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In the Heart of the Heart of the Country: And Other Stories (NYRB Classics) [Kindle Edition]

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

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Book Description

First published in 1968, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country established William Gass as one of America’s finest and boldest writers of fiction, and nearly fifty years later, the book still stands as a landmark of contemporary fiction. The two novellas and three short stories it contains are all set in the Midwest, and together they offer  a mythical reimagining of America’s heartland, with its punishing extremes of heat and cold, its endless spaces and claustrophobic households, its hidden and baffled desires, its lurking threat of violence. Exploring and expanding the limits of the short story, Gass works magic with words, words that are as squirming, regal, and unexpected as the roaches, boys, icicles, neighbors, and neuroses that fill these pages, words that shock, dazzle, illumine, and delight.

Product Description


The prose reads fast, but you return to the sentences often because you can’t believe what you have just read, so weirdly apt are the metaphors … this collection was first published in 1968, but it’s timeless.

(The Guardian)

In the Heart of the Heart of the Country defines Gass not as a special but as a major voice. 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)

About the Author

WILLIAM H. GASS (b. 1924) is an essayist, novelist, and literary critic. He grew up in Ohio and is a former professor of philosophy at Washington University. Among his books are six works of fiction and nine books of nonfiction, including On Being Blue (1976; published as an NYRB Classic), Tests of Time (2002), A Temple of Texts (2006), and Life Sentences (2012). Gass lives with his wife, the architect Mary Gass, in St. Louis.

JOANNA SCOTT’s most recent novel is De Potter’s Grand Tour. Her other books include the novels Arrogance, The Manikin, and Follow Me and the story collections Various Antidotes and Everybody Loves Somebody.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 908 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1590177649
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (4 Nov. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #328,184 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 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) 4.1 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
23 of 25 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.
34 of 43 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.
15 of 20 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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Collection 2 Sept. 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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great voice! 20 Nov. 2014
By Kerry L Daniel - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this on the NYRB, and since a good friend said she'd discovered many wonderful books there that she'd never heard of, I decided to visit the site. I chose this book and am very happy that I did. I like raw writing, and an author that can give me the true sense of place in the story he or she has created. I was RIGHT THERE in Indiana in the heart of what I'm sure was a very common winter. I shivered and shook and could practically feel the icicles growing from the hairs in my nose. I also loved the rich, unique characters the author created in other reminiscent of people I'd known growing up. I will definitely seek out other work by this extraordinary writer and will no doubt read these stories a few more times.
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