Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife” as Want to Read:
Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  200 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
In this paean to the pleasures of language, Gass equates his text with the body of Babs Masters, the lonesome wife of the title, to advance the conceit that a parallel should exist between a woman and her lover and a book and its reader. Disappointed by her inattentive husband/reader, Babs engages in an exuberant display of the physical charms of language to entice an illi ...more
Paperback, 61 pages
Published December 1st 1989 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1968)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Willie Masters’ Lonesome Wife

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
May 17, 2012 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: william-h-gass
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
Apr 15, 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 "Marvin" Graye
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
Feb 25, 2013 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 31, 2009 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
Apr 24, 2010 Llopin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marc Nash
Sep 18, 2016 Marc Nash rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A literary version of Magritte's "Ceci N'est Pas Une Pipe" or "The Treachery Of Images" about how a painting of a pipe is not an actual pipe, but a painting of the sign/symbol of a pipe. Here Gass conflates a text about a woman and her sexuality with the artefact of a book and the fact that you the reader are reading a text about a woman and her body, but such a body doesn't actually exist (except in your mind).

It starts off with really interesting and evocative imagery but then as it goes on, w
Jeremiah Carlson
Here I am at the end of this slender book and I am here feeling required by my enjoyment to write a review. My ideas aren't there, my brain isn't being helpful in what I think of this book. Safe to say that I love it though. It's inventive in ways I've wanted to be and have been but not as a finished work. Maybe I can say more about it another time when my brain is being more present.
Jun 02, 2016 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice typography and interesting interrupted storytelling but come-on give me something to hold on to. Brilliant call to arms for language lovers on the last page - plenty of 60s bile and spit.
Oct 16, 2016 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One might be excused for trying to see this extremely short and breathtakingly layered (more literally than is the custom) book as a woman's body to be caressed and explored, while her soul remains mystifying and abstruse. That we are being addressed directly, at least at times, by the titular lonesome wife and that there are pictures throughout of a tantalizing nude and solitary woman, may seem to support this. Willie Master's Lonesome Wife is more metaphor than metonymy. But we will not find a ...more
Andrew Sare
Aug 11, 2016 Andrew Sare rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dalkey-archive
I can only imagine trying to cheap out and read this as an e-book (if such an e-text exists). Like Infinite Jest or even more like Pale Fire, the footnotes. digressions and lit tricks whip you around to try to throw you off, and without being able to flip, fold and mirror starchy paper this would likely turn into virus on your e-reader or at the very least just show you a bunch of question marks - maybe with a few (WTF)s thrown in for good measure. Some textual effects are dated, but they're sti ...more
Oliver Bateman
May 09, 2012 Oliver Bateman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 15, 2008 M. Hornbuckle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 11, 2013 Whitney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2008 Drew Lackovic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 28, 2015 Laurent rated it liked it
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
Mar 26, 2008 Meagan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 03, 2011 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Michael Seidel
A little indulgent and overly cute, but Gass' sentences aren't to be messed with. Use if for the single phrases, if nothing else.
Ethan Ashley
Sep 02, 2015 Ethan Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"Gass wanted a condom included with his that one could enter the text properly and safely."
David Markwell
Feb 08, 2016 David Markwell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
A work that can never be adequately digitized. Full of typographical and dimensional acrobatics, but the work as a whole feels dated.
Christopher Daniel
Christopher Daniel rated it it was amazing
Apr 15, 2012
Matt Voigts
Matt Voigts rated it really liked it
Oct 03, 2013
Ani rated it really liked it
Sep 29, 2008
Kyem rated it did not like it
Apr 13, 2012
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Singular Pleasures
  • Island People
  • The Franchiser
  • Night Soul and Other Stories
  • The Complete Butcher's Tales
  • The Shutter of Snow
  • Reckless Eyeballing
  • Ryder
  • La guaracha del Macho Camacho
  • Jealousy & In the Labyrinth
  • Springer’s Progress
  • Chromos
  • Cobra and Matreiya
  • Take Five
  • Aberration of Starlight
  • God Jr.
  • Three
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...

Share This Book