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Tests of Time

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For those willing to overlook the author's wandering style and bursts of elitism, William H. Gass's latest series of essays, Tests of Time, yields many rewards. Gass unifies this ambitious work with a focus on the ethics of writing, and, on a more general level, morality. The first of three sections, Literary Matters, includes essays investigating the nature of narrative, experimental fiction, writing's effect on memory and experience, and culture and canonization. The second section, Social and Political Contretemps, explores the influence of politics, religion, censorship, and nationalism on writers, as well as the similarities between American and German culture. Finally, the Stuttgart Seminar Lectures section concerns the value of well-documented history and artistic writing. Gass insists throughout that only through creative, brave, and responsible writing can humanity avert moral degeneration--and he often succeeds in powerfully conveying and inspiring this point. His thorough reading of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities beautifully emphasizes the role of poetry in our connection with the past and present. "There Was an Old Woman Who" entertains and informs with its use of a largely forgotten case of urban cannibalism as an example of the need for accurate documentation and a moral view of history. Unfortunately Gass often muddles his valuable ideas with overlong ranting, inflammatory rhetoric, and out-of-touch popular-culture criticisms. The author is easily at his best when he remains succinct and organized yet impassioned, as he does in the collection's excellent final essay, "Transformations." Here and elsewhere, Gass delivers a modernist critique in every way exemplifying the courage, skill, and consciousness in writing that he so values. --Ross Doll

Used availability for William H Gass's Tests of Time

Hardback Editions

February 2002 : USA Hardback

Title: Tests of Time
Author(s): William H Gass
ISBN: 0-375-41257-3 / 978-0-375-41257-8 (USA edition)
Publisher: Knopf
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Paperback Editions

July 2014 : USA Paperback

Title: Tests of Time (Scholarly Series)
Author(s): MR William H Gass PhD
ISBN: 1-62897-038-3 / 978-1-62897-038-8 (USA edition)
Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
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