In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories
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In the Heart of the Heart of the Country and Other Stories

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  945 ratings  ·  83 reviews
IN THIS SUITE of five short pieces -- one of the unqualified literary masterpieces of the American 1960s -- William Gass finds five beautiful forms in which to explore the signature theme of his fiction: the solitary soul’s poignant, conflicted, and doomed pursuit of love and community. In their obsessions, Gass’s Midwestern dreamers are like the "grotesques" of Sherwood A...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 3rd 1984 by David R. Godine Publisher (first published 1958)
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MJ Nicholls
Gass and me (or Gass and “I”) are having a fallout. And “I” use the word fallout in the nuclear sense. This is the first Gass product that has elicited outright shrugging. Yawns. Page scans. Meandering thoughts. Derisive snorts. ‘The Pedersen Kid’ is exempt from these complaints. This novella is a startling creation and one of Gass’s finest fictions (proving “straight” narrative was not outwith his grasp). The remaining four pieces find Gass experimenting with the modernist toolbox in ways this...more
I don't know for literary movements, so I don't know what this is called.

I know that few people can write an English sentence with as much brilliance as William H. Gass. And he's plenty inventive. He is not formulaic. He gives us here five stories, each a remarkably different slice of 20th Century Midwestern America. They are about Place:

In the Midwest, around the lower Lakes, the sky in winter is heavy and close, and it is a rare day, a day to remark on, when the sky lifts and allows the heart...more

The U.S. of Gass

William H. Gass writes with high literary value, higher than most actually and if I had to categorize his writing in particular the short story collection “In The Heart of The Heart of The Country”, I would call it Midwestern gothic, stream of consciousness , philosophy of isolation, but alas I’m barley an expert on literature , the English language and writing, but William H. Gass is an expert, one that besides from writing teaches philosophy at Purdue University , got his PhD a...more
Aidan Watson-Morris
NYRB IS BRINGING THIS BACK IN PRINT!!! which means it's reread time
May 25, 2009 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Amy by: Rough Guide to Cult Fiction
In hindsight, I wouldn't have picked this book by the "godfather of experimental writing" as the first selection of our fledgling book club. That being said, I still personally liked the book overall. The first story, "The Pedersen Kid" was my favorite. It felt to me like a southern gothic tale moved to the snowy midwest. I'm not entirely sure what happened, but I thought Gass crafted a scary, mysterious, and bizarre story. In general Gass is undoubtedly a gifted writer and utilizes poetic langu...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I find myself sympathetic to MJ’s disappointment reaction to In the Heart of the Heart of the Country ; but not quite to the same degree. It is Gass, but even more than Gass it feels like near average American 1950’s short fiction. I miss the Gass of The Tunnel and of the essays.

The Pederson Kid :: I am not as enraptured with this one as are most readers. It felt to me like a Faulknerian gothic, if I can say that having not read Faulkner in many an age. But it does make me feel less bad that Bar...more
Lee Foust
This was my first reading of a Gass text so how could it be anything other than a revelation, like looking into that idealized mirror in which one sees oneself not as one is but as one has always imagined oneself to be. This book appears to have been written by the writer that I myself have been trying to be for 30 years now. It's probably a good thing (for me) that i didn't read Gass 30 years ago as i might have spent all of these years merely imitating that ebb and flow--instead i simply nod t...more
Thanks so much to Olly and Hilary for introducing me to William H. Gass! I am ashamed to say, I had never read him before. This collection of novellas and short stories is haunting, lovlely, and spare. Gass's writing engages the reader in such a unique, profound way. He seems to have taken Hemingway's "iceberg technique" and gone him one better: His prose is simultaneously spare and rich. He conceals and forces the reader to fill in all kinds of gaps for herself, but unlike Hemingway there is no...more
"The Pedersen Kid" and "In the Heart of the Heart of the Country"—hell, "The Pedersen Kid" alone—are worth tracking down this collection. In fact, everyone must read "The Pedersen Kid."

"The Pedersen Kid" ★★★★★
"Mrs. Mean" ★★★½
"Icicles" ★★★★
"Order of Insects" ★★★
"In the Heart of the Heart of the Country" ★★★★½
Jamie Iredell
"The Pederson Kid" has elements of the Western, as well as the oft-cited Southern Gothic transplanted to the Midwest. The pervasiveness of the snow and descriptions thereof are striking and build into a drift themselves and make of the story a bleak and unforgiving landscape out of which Jorge finds unexpected happiness. This is pretty brilliant.

"Mrs. Mean" is one of the weirdest stories of the bunch. I liked how at the end the narrator starts thinking about his penis and sex and Mr. Wallace al...more
Chris Gager
Starting today/tonight perhaps. My library hardbound cover is not represented here. Coincidentally I just finished reading the title story in R. Ford's Granta American Short story collection. This experience tells me it could be a problem to finish this book. The title story is mostly prose-poetry and to call it a story is a stretch. It's a kind of a story I guess.
Tuesday... I finally got into it this morning with the opening of "The Pederson Kid". Grim yet lyrical... Kind of reminds me of "Hon...more
Patrick Brown
Jul 18, 2007 Patrick Brown rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All the readers in the world
The best book I've read in a long, long time. This collection of long short stories (apparently there is such a thing) range from the plot-driven (the sinister "The Pedersen Kid") to the more experimental ("In the Heart of the Heart of the Country"), but never suffers a spat of boring language. Gass captures the hard, unforgiving American Midwest -- its provincialism, its bleak winters, and its small, simple pleasures (the way winter light illuminates an icicle, for instance) -- through a series...more
It's the first story that gets you. "Haunting" is overused nowadays but "The Pederson Kid" fits the bill. What's brilliant, too, is the way Gass molds the structure of the story to fit the content. There is much dialogue but no dialogue quotes and the lack of little signposts of life on the page augments the dreary, snowed-in atmosphere. The words seem to come from nowhere. They appear and you consume them and you move on. The other stories are quite good as well though I'm sure some will be let...more
The title story is my personal pick for the best short story written in the 20th century. It is absolutely beautiful and brilliant, and is at philosophical odds with the selfishness of the Me Generation and the subsequent even-more-selfish generations blank, X, Y and whatever. In upholding the value of group experience over the solipsism of the individual, he flew in the face of the individualism of his fellow postmodernists Barth and Barthelme. Fascinating and wonderful. This should be required...more
Apr 18, 2010 Llopin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
Each story is expertly constructed and plays out very touchingly - even the more "experimental"/wandering ones such as "Icicles" (which might be my favourite) are deeply inspiring. I honestly cannot see anything wrong with this collection; it starts strong with the marvelous novella "The Pedersen Kid" and concludes with the title story, a fragmented narrative whose real protagonist is the Midwest. Masterful storytelling, even if it requires patience.
Brent Legault
I wonder, sometimes, why the earth did not crack wide and swallow us all whole upon the publication of this book. I never would have been born, then, and thus would have missed a remarkable thing. I sometimes wonder why no one spoke to me of this book though they spoke plenty about other, awfuller books from the era. And why, I ask, was I never required to read this before I began knowing things and thinking things and saying things?
Finally, a long-overdue reprint from NYRB Review is upon us!
Derick Dupre
"it's true there are moments—foolish moments, ecstasy on a tree stump—when i'm all but gone, scattered i like to think like seed, for i'm the sort now in the fool's position of having love left over which i'd like to lose; what good is it now to me, candy ungiven after halloween?"
Jesse Cooley
William H. Gass proves his inimitable ability to shift through voices whilst maintaining sublime depth of character. His observations, usually tucked behind a veil of untrustworthy narration, are abundant and of the most profound & awe-inspiring sort.
Vincent Odhiambo
An almost bastardized prose, as bastard as angels are fallen. I really don't know what I'm saying. Whatever is the word for Gass' prose?
Eric Cartier
"Mrs. Mean" is one of the finest short stories I've ever read. Reflections and extended quotations will be forthcoming.
This collection must come back into print. And quite frankly should be required reading of the literate.
Jeff Jackson
Needs to be read for the stunning novella "The Pederson Kid" - Gass's finest fiction - and the excellent title story.
A modern day classic. Few collections have had as big an impact as this one.
Jun 19, 2009 Stop added it
Read the STOP SMILING interview with author William H. Gass

By Leopold Froehlich

(This interview originally appeared in the STOP SMILING Ode to the Midwest Issue)

William H. Gass’s 1966 masterpiece, Omensetter’s Luck, could be described as the perfect novel of the Midwest. Set in a small Ohio town in the 1890s, Omensetter defined the essential Midwestern struggle between goodness and cunning. Gass, in fact, may be the great Midwestern writer of the 20th century. Born in Fa...more
There's a lot of brilliant writing here, but too much work is required to get to it, kind of like eating crab legs. The difficulty level isn't as high as Ulysses but a lot higher than Dubliners--so let's say slightly higher than Portrait of the Artist. However, Joyce delivers more rewards. So do Beckett and Faulkner, who are a couple of other writers who I thought of when I read this book. My main problem was that I kept losing my concentration and having to read the same passages over and over...more
William S.
I picked this book up on a whim hearing about Gass and being told that his short stories might be a good introduction. o absolutely loved every short story in here, except for Icicles, which wasn't bad. Really enjoying 80% of a short story book is pretty outstanding for me, usually expecting less.

Gass provides a wonderful landscape of symbols. One of the things I enjoyed most from Gass is how he can use the same symbol to mean many things, showing deep connections between ideas which are though...more
Mw Pm
A good introduction to Gass. The stories are notable for their influences, William Faulkner and Gertrude Stein (Stein's influence is apparent in the title alone), Stein for her experimentation, Faulkner for his rural setting and stream-of-consciousness. I'm sure there's another influence missing from this short list, because there's another common element in these stories that doesn't distinguish itself in the work of Faulkner or Stein, and that is the exploration of madness and expression of ir...more
The first story,"The Pedersen Kid", really impressed me, and at 80 pages is 40% of the book. It reminded me of Cormac McCarthy or John Hawkes. The next three stories were great, amazingly written but didn't hit the same heights for me. Then I got to the title story, the final one in the book, which initially eluded me until I got into its rhythm. It's almost a poem, maybe no accident considering that the narrator is a poet (I think), a poem about America and all its shit and triumphs and I also...more
One of those books I just picked up randomly in a used bookstore. I started reading the first novella, "The Pederson Kid", walked over to the cash register, looked up to pay for it, and then pretty much kept reading. Amazing writing - esp. the dialogue. I couldn't put it down. For some reason I never got into the other stories - they were more like intellectual experiments.

A family (a farming family?) is in the midst of prime disfunction during a winter snow. The neighbor kid from next door show...more
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NYRB Classics: In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, by William H. Gass 2 25 Mar 29, 2014 07:30PM  
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William Howard Gass (born July 30, 1924) is an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, and former philosophy professor.

Gass was born in Fargo, North Dakota. Soon after his birth, his family moved to Warren, Ohio, where he attended local schools. He has described his childhood as an unhappy one, with an abusive, racist father and a passive, alcoholic mother; critics would later cit...more
More about William H. Gass...
Omensetter's Luck On Being Blue The Tunnel Middle C Fiction and the Figures of Life

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“Sports, politics, and religion are the three passions of the badly educated.” 12 likes
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