No caress could have been more indifferently complete

September 30, 2011 § 4 Comments

Indulge me, if you will, a reading from William Gass’ downright essential (& scandalously out-of-print) collection of short stories, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country. I posted this same recording elsewhere a couple of months ago, but there are a sufficient number of newcomers (I think) to revisit it.

Gass, of course, is famous for doing a lot of so-called postmodern gestures in his writing–postmodern to those who have never adequately understood modernity. He is widely acclaimed, & criticized, for emphasizing the visual elements of the page. Sentences in some books fall from the line, letter by letter. Others are quite randomly in different fonts. Coffee stains the corner of some pages. This is all interesting enough, but for me this is all subordinate to the aural dynamics at work. His prose quite simply has a musical quality to it, as I’ve discussed with a friend of Departure Delayed, which I feel is better heard than explained.

I kind of botch the opening thirty seconds or so of the recording. Not at all happy with that. But I think it gets better, the tone and annunciation smooths, and occasionally the music plays.

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§ 4 Responses to No caress could have been more indifferently complete

  • Robert Minto says:

    These recordings are my favorite blogging innovation of yours. It helps that you have a good voice for it; I tried the other day but didn’t much like the sound of myself recorded.

    After hearing this I was inexorably propelled to drop what I was doing and go reread a Gass short story…

  • Brad Johnson says:

    Thanks, Robert. I’m actually very happy to know you think so. I’ve been very ambivalent about doing them. Blogging itself is self-indulgent, I felt, so how much more so is recording oneself? But, so my reasoning went, is reading something really that much more indulgent than writing a commentary-type post on it? I know the latter is what people expect and probably want. And, yes, it’s probably what I would be more likely to pay attention to as well, if it wasn’t me who was doing the recording. But there seems a value to resisting this expectation. What exactly that value is, I don’t know.

  • Robert Minto says:

    Well, I know that you advocate using blogging to talk about literature without really talking about it, but through it — you said something like that over at AUFS at one point. In some ways, I think these recordings do that better than any amount of commentary — somehow hearing someone read a bit of prose gives one an exact sense of what they loved about it, what struck them in it, in a way that can only be roughly and hazily approximated by separate commentary. So perhaps that’s the value of persisting with these recordings.

    Baroque prose, in particular, which is almost universally denigrated (or at least unappreciated) is immediately rehabilitated when activated by a voice. I wish, for example, that someone out there would record passionate and meticulous recordings of John Donne and Jeremy Taylor sermons, or passages from Thomas Browne.

  • Brad Johnson says:

    There is this

    Your suggestion is brilliant. I’ve not made it explicit on the main page, but I’ve given Friday over to this type of thing. You can expect some Baroque prose soon.

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