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Cartesian Sonata NO UK RIGHTS (American Literature (Dalkey Archive)) (American Literature Series) Paperback – 1 Jan 2009


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Cartesian Sonata NO UK RIGHTS (American Literature (Dalkey Archive)) (American Literature Series) + On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry (New York Review Books) + The Tunnel
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Product details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Reprint edition (1 Jan 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564785025
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564785022
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,202,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Four virtuoso performances, playfully juggling exuberant prose with sly postmodern speculations on the nature of desire, fiction, and the soul.' -Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

William Howard Gass (born July 30, 1924) is an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, and former philosophy professor. He has written three novels, three collections of short stories, a collection of novellas, and seven volumes of essays, three of which have won National Book Critics Circle Award prizes and one of which, A Temple of Texts (2006), won the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism. His 1995 novel The Tunnel received the American Book Award.

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This is the story of Ella Bend Hess, of how she became clairvoyant and what she was able to see. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Dec 1998
Format: Hardcover
This collection shows Gass at his best. Tales of life from rural Iowa (where I have spent much time and thus have a fondness for) that intermix exitential longing and boredom, mysticism, and self-delusion. If you want to be cheered up, this is not the book for you. But if you want to know and love characters in their strange caged lives you will devour this work. I did in 3 days. I especially recommend "The Clairevoyant," a very well done work of magical realism. Also, it might help to skip the first short story, if its not to your taste (it was to mine). It's a very experimental, non-narrative work which is not representative of the anthology. If it turns you off skip it and read the rest.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
One of the better writers most likely not to be read.... 26 May 2009
By Mark Nadja - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
-- "Cartesian Sonata" is one of those works of postmodern fiction that you'd be hard-pressed to say, with any authority, what it's really about...unless you read the flyleaf provided by the publisher.

-- According to which, in the first of the four novellas collected here, Gass has re-imagined the philosophy of Decartes with God as a befuddled writer, his wife as Mind in the form of a modern-day Cassandra.....etc etc.

-- Really? So that's what it was about? Who'd ever guess? How, for that matter, did the person who wrote the copy, unless it was Gass himself, pulling our leg just a little bit.

-- Philosophical allusions do indeed abound in "Cartesian Sonata"--the collection and each of the novellas that comprise it--but to fix a pat and reductive interpretation on these stories is misleading...and a mistake.

-- What are they about? In general, they are about how we interpret/misinterpret the world around us and try to gain some degree of mastery and control over it through signs, symbols, and objects.

-- In this sense, using Descartes as a touchstone is perhaps of some help. Is there anything we know for certain? If so, how so? "I think therefore I am." Maybe. But the further we stray from that citadel of "I" the less clear everything becomes.

-- A woman harboring a possibly lethal obsession with the poetry and the private lives of Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore. A traveling accountant who finds "salvation" in a scrupulously appointed bed and breakfast. A man who's devoted his life to the mastery of petty vengeance in theory and practice. The dysfunctional marriage of a dying psychic and an insurance salesman.

-- Gass riffs off these unlikely scenarios with a great deal of wit, erudition, and imagination. He's a fantastic prose stylist, the kind that some readers will find unreadable precisely because he's so good; he stretches, twists, and redesigns the language into what amounts to a prose rollercoaster. And he's funny--very funny in a way that makes literature even of scatology.

--If you're looking for stories in which "a+b+c+d" happens and ends neatly wrapped up in "e," "Cartesian Sonata" is probably going to grate on your nerves and seem a pretentious bag of Gass signifying not much at all.

--But if you can appreciate the sort of writing that finds a justification for its existence in the beauty of the writing itself, that apprehends reality in the musing about what its nature might be, and that seems to delight in the rush and exhilaration of expression, as if our despair were somehow mitigated by how well we can sing it, then "Cartesian Sonata" may well be music to your ears.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Stunning realization of the Cartesian halves. 23 Sep 1999
By J. Stokley Grimes (stokeberk@aol.com) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A stunning realization of the Cartesian halves: the mind (on the one side); the flesh (on the other). All of the Gassian exploration of the marrow of language, metaphor and the life of lyricism is here. But so is his visceral presentation of the flesh, bones and fragile surfaces of the body of one Ella Bend. With the halves (thinking; therefore, being) folding and unfolding into and away from each other. The smell of earth, the abuses of existence, the pull of poetry: its all there. One of the best things I've ever read.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Stunning realizaation of the Cartesian halves. 23 Sep 1999
By J. Stokley Grimes (stokeberk@aol.com) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
a stunning realization of the Cartesian halves: the mind (on the one side); the flesh (on the other). All of the Gassian exploration of the marrow of language, metaphor and the life of lyricism is here. But so is his visceral presentation of the flesh, bones and fragile surfaces of the body of one Ella Bend. With the halves (thinking; therefore, being) folding and unfolding into and away from each other. The smell of earth, the abuses of existence, the pull of poetry: its all there. One of the best things I've ever read.
7 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Not as torturous (or tortuous) as The Tunnel 28 Feb 2001
By Ponderous one - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I don't know why I torture myself with Gass' fiction, but if I'm gonna be a masochist, I might as well go all the way. Well, this book isn't as full of it as some of Monsieur le Gass' other fiction. There were a couple of stories in here I wanted to hate, but actually ended up liking (Bed & Breakfast, The Master of Secret Revenges). Maybe it's because Willy stopped being pretentious for a minute and wrote a couple of decidedly good stories. Wow, instead of trying to impress himself and the crusty old academics who worship him like Buddha with big words (like consubstantiation and myxomatosis), heavy symbolism (he talks about his 'parts' waaay too much!) and incomprehensible sentence structures (for example: most of gass. is- like this- written like this. yes. gass. write this like this.), he actually just wrote in plain English. I'm impressed; I didn't know he had it in him! Bravo!
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