Monday, March 9, 2009

In the Heart of the Heart of the Country

So consciously composed, these stories are naturally laden with idebtednesss, as though they have been to Hawaii, and encircled by exotic blooms. If my hero's hair is red as rust, to whom goes the credit—a recessive gene in my grandmother's unmentionable make-up? And all those authors I have lain with—loved—left—which ones are to blame for my page-long shopping lists, my vulgarized lingo, my tin pan prose? whose blood beats in the baby when none will claim paternity and the mother is unknown?" - William Gass, from the preface to In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.

If you haven't read In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, you should immediately. The preface is worth the price alone, especially if you have any interest in writing and the indifference that springs from it, about its futility but all-consuming importance. Its style and tone has been instructive—not that I've followed nearly everything he lays out—since I read it probably a decade ago and I mentally return to it overwhelmingly often (funny how that happens), at times when it's least expected.

The stories are also incredible. Dense, yet light. Playful and sad. And as near to perfect as you're likely to find. There should be more books like it.

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