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The Tunnel


William H. Gass


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William H. Gass, The Tunnel (New York: Knopf, 1995), First Edition, second printing April 1995, xi + 652 + 4 pages, thick octavo, 24.2 x 16.8 cm, front page edges uncut, hard cover, black board and black cloth spine, colour dust jacket, some colour images in text, with unusual typography throughout. The type is Fairfield, by the distinguished American artist-engraver Rudolph Ruzicka. Colophon note on the type, set by North Market Street Graphics, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, designed by Peter A. Andersen, printed and bound by RR Donnelley, Crawfordsville, Indiana. With TLS review of Gass’s third novel, Middle C, inserted at rear within folded white sheet. Weight: 1.2 kg.

Condition: As new.

The Tunnel, by William Howard Gass, the eminent American novelist, essayist, short story writer and retired literary academic, was keenly awaited for 30 years before its eventual completion and publication in 1995. Though mixed, its reception was mostly highly favourable. Susan Sontag described it as an “extraordinary, stunning, beautiful book”. Richard Gilman wrote in The New Republic that it was “the most important work of fiction by an American of this literary generation”. Michael Silverblatt described it as “the most beautiful, most complex, most disturbing novel to be published in my lifetime”. Writing in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Steven Moore described the novel as “a stupendous achievement and obviously one of the greatest novels of the century”, while Robert Kelly, writing in the New York Times, called The Tunnel an “infuriating and offensive masterpiece”. Some critics disagreed: James Wolcott said it was “a bellyflop” and James Bowman called it “a load of crap”.

The second novel by William Gass, The Tunnel presents the ideas and musings of a mid-western US academic’s magnum opus on Hitler and the Third Reich. In interviews Gass has said that he sees himself primarily as a writer of prose interested in problems of style and experimental construction working in the Symbolist poetic tradition. Gass, born in 1924 in Fargo, North Dakota, graduated from Kenyon College in 1947 and obtained a PhD in philosophy from Cornell University in 1954. He taught philosophy at Purdue University before moving to Washington University in St Louis, where he was Professor of Philosophy (1969-1978) and Distinguished Professor in the Humanities (1979-1999). Gass founded and directed the University’s International Writers’ Centre (1990-2000). William Gass lives in St Louis, Missouri.