Category: William H. Gass

A common phenomenonA common phenomenon

“In every country, in every clime, regarding any rank or race, at any time and with little excuse, orthodoxy will act evilly toward its enemies.  Survival is its single aim–that is, to rigidify thought, sterilize doubt, cauterize criticism, and mobilize the many to brutalize the few who dare to dream beyond the borders of their village, the walls of their room, the conventions of their community, the givens of some god, the mother-smother of custom, or the regimen of an outmoded morality.” — William H. Gass, “The Writer and Politics: A Litany,” from Tests of Time

Pragmatic self-loathingPragmatic self-loathing

“There is nothing truly beautiful but that which can never be of any use whatever; everything useful is ugly, for it is the expression of some need, and man’s needs are ignoble and disgusting like his own poor and infirm nature.  The most useful place in a house is the water-closet.” — Theophile Gautier, quoted in “The Writer and Politics: A Litany” (from Tests of Time, by William H. Gass)

Those people are doing things againThose people are doing things again

“History is not an agent who goes about trampling traditions into dust, ending lives, stifling others, despoiling the land, and poisoning the sea.  History is humanity on its rampage.  Considering the frequency of natural calamities, our treatment of warfare as a seasonal sport, and the insatiable squirrelliness of human greed, it should be an occasion for surprise when anything excellent survives.” — William H. Gass, “The Test of Time,” from Tests of Time

Making senseMaking sense

“In stories, there are agents and actions; there are patterns; there is direction; most of all, there is meaning.  Even when the consequences are tragic, there is a point; there is a message, a moral, a teaching.  And that is a consolation.  It is consoling to believe that our lives have a shape, a purpose and direction; that the white hats and the black hats have appropriate heads beneath them, and are borne about by bodies with the right souls inside; that there are historical entities, called events, which we can understand, periods which have cohesion and personalities all their own, causes we can espouse or oppose, forces we can employ, and so on.” — William H. Gass, “The Nature of Narrative and Its Philosophical Implications,” from Tests of Time