildness while we were absorbing one another, trying to kiss, not merely forcefully, not the skull of our skeleton, but the skull and all the bones on which the essential self is hung, kiss so the shape of the soul is stirred too, that's what is called the ultimate French, the furtherest fuck, when a cock makes a concept cry out and climax; I know, for more than once, though not often, I shuddered into that other region, when a mouth drew me through its generosity into the realm of unravel, and every sensation lay extended as a lake, every tie was loosed, and the glue of things dissolved. I knew I wore the wild look then. The greatest gift you can give another human being is to let them warm you till, in passing beyond pleasure, your defenses fall, your ego surrenders, its structure melts, its towers topple, lies, fancies, vanities, blow away in no wind, and you return, not to the clay you came from — the unfired vessel — but to the original moment of inspiration, when you were the unabbreviated breath of God.”
William H. Gass, The Tunnel
“I am firmly of the opinion that people who can’t speak have nothing to say. It’s one more thing we do to the poor, the deprived: cut out their tongues … allow them a language as lousy as their life”
William H. Gass
“Alas, the penis is such a ridiculous petitioner. It is so unreliable, though everything depends on it—the world is balanced on it like a ball on a seal's nose. It is so easily teased, insulted, betrayed, abandoned; yet it must pretend to be invulnerable, a weapon which confers magical powers upon its possessor; consequently this muscleless inchworm must try to swagger through temples and pull apart thighs like the hairiest Samson, the mightiest ram.”
William H. Gass
“Fiction becomes visual by becoming verbal”
William H. Gass
“In general, I would think that at present prose writers are much in advance of the poets. In the old days, I read more poetry than prose, but now it is in prose where you find things being put together well, where there is great ambition, and equal talent. Poets have gotten so careless, it is a disgrace. You can’t pick up a page. All the words slide off.”
William H. Gass
“Blue is therefore most suitable as the color of interior life.”
William H. Gass, On Being Blue
tags: blue, blues
“...yes, words were superior; they maintained a superior control; they touched without your touching; they were at once the bait, the hook, the line, the pole, and the water in between.”
William H. Gass, Omensetter's Luck
“[As] authorities "over" us are removed, as we wobble out on our own, the question of whether to be or not to be arises with real relevance for the first time, since the burden of being is felt most fully by the self-determining self.”
William H. Gass
“We shall live for no reason. Then die and be done with it. What a recognition! What shall save us? Only the knowledge that we have lived without illusion, not excluding the illusion that something will save us.”
William H. Gass, The Recognitions
“Ah, but what is form but a bum wipe anyhow?”
William H. Gass, On Being Blue
“The things that stayed were things that didn't matter except they stayed, night and day, all seasons the same, and were peaceful to a fault and boded no ill but thought well enough of themselves to repeat their presences.”
William H. Gass, Middle C

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