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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife

by
William H. Gass


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife



Title: Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife
Author: William Gass
Genre: Fiction
Written: 1968
Length: 60 pages
Availability: Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife - US
Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife - UK
Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife - Canada
Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife - India
  • First published as TriQuarterly Supplement Number Two, 1968.
  • Photography by Burton L. Rudman

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Our Assessment:

B+ : an interesting experimental fiction

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Rev. of Books . 14/12/1972 Michael Wood
The NY Times Book Rev. . 14/11/1971 Nathaniel Tarn


  From the Reviews:
  • "That Gass often writes beautifully to match, with a strange lyricism of the inner body, its organs and fluids, and certain lovely, half-fashioned windows onto blind landscapes outside the room, does not serve to conjure away all doubts as to the genre intended. (...) And the author at times tries to parry in advance the charge of gratuitousness with unpersuasiveness claims on the clown's comic genius and the poet's liberty. However this may be, the amount of arbitrary cogitation going through the woman's mind seems heavy for such a short work." - Nathaniel Tarn, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife is a thin book, though one of considerable ambition. The dissatisfied Babs Masters (the lonesome wife) challenges the reader, enticing him or her with a text of literary variations.
       The text is written in a number of typefaces and sizes, the text shaped and sub-divided as Gass sees fit, at points even falling off the page. There are coffee mug stains and photographs, a page mirrored in another, and a page taken from Passions of a Stableboy
       Gass tries to bring alive his text, and the reader is drawn in: directly addressed by the text, questioned and challenged. Reader and writer mirror the male-female relationships in the book, but the author also fades, leaving a text with a life of its own and a reader facing it. Ultimately Gass tries to create a disembodied text, with neither Gass nor Babs Masters present, only the words, the words.
       It is a well done exercise displaying the power and potential of the word and text, of literature standing alone. It is a call to arms, while gently reminding the reader that it is only words and that life itself is elsewhere.
       Gass writes well, handling the different styles he employs convincingly. It is a clever book, and short enough that it does not wear thin. The experimental look and feel may not be to everyone's liking, but it is a worthy volume. Recommended.

       Note that the photographs (by Burton L. Rudman) are, like the text, revealing. Breasts and buttocks are exposed, for those who worry about such matters (or for whom that is an inducement to purchase the book).

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Links:

Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife: Reviews: William H. Gass:
  • Interview in The Paris Review (1977)
  • Interview in Bomb (1995)
  • Interview in The Believer (2005)
  • Interview with Pif Magazine (2000)
  • Interview with Arthur M. Saltzman, from the Review of Contemporary Fiction (1991)
  • William H. Gass on the St. Louis Walk of Fame (We're still not sure if it is an elaborate joke or yet another symbol of a world gone mad)
Other books by William Gass under Review: Other books with introductions by William Gass under review: Other books under Review that might be of Interest:

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About the Author:

       American author William H. Gass was born in 1924. He is a Professor at Washington University and has written several works of fiction and non-fiction.

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