Weirdly, wildly and at times gorgeously unreadable, Omensetter's Luck cares less about continuity or convenience and more about its feverish impressions. It's the kind of novel you can drown in if you are open to it, at least for twenty pages or so until the text spins into a vortex again and spits you out of the water.
There is one chapter here, where a preacher tries to plant doubt into a shopowner's head, that's among the most amazing pieces of stream-of-consciousness-prose I've ever come across. On the other hand, there are passages that I had to re-read three or four times in order to even figure out the basic context of the story.
One passage is especially problematic. The preacher Jethro Furber, in effect the main character, is introduced with a long, manic soliloquoy. His thoughts moves between impressions of people sunbathing in front of him, recollections of the time he first came to town, childhood memories, A LOT of bizarre nursery rhymes and a complete breakdown in front of a gravestone. All just a beautiful mess. There is no signposting here, the scenes just bounces into each other at random, and I had a hard time figuring out what was happening, where I was and who was even talking.
I barely got through these 80 pages, but I'm glad that I did, because after that, the novel tightens the plotting and turns its attention to the tragedy at its core. But because of chapters like this, in contrast with chapters with more momentum, the novel comes across as a little uneven - a work that could have made a greater impact by being more balanced.
As disorienting as the text can be, it also rewards the patient and attentive. Gass's vision is as bold and singular as any you'll ever come across. It's perhaps a shame that just a few tweaks could have made the visionary stand out more than the outright eccentric.
OMENSETTER'S LUCK is an impressionistic steam-of-consciousness novel featuring many voices. A dense yet playful fiction that isn't easy to grasp (never mind keep hold of!). In many ways it is reminiscent of a vivid dream - a dream reflecting a long-lost North American past - quirky, nostalgic, full of merging meaning, colours and scenes. I would say this is primarily a work for prose-lovers: surreal and wondrous descriptions mingle with gritty realism, stark machinations and crazy-clunky confabs. A book to either get joyously lost in or be utterly bemused by.