William H. Gass: Omensetter’s Luck

Another entry in my list of books that have been languishing on my shelves for ages that I’m reading this year.

This was kind of tough.  It’s written throughout in a style that I would say is reminiscent of Joyce, although apparently (from reading other people write about it) if I had ever read Faulkner I would say it’s reminiscent of him.  Total stream of consciousness, with no distinction made typographically (for example, using something so mundane as quote marks or even Joyce’s dashes) between description or dialogue or imagined dialogue or inner monologue.  In fact, a fair bit of effect comes from the fact that the protagonist of most of the novel is going nuts, and you can’t tell whether a lot of his dialogue is imagined or not, but probably he can’t either.

I’m all for postmodern, but this felt more High Modern to me, in a way that made reading sort of a chore.  Also, the main character is an archetype – man of God fighting off the evil in his breast – that means a lot less to me, a happy atheist, than it probably does to many others.

Around a quarter of the book (an extended interior monologue by said reverend) was a real slog, but after that an actual plot did appear, and there was certainly some striking imagery and turns of phrase, and it did end up exploring some interesting questions, and I did feel like I had gotten somewhere by the end.  But I would not really classify it overall as an enjoyable experience, and I don’t think Gass’s magnum opus, The Tunnel, is going to add itself to this year’s list of long-neglected but finally-read books.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply