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Monday, May 14, 2007

William Gass on Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Ezra Pound

The basic premise of these essays--I am starting to believe--is to shake our most common beliefs regarding intellectual pillars that often go unshaken. Gass takes on Nietzsche not only from a biographical point of view but also from the polemic of Nietzsche's thought. Gass encompasses many of Nietzsche's arguments and alludes to his creative temperament following the chronology of works. "'The Birth of Tragedy'" Gass writes, "is the birth of Nietzsche too, because it contains his major metaphysical discovery: that of an existential disjunction within the continuities of nature. It also displays the liberated skepticism of his mind and the traditional character of his emotions." This is difficult to understand. Like I said in my previous post, Gass doesn't wait for the reader to understand; that is not his business. I think it is unfortunate but this essay obtrudes more than it clarifies Nietzsche's philosophy and creative body of work. There is some juggling of ideas that pre-date or post-date Nietzsche, making it an easy "wonder what" game for the reader.

In "At Death's Door: Wittgenstein," Gass again begins from a biographical point of view. The essay is a good introduction to readers not familiar with Wittgenstein's work. There is, however, too much talk about homosexuality, etc. The essay also takes particular aim at one Brian McGuiness' biography of Wittgenstein. Gass blames McGuiness of over-looking particular elements of Wittgenstein's life that would in other cases act as relevant information in the examination of his philosophies. This is rapid-fire Gass, and his style again waits for no one.

Between the next three essays, I have to say that the one on Ezra Pound is the most interesting. Gass really de-mythologize Pound's exile in Paris. He presents a Pound very much in his element; promoting young talent, pushing forth other people's careers at the expense of his own, becoming a fascist and philosophizing on finance without really knowing what he was talking about. Gass, however, is fair to the poor "later-years" Pound who has been "exiled" into a mental institution. Pound was a threat to no one, Gass expounds, and we can't but agree with him.

Right now Gass is helping the reader find a better definition to exile, approaching it from all angles and points of view. I am delighted to say that Sunday found me purchasing a copy of the new Haruki Murakami novel "After Dark." It is a great thrill when we are lucky enough to read two new works from one of our favorite writers in the span of one year. Something is going to get bumped out of the reading list this year in order to fit in this one volume. Sorry, but Murakami can't wait.

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At 6:55 PM, Blogger bhadd said...

The Tunnel is the best WRITTEN book of this country maybe. He is incredibly caustic however--Omensetters Luck had an equally phlegmatic individual character trying society.

The Hood Company

At 8:27 AM, Blogger brad.reader said...

jcr - I'm tagging you for the "8 things about me" meme. It's been going around for a couple of days and based on what you have written in the past, you have an interesting life, and a lot to share. No obligation. Check out my site for the rules. http:turningpages.wordpress.com

At 3:27 PM, Blogger litlove said...

I've been sent a book of William Gass's on Rilke and I'm looking forward to it very much indeed. So I've been keen to see what you have to say about him here. He does sound my kind of critic.


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