William Gass, one of the most challenging and brilliant writers of the 20th century, has died, Dalkey Archive reports. I will never understand why Gass's 1995 novel The Tunnel, about Nazism and academia and guilt and procrastination, is not considered one of the major books of our time, alongside its peers like Infinite Jest and Gravity's Rainbow and The Last Samurai.
My introduction to Gass was a hilarious quote from this Paris Review interview, which I'll share with you now:
If someone asks me, “Why do you write?” I can reply by pointing out that it is a very dumb question. Nevertheless, there is an answer. I write because I hate. A lot. Hard. And if someone asks me the inevitable next dumb question, “Why do you write the way you do?” I must answer that I wish to make my hatred acceptable because my hatred is much of me, if not the best part. Writing is a way of making the writer acceptable to the world—every cheap, dumb, nasty thought, every despicable desire, every noble sentiment, every expensive taste. There isn’t very much satisfaction in getting the world to accept and praise you for things that the world is prepared to praise. The world is prepared to praise only shit. One wants to make sure that the complete self, with all its qualities, is not just accepted but approved . . . not just approved—whoopeed.