writer’s block: “trapped within the rhymes of reason”


"Reading Gass is like reading Thomas Mann: The Tunnel‘s moral seriousness matches The Magic Mountain‘s and Doctor Faustus‘s, but I find Gass the better writer."

 

—James McCourt, The Yale Review

 

 

The narrator of the tunnel, William Frederick Kohler, is a professor at a midwestern American university. He has nearly completed his magnum opus, Guilt and Innocence in Hitler’s Germany, and sits in his cellar trying to finish thebook’s introduction. Instead, he writes produces an accounting of both his work and his life. Kohler considers possible reasons for his inability to finish his book:

 

Who thus constricts my chest? Confucius? that old chink? Livy then? Gibbon? O la! Tacitus? Gilgamesh. How many times have I fallen inside a sentence while running from a word? Winckelmann, Kafka, Kleist. You would not believe that long bodiless climb from Descartes to Leibniz. Lewis. Lemuel Gulliver. Catullus. Gogol. Constant. Sterne. I live on a ledge—a sill—of type—a brink. Here. Pascal. Alone. Among the silences inside my books… Frege, Wittgenstein…  within the rhymes of reason… the withheld breath, the algebra of alliteration, the freedom of design… Dryden, Zeno, Stevens, Keats… At the edge of space… I beg you, let me come out alive.

—William Gass, The Tunnel, p. 96

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s