I hope to update it on weekdays, and I’m polishing up some of the old reviews and stuff I posted here to post on there in a more readable format. My plan is to eventually create an adjacent section with serialized fiction, but that’s going to take some time for me to clean up some old work.
As always, thanks for reading. You brighten my life.
I don’t usually gush about books, but this one is fantastic, and it even motivated me to post about books again. I have never actually read any of Gass’s fiction, and I’m not sure what attracted me to this book, other than my insatiable thirst for deep criticism of literature. This book is mostly Gass’s essays on various author biographies.
The “climax” of the book is Gass’s lecture on the genealogy of abstract ideas in early Greek thought, leading to the concepts of forms (from basic geometric shapes like triangles, to the ideal chair), and the idea of a perfect, immaterial, and eternal world that exists separate from this one. To be honest, I’ve never liked this idea, probably because it’s one of the foundations of the Christian religion, and I went to Catholic school. But Gass traces how this idea was born of philosophers using pebbles to count out numbers in shapes: 1 as a single point, 2 as a line, 3 as a triangle, and 4 as a square, etc. From here, it was not a long trek to the first abstract ideas in Western thought: Numbers existed even if there was nothing to count.
So if numbers existed perfectly, what else did? Philosophers experimented with geometry. However, good old Zeno of Elea (490-430 BC) pointed out that a perfect triangle can’t exist in the physical world, the sides can never perfectly equal to each other like they can be in a two-dimensional vacuum, they would always be off by at least a molecule. Okay, so the material world isn’t perfect. Who is? Well, even though man or woman (especially not woman, according to the Greeks) cannot be perfect, they are inspired by a perfect form of an ideal human, which belongs to humans alone, and no other creature or thing. And, of course, everything has its ideal form in this mysterious ether, whether it be a chicken or even feces. But, embodied as they are in physical reality, material objects and life will never be as perfect as their forms, which, unlike life and objects, are eternal and immaculate, persisting beyond infinity, forever condemning us material things to a fallen, gross representation of a better world.
I’m sure you can see how this idea has affected Western culture. Although, I must ask myself: Isn’t this blog a representation of Gass’s book?
Currently reading – The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, by John Steinbeck. Yes, Steinbeck wrote a book of Arthurian tales. But did you know Mark Twain wrote a somber, beautiful novel about Joan of Arc?
Currently reading – Strategies of Fantasy, by Brian Attebery. This book is a little heavy on the Tolkien analysis, but it’s also the most insightful book of criticism on fantasy literature that I have read.
I’ve been working on this story since the spring of 2018. It’s been revised or rewritten over twenty times, rebuilt from scratch, and doubled in length. I have lived with it – these characters are as real to me as you are. Some might say I’m insane – but if I had stopped working on it a couple years ago, or even just a year ago, it wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is now.
So on Monday I drove halfway across town to go to the Apple Store (on a holiday!) so I could trade in my cursed, motivationally-crippled MacBook Pro for a new M1 Mac Mini. It was insane there, but I was compelled to do this after thinking about it for a long time. Needless to say, the M1 is a beast, and I’m switching between MacOS and Windows at the instantaneous swipe of a finger on the mouse. It’s a damn revelation.