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"In the Heart of the Heart of the Country" and Other Stories (Nonpareil Book) [Paperback]

William H. Gass
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

11 Oct 2007 Nonpareil Book (Book 21)

In the Heart of the Heart of the Country is vintage William H. Gass: two novellas and three short stories, set in the Midwest, exhibiting Gass’s characteristic and wildly original verbal brilliance and philosophical acuity. The volume includes The Pedersen Kid, a story originally published a few years before the 1965 publication of Gass’s first novel Omensetter’s Luck.

Words populate these stories, as squirming, regal, and unexpected as the roaches, boys, icicles, neighbors, neuroses, and properties they describe. No matter how strange or estranged the human consciousness directing each symphony of words, his or her fear, delight, and disgust is uncanny and familiar.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: David R. Godine Publisher Inc; Reissue edition (11 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879233745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879233747
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 13.8 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 987,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


“Gass is a genuine pessimist and one of the best writers I know...this collection defines Gass not as a special but as a major voice...Gass engenders brand-new abrupt vulnerabilities. We read about the becalmed Midwest, about farmers mired in their dailiness, and realize too late that we’ve been exposed to a deadly poetry. It says that America is lost...No writer I’ve ever read, not even Joyce, can celebrate his world with a more piercing sadness.”

(Frederic Morton, The New York Times)

“The man has never written a sentence that isn’t astonishing.”

(Benjamin Weissman, Salon)

Omensetter’s Luck seemed the kind of astonishing total performance that might not lead to another book. But this new volume shows a growth and an exploration of imaginative power suggesting that Mr. Gass’s work is here to continue, as well as to stay. In the title piece, as throughout, the treatment of the relation between self and things is unique in American writing.”

(John Hollander)

“William Gass is, in his own way, quite as successful as Joyce or Faulkner.”

(Shaun O’Connell, The Nation)

“William H. Gass has recreated a mythical Midwest that overpowers all his characters and has a palpable, frightening presence...[he] makes us doubt everything in the story—Jorge, the Pedersen kid and our very existence—as he lulls us to sleep with his crisp, hallucinatory prose.”

(Jerome Charyn, The Wall Street Journal)

“[He is] one of the important writers of his generation. This collection...serves to focus the distinctive qualities of his sensibility and style...Gass is “old-fashioned” in his insistence that language is an immediate extension of human feeling and cognition. But what makes him modern is how much he knows—like John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, and Walker Percy, he is one of the philosopher-novelists who bring a new intellectual power to the basically transcendental American sensibility. It is writing like this that will achieve, if it is at all possible, a saving continuity with tradition as it attempts to save human feeling and individuality for art.”


“These stories scrape nerve and pierce the heart. They also replenish the language. They are told sparely, hauntingly, with compassion and a remarkable exploratory courage.”

(The New York Times)

“Sentences sweet as Godiva Chocolate, turns of phrase so luscious they verge on the lubricious, paragraphs one could live on—anyone who savored the prose of William Gass will remember it with pleasure or heartburn.”

(The Washington Post Book World) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

WILLIAM H. GASS is an American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, critic, and emeritus professor of philosophy. His first novel, Omensetter’s Luck, was published in 1966 and since then he has published several more works of fiction, including The Tunnel and Middle C. He has also published collections of essays, including On Being Blue (available from NYRB Classics), Fiction and the Figures of Life, and Life Sentences, and has received many awards and honors.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly original 9 Jan 2004
'The Pedersen Kid' (the first story) is a brilliantly original, stunningly powerful and beautifully realised piece of fiction. It has not left my mind for a long after reading it - some two years ago now. William H Gass has a poetic sensibility that I have not seen approached since Carson McCullers - true, I haven't read everything, but from what I have read Gass is an outstanding Twentieth Century Writer and perceptive describer of the current condition.
The second-half of the Twentieth Century; not very many truly great writers; because it is not an age that allows for great artists; a dumbed down, all penetrating public culture and media hype machine that ruins so many with potential. Gass appears to have avoided this. He has a real poetic eye for Truth. To be honest I've never read anything like it. Most authors lose their nerve and give happy endings, or sentimental tragic ones. Gass does neither. A wonderful book that has sent me to read more of his work. Like all the greatest writers he could not be more Iowan, or more universal. I have not been this interested in an American author since Melville.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars why has this gone out of print 9 Nov 1999
By A Customer - Published on
It seems impossible that a collection of stories as ground breaking as these could disappear from the bookshelves, but here it is. I came on to find out about ordering a copy but found the publisher was out! Then let me say, having read it a few times already that while In the Heart of the Heart of the Country gets and deserves much praise in this collection, The Pederson Kid is MASTERFul in its language, pacing and style. Order of Insects also is rumination as short story. I am in love with this book and like your true love, it will always be there.
31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please Keep Early Gass in Print, Vote 2 18 Jan 2000
By Carra R Lane - Published on
Early William H. Gass is essential. This fairly straightforward book is early Gass. Gass after Omensetter is a very personal taste. Fame, even the tiny minor academic variety, infects human beings oddly. Gass only had a few stories to tell. This book matters. Please keep the great early Gass alive/available & do not worry much about the later still quite interesting but arrogant blatting.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mass of Gass 5 Mar 2008
By Dick Johnson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This collection of long short stories will not let you relax while you read. As with the other Gass I've read, he wants to make you think deeply. There are no clear cut endings, but these aren't clear cut stories.

The best thing about this edition (ISBN 0879233745) is the preface by Gass himself. I usually save such for reading as an afterword (too many prefaces and introductions have too many spoilers). This can be read first or last, but lets you a little more into his thoughts.

His use of language lets you enjoy stories that wouldn't normally hold your interest.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation. 3 Mar 2011
By Rian - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Thanks to John Gardner, I have stumbled upon William Gass. I only regret that it took me this long to discover him. One of the best arguments that I know of in support of a philosophically motivated approach to short fiction.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Collection 2 Sep 2012
By J. Smallridge - Published on
The only way I can describe reading this book is to compare it to catching a lightening bug (or, as Gass would describe it, as capturing a piece of light on a dark Midwestern night). The bugs are beautiful on their own, but they often are hard to grab and hold. Gass writes sentences that are amazing on their own. Try this from "Mrs. Mean," a story in this collection: "Evil that is everyday is lost in life." Sentences as perfectly constructed such as this appear frequently in this collection, but reading the work as a collective becomes tricky because his words can be difficult to snag through the the endless stream of consciousness, or to remember because so many brilliant sentences appear mixed in throughout.

This collection confirmed for me that Gass is a terrific writer and the works here stand up because of his excellent opening essay on the craft of writing (and thinking) and solid stories such as "The Pederson Kid," "Mrs. Mean," and "In the Heart of the Heart of the Country." It is a shame it is so expensive and so hard to find, but it is worth the effort it takes to track this down.
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