on 7 July 1998
For anyone tired with the last fifteen years of "hip" postmodernism, this is an inspiring collection of darkly comic and seriously focussed essays ranging from the dillema of language and meaning to the innanity of literary prizes (which is especially juicy and hostile due to the fact that Gass, in the ranks of Pynchon, Gaddis, Reed, Coover and Ashberry, has never won one). Gass's prose cranks up the brain with lightening quickness, exercising synapses that haven't seen this much attention since German romantic criticism. He explores the epiphanies of recognition much differntly than the contemporary semioticians and psychanalysers because he expands his own inquiries in a playful use of language that demonstrates rather than deconstructs. Gass may not be our Walter Benjamin, but in an American literary landscape reluctant to relax and break wind he is our flatulator par excellence.