Being William Kohler.
The Tunnel is a sort of portal through which we enter into the head of one William Frederick Kohler. We poke around in his memories and his thoughts, exploring all the little twists and turns of his mind. The question of how a child goes from innocence to becoming a monster is answered through Kohler's ramblings and flashbacks.
But monster is the wrong word here. He never achieves anything that grand. There is no murder or torture. No scheme to dominate the world. Nothing o ...more
I stopped reading at page 55. The main reason: lack of narrative pleasure. Let me explain.
First, the premise: a US academic specializin ...more
This unhesitatingly gets the full fathom 5 star treatment, because without a doubt it is an amazing work; I was amazed, among a host of other emotions, and the 26 years of labor Gass put into The Tunnel are apparent in every carefully wrought sentence in this monster masterpiece. However, it is an extremely unpleasant read, perhaps the most unpleasant and disturbing read I’ve come across in my 35 years of intellectual intake. The fact that such heights of ...more
What have you, my good friends, deserv'd at the hands of
Fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
Prison, my lord?
Denmark's a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and
dungeons, Denmark being one o' th' worst.
We think not so, my lord.
Why then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or
bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.
Don’t you ...more
The tunnel is an authorial conceit on the part of William H Gass as well as his protagonist, William F. Kohler.
It's probably best to abandon any preconceptions of what it might mean when you enter either tunnel as a reader.
The metaphorical tunnel doesn't represent an escape route out of anywhere, nor does it represent a method of entry into somewhere else.
Instead, it constitutes a long strange trip or journey through the mind of the first person protagonist.
At this level, the ...more
“And what is the ultimate element in history but human life—human coupling, human pain?” (P.130)
Rage, or rather, impotent rage, is the dominant emotion of this book, sustained by the side notes of contempt, bitterness, and an all pervasive melancholy. At its barest bones, The Tunnel is an attempt at understanding one of the darkest chapters in History— the Holocaust. That it becomes a subterranean exploration into a person's history and time & by extrapolation an exposition on the ...more
Years ago, on our way home from Disney World, of all places, my wife and I came on the scene of a wreck on a rural California highway. The accident couldn't have happened but a few minutes before we arrived. The police had not yet made it to the scene, though some good citizens were directing traffic and approaching the victims. It appeared to be a single-vehicle accident. The car ...more
William Frederick Kohler, husband and father of two, unloved and unlovable, starts to build a tunnel in his basement. There are metaphorical reasons aplenty to start digging a ...more
From a simple narrative idea Gass creates a complicated internal odyssey; both life affirming and despair inducing. A classic David Foster Wallace double bind if you will.
To quote Gass's own description:
William Frederick Kohler "teaches history at a major mid-western university. He has studied in Germany during the thirties, returned with the 1st Army during the invasion as a debriefer, then as a consultant ...more
Gass's second novel seethes with rage, horror, sorrow, and contempt, yet, paradoxically, is a joy to read simply because his writing is so mellifluous, so inventive, so alive with an intoxicating love for the powers and possibilities of the English language. Indeed, it seems as though words and the talent to arrange/distill/reinvigorate them are the only things keeping Tunnel’s narrator, middle-aged history professor William Kohler, from totally succumbing to the dungeon of despair that his life...more
i) I put him in the same category as Burton, Shakespeare and Joyce. If you disagree now, wait until I'm done, when you'll disagree even more: these four men, extraordinary geniuses in their own way, are the ultimate specialists. None of them have any imagination whatsoever. Their books either lack or steal plot and their ideas are predominantly dull or second-hand. Burton got around this problem by writing a medical treatise. Shakespeare stole almost everyt ...more
The Tunnel is one of those books one drowns in like in the ocean.
“The man of action has a destiny, a star he follows, and it draws him on like the Magi, or so it’s said; the taillight of a car, it’s said; the flag of a deer. The creator courts the muse, pays tribute and pursues: sucks, sips, sniffs, puffs, pops, screws – for the favor of his Fancy. The visionary sees the future like a dream-draped dressmaker’s dummy, as ...more
The roof of the bandstand looks like the thorny crown for a nuns corpse.
Meet William Kohler, the founding and sole member of the Party of Disappointed People. A historian, he has completed his magnum opus, a monumental study on Guilt and Innocence in Hitler's Germany, and has but the introduction to write. Instead, from the basement of his home, he digs a tunnel, and tu ...more
And yet the whole thing is told in a crazed first p ...more
I don't know what I'm doing or if it works but I must do ...more
Gass's notes and instructions, "Designing The Tunnel," regarding typesetting for the novel:
The Tunnel, A Casebook, from Dalkey Archive's Context:
which includes the following:
The Tunnel: A Topical Overview by H. L. Hix
Sentenced to Sentences: Poetry and The Tunnel. by Jonathan Barron
Confronting The Tunnel: History, Authority, Reference. by Melanie Eckford-Prossor
Götterdämmerung in the West: William Gass’s Little Big No ...more
So Much for That by Lionel Shriver: cut out the digessions, lengthy scene transitions, the subplot about plastic surgery and the fact-dumping through dialogue that was jarring and, it turned out, unnecessary. Keep the masterful alive scenes, the “she went there?” dark humour and in so doing, get more fans rooting for the novel’s he ...more
Gass w ...more
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