Cartesian Sonata: And Other Novellas
William H. Gass
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From the award-winning author of The Tunnel and Finding a Form -- four interrelated novellas that explore Mind, Matter, and God. In the first novella, Gass redefines Descartes' philosophy. God is a writer in a constant state of fumble. Mind is represented by a housewife who is a modern-day Cassandra. And Matter is, what (and who) else but the helpless and confused husband of Mind.
In the novella that follows, the concept of salvation is explored through material possessions--a collection of kitsch--as a traveling businessman is slowly lost in the sheer surfeit of matter in a small Illinois town. In another, Gass explores the mind's ability to escape. A young woman growing up in ruralIowa finds herself losing touch with the physical world as she loses herself in the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop.
And in The Master of Secret Revenges, God appears in the form of Descartes' evil demon, Lucifer, as Gass chronicles the life of a young man named Luther and his development from his devilish youth to his demonic adulthood. A profound exploration of good and evil, philosophy and action, filled with the wit and style that have defined the work of William Gass.
from a mirror? unkinking cock? but she would smile her sad peacemaker’s smile at his coarseness, face him with a calm forbearing palm, explain that only the plainest idea could be contained in such a short intemperate sound as a sneeze, bereft of feeling and every fineness, say how often there’d be but blunt sense in the sharpest signal, because you never can tell about such things, Edgar, you must know that by now, surely you do, you do, surely, and though paint slides from a brush sometimes in
deep. And what about—what about him? his one-night stands were one-night flops. Kim would never come when called, though he could sometimes tune her in, like a voice on the radio. She said her given name reminded her of Kimberly Clark Coated Papers. So she cut it down to its stump. And lost the whole of her born one when she married. Girls got a chance to be renamed, go to another family, live in a different town, lose what they’d been, begin again. As his eye sniffed idly about, released like a
among mingled scents, in lace-bottomed baskets, beneath loving fingerwork, and spoke through every detail, even in the deep corners of drawers, where some gesture shows up to say: the heart’s been here and cared for even this little lost place; nothing has been neglected; nothing has been overlooked, nothing rejected. Even this, Walter said in amazement, his face in the satin. Ummm … this. This too. EMMA ENTERS A SENTENCE OF ELIZABETH BISHOP’S The slow fall of ash Emma was afraid of
house …” Well, there were so many things she hadn’t seen, a moose included, but she had envisioned that large heavy head sniffing the hot hood of the bus, there on that forest-enclosed road, at night, and understood the deep dignity in all things. “All things,” she knew, embraced Emma Bishop’s homely bare body standing in the middle of her room. Antlerless … boobless … with hairless pubes … like a swatted fly, Her Iowa summers were long and hot and dusty and full of flies. Ants and flies …
the rows of crystal becomes evident. A wineglass is missing, leaving puzzlement and mystery in its place, until the thought that it was secretly broken or even stolen appears. These worries will occur well before the thing is stumbled on, because the goblet has been slipped so slyly out of place only chance can recover it; and because the puzzled victim gives up the search to embrace a hypothesis made of suspicion, as the host wonders which one of the guests—quondam friends—has done the deed.