“I was a word, therefore I was”

March 9, 2014 § 4 Comments

So he would die as a disturbance. That was probably proper, but it was proper only when put this way, rather than another, which was something Magus Tabor had taught me: wait for the words, he’d say, and then you’ll know what is going on; wait for the words, they will betray their occasion without a qualm; wait for the words, when their objects will become real, turn real as a face turns red with the realization they are being said; don’t deal with the unnamed, they are without signification; remember, to be is to be enunciated—said, sung, shouted—to be syllabated; I was a word, therefore I was; and while I was a word, brief as a breath, held in the head or sustained on paper, prolonged in print, bound as a book, I was like licketty,  you understand, like a term on one of the tablets of the gods, like lights made of stars flicked on and off to say: here I am, I’m stage, I’m song, I’m printed on the ticket; so Tabor could die in a thousand descriptions, although each way only once: once as a disturbance, once as a sign from the gods, once as a penalty, once to signify the unfairness of fundamental things, once to be symbolic of his soul’s strife, once to remind me of what he taught, once to be simply another number in the census of the dead that day, the day—evening, midnight, dawn—he did it—it did it—died.

— William. H. Gass, The Tunnel

§ 4 Responses to “I was a word, therefore I was”

  • cleo says:

    I enjoyed this immensely! Thank you…

  • Brad says:

    There’s so much more where that came from. The Tunnel is a daunting challenge . . . but well worth it, in my estimation.

  • Blake says:

    Thanks for this. I recently picked up Finding a Form and A Temple of Texts due in large part to a few of your previous Gass posts. Excellent, so far.

    • Brad says:

      Yes, indeed. Gass is probably best known for his criticism, and those collections are wonderful starts. While I like these, my affection for his fiction, first, and then his experimental forays into things like this, in On Being Blue, are unrivaled.

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