Review of The World Within the Word

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Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Date: 2000
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Book review; Critical essay
Length: 696 words

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[(review date Winter 1979-1980) In the following favorable review of The World Within the Word, Schneider discusses Gass's critical views on literature.]

Following close on the heels of John Gardner's On Moral Fiction, William Gass's second collection of essays seems almost a counter-attack. To Gardner's call for fiction of moral concern, Gass replies that "Poetry [which for Gass usually includes fiction and essays] is not a kind of communication, but a construction in consciousness." On the thread of this premise, Gass strings essays about an impressively eclectic range of topics, including suicide, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, and linguistics as well as literature.

Gass begins by stripping the reader of two widespread misconceptions about what "poetry" is. In several essays on death and suicide, Gass reminds us that literature is not the cathartic escape from life, either for the writer or the reader, that most readers take it to be. Using Hart Crane, Malcolm Lowry, and his own mother as examples, he insists that although suicide may be an escape from life, literature certainly is...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100033581