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Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  183 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Disappointed by her inattentive husband/reader, Babs engages in an exuberant display of the physical charms of language to entice an illicit new lover: a man named Gelvin in one sense, but more importantly, the reader of this "essay-novella" which, in the years since its first appearance in 1968 as a supplement to TriQuarterly, has attained the status of a postmodernist cl ...more
Paperback, 64 pages
Published December 1st 1989 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1968)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-29 of 425)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Ask Professor Gass :: how a word looks, how a word moves and dances, how a word feels, how it smells and tastes like deep Islay malt. Ask too about the sound which those words sing. What a word means? Yes words mean, too, but that is not all. Words are things and they belong to our world in more dimensionality that mere meaning, pointing, indicating. Words live on lips, wriggle in writing upon creamy white pages. Look at them not through them. They are not transparent. They are dense with being. ...more
MJ Nicholls
One of the funniest curios from 60s postmodernism, this typopathic novel has the bitchingest range of stretchy fonts and the craziest kerning of any apparently serious work still in print. An attempt to link “penetrating” a woman’s body to “penetrating” the body of a text, or something like that, it’s more an excuse to splice sexy nude shots of a dusky model with outrageously dated textual effects and high modernist gibberish. All right, William Gass would never accept that explanation, but hey, ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some beautiful, musical sentences, as always. Some fun and interesting typographical mischief, and some thoughtful musing on the whole text/body conundrum. Also my hardback first edition smelled amazing.

Most importantly of all, however, is the fact that I have now read all of the Genius Gass' fictional output during the last five months. I can confidently say he is one of the true greats, and possibly the most technically proficient creator of prose alive.

How would I rank them, you ask? Thusly
Ian Gabogovinanana
Imagination Imagining Itself Imagine


Dear me...yes, Professor...oh, you're still here...I HAVE AN IDEA FOR A NOVEL...well, you're the head of department...I think you'll like it...will it sell?...THE MAN OF IMAGINATION IS GENERALLY A MAN OF HIS're the's experimental and it better than your poetry?...I AM A PRO...this is not poetry...poetry, what's that?...very amusing...LET ME WARN YOU, LET ME INSIST...the words which speak, they are the body of the s
Review #23 of "Year of the Review All Read Books"

My first impression was finding on Goodreads that it was listed as 62 pages and thinking there was no way it was even that long. But it was because I physically counted the pages, pictures included, and I did this because there's no page count on the bottom of the page. There's a line in the book in which Babs equates her age with the number of pages in the book--but would that have been for the original TriQuarterly printing, or for this one? O
Mar 07, 2013 James rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013, gass
This novella was composed as an experiment. Therefore, it has some moments of brilliance mixed in with a lot of flailing. I read this along with the Dalkey Archive casebook (minus the Tristam Shandy comparison material, which I haven’t read), and I found that material useful for helping me interpret what Gass was trying to get at. In final analysis, I found myself enjoying the photos of the dusky model rather more than the sections with four narratives blaring on the page at once. Does that make ...more
Apr 24, 2010 Llopin rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Well, what can you say about this? Gass intended this "novel" to be a statement/manifesto. Once you get past the wife/text parallelism, which is very witty, it feels as if Gass' potential were wasted. There's some funny parts, some cute fragments, but as a whole it just isn't all that enthralling. Still, it's a peculiar enough read for those interested on fiction wankery. It's good to see Gass' concept of metaphor assaulting the reader in such a way (honestly, if I knew nothing of the author I'd ...more
Apr 18, 2011 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure I would have liked this book so much had I a later edition. Ordering from the internet, I got a copy from the New York Public Library on 53rd Street. The hardcover initially cost $3.95 and late fees were 10 cents a day. Only one person ever checked it out, and this was September 4, 1979, eight years after it was published. This radical version consists of both newspaper-quality paper and heavy stock glossy paper, sandwiched between black lightweight cardstock. The effect suggests a ...more
Aug 24, 2009 M. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, fiction
This is a lot of fun. There is an inherent jouissance in the text here, and even not being heterosexual, I can enjoy the alliance of the body of a woman with the body of a text. There is play with footnotes here that I assume remained unmatched until Danielewski's House of Leave. I wasn't always sure exactly what was "happening," but then I realized that it was the text that was happening, and everything became ok.
Het plezier van de taal getransponeerd op een vrouwenlichaam: de tekst wordt het naar liefde verlangende lijf van Willy Masters eenzame eega, die op haar beurt de oneindig duistere geheimen van de vrouwelijke geest aan haar sluwe minnaar probeert diets te maken door met taal te spelen en hem ingenieuze Molly Bloom-achtige interieure monologen naar het hoofd te slingeren. Bij momenten verbluffend, soms duizelingwekkend, steeds speels. Indertijd controversiële klassieker van het Amerikaanse postmo ...more
Oliver Bateman
Apr 22, 2014 Oliver Bateman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I was prepared to write this off as tricksy PoMo bullshit--Beckett without the heart, Barth without the punch. But in the last 15 or so pages, Gass redeems this bizarre little volume from the realm of the forgotten literary curio. "When he leaves he'll forget something. They always do. It's supposed to mean they want to come back, but I can't believe that, for I never see them again...and they always leave the most worthless things, too. They're so forlorn when they finish, as though they'd lost ...more
M. Hornbuckle
Mar 16, 2008 M. Hornbuckle rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: nerdy perverts
Shelves: 2008
This is a postmodern eroticism at its best. I give it four stars instead of five only because postmodern eroticism, even at its best, is fairly limited form. In this short work, first published in 1968, Gass explores the pleasure of text as a metaphor for erotic pleasure, or perhaps it's the other way around--eroticism as a metaphor for the pleasure of reading.

For example, near the end, the narrator addresses the reader directly and says "Really, did you read this far? puzzle your head? turn th
Mar 18, 2013 Whitney rated it really liked it
A beautiful play of/with/opposing/complementing reading and language that tells a sad but sexy story of Babs. I was disappointed in what I perceived to be a dominantly masculine voice for this female storyteller, but was impressed with the range of intellect, emotion, and expression she is given (I find some male writers of female characters can fail to do this, in spite of their intentions). Babs is both unbelievable as a character yet a wonderful crafter and cultivator of imagination, and she ...more
Drew Lackovic
Apr 06, 2008 Drew Lackovic rated it it was amazing
This book was a sort of postmodern ecstasy for me. Before reading it, I had read quite a bit about it in Brian McHale's "Postmodernist Fiction." Humorously, I received the book as a Christmas present, from my mother of all people, who wanted to know exactly why I was interested in a book filled with pictures of naked women.

Humor aside, I read the book in one sitting, and was entranced. Gass manages to keep several stories running concurrently in a series of nested footnotes. There's an awful lo
David Markwell
Feb 08, 2016 David Markwell rated it it was amazing
Ok so all there is in the world is language right? How do you make love to language? Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife is the answer. Brilliant.
Ethan Ashley
Sep 02, 2015 Ethan Ashley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
"Gass wanted a condom included with his that one could enter the text properly and safely."
Trevor Incogneato
Aug 12, 2014 Trevor Incogneato rated it really liked it
thanks, will, for all of these quotes i'm gonna drop on facebook and everyone is going to ignore.
Mar 26, 2008 Meagan rated it liked it
I actually read this in undergrad in my Contemporary Lit class. I'm taking an experitmental forms class right now and boys is this ever one of those! (Though I didn't realize it at the time) It is kind of hard to read, and kind of weird. And the wife is actually a metaphor for writing and literature. (the cover is a little disturbing I think) The language is used very well. I give this book 3 stars because I like the impression I was left with of the book.
J. Argyl
Jan 10, 2010 J. Argyl rated it liked it
Recommends it for: only people who are really into classic early postmodern experimental works
I love Bill Gass but—whew—this was a bit of a lemon. I've heard that even he has distanced himself somewhat from this project. However, it should be said that for the time in which it was published this was incredibly experimental and edgy. It is worth a read but it definitely isn't Gass' best.
Jun 05, 2011 Don rated it really liked it
Wow, this book is wild! It's like a typographical orgy, with so many fonts and symbols jammed together to make a body of text that becomes... a woman's body.

If you like experimental writing and great sentences, check this out.
Nov 14, 2008 Anthony rated it it was ok
oh william, sometimes i don't know what to do with you. cheesy typographical zaniness, too many pictures of naked ladies. you're clearly brilliant, but sometimes i don't like to be around you.
Jun 19, 2011 John rated it it was ok
A work that can never be adequately digitized. Full of typographical and dimensional acrobatics, but the work as a whole feels dated.
Michael Seidel
Nov 27, 2010 Michael Seidel rated it liked it
A little indulgent and overly cute, but Gass' sentences aren't to be messed with. Use if for the single phrases, if nothing else.
Apr 25, 2012 Brad rated it really liked it
I wish Dalkey had kept the original cover. That's my only criticism.
Jul 05, 2015 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masochists, people I'm not fond of.
It was the 60s - drugs were cheap and plentiful.
May 12, 2008 Megan rated it liked it
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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 about William H. Gass...

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