Synopses & Reviews
William H. Gass
is an American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, critic, and emeritus professor of philosophy. His first novel, Omensetter’s Luck
, about life in a small town in Ohio in the 1890s, was published in 1966. Since then he has published several more works of fiction, including In the Heart of the Heart of the Country
, The Tunnel
, and Middle C
. He has also published several collections of essays, including Fiction and the Figures of Life
, Habitations of the Word
, Finding a Form
, and Life Sentences
. Gass has received many awards and honors, including grants from the Rockefeller and Solomon R. Guggenheim foundations, four Pushcart Prizes, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction, the American Book Award, and three National Book Critics Circle Awards for Criticism. In 2000, he was honored with the PEN/Nabokov Lifetime Achievement Award.
Michael Gorra teaches English Literature at Smith College. He is the author of After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, Rushdie. His most recent book is Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
On Being Blue
is a book about everything blue—sex and sleaze and sadness, among other things—and about everything else. It brings us the world in a word as only William H. Gass, among contemporary American writers, can do.
Of the colors, blue and green have the greatest emotional range. Sad reds and melancholy yellows are difficult to turn up. Among the ancient elements, blue occurs everywhere: in ice and water, in the flame as purely as in the flower, overhead and inside caves, covering fruit and oozing out of clay. Although green enlivens the earth and mixes in the ocean, and we find it, copperish, in fire; green air, green skies, are rare. Gray and brown are widely distributed, but there are no joyful swatches of either, or any of exuberant black, sullen pink, or acquiescent orange. Blue is therefore most suitable as the color of interior life. Whether slick light sharp high bright thin quick sour new and cool or low deep sweet dark soft slow smooth heavy old and warm: blue moves easily among them all, and all profoundly qualify our states of feeling.
William H. Gass
(b. 1924) is an essayist, novelist, and literary critic. He grew up in Ohio and is a former professor of philosophy at Washington University. Among his books are six works of fiction and nine books of essays, including Tests of Time
(2002), A Temple of Texts
(2006), and Life Sentences
(2012). New York Review Books will republish his story collection In the Heart of the Heart of the Country
(1968) in 2014. Gass lives with his wife, the architect Mary Gass, in St. Louis.
Michael Gorra’s Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece (2012) was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography. His earlier books include After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, and Rushdie (1997) and The Bells in Their Silence: Travels Through Germany (2004). He has taught at Smith College since 1985, where he is now the Mary Augusta Jordan Professor of English. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter.